What is the ultimate obsession you can have? What if that obsession eventually
destroys not only you, but your very soul?
These are the fundamental questions that are explored in depth in my novel, The Poocha Purana (Cat Tales). This is a multi layered tale centred around the concept of Karma and an obsession for perfection. The protagonist, Poocha, is a soul who has attained liberation from the wheel of Karma. He is asked by God to give hope to another soul Mo who is still hopelessly caught in this cycle of birth and death. Poocha's main task is to show his early lives to Mo, dissect his former ugliness and instill hope in Mo through the story of his ascension. This is the story of Poocha's incarnation as Abdu, the perfectionist actor.
"The Poocha Purana," 82,000 words, written by Hari Kumar, is a work of literary fiction centred on the concept of Karma and a man's obsession to perfection. The protagonist, Poocha, is a soul who attains liberation from the wheel of Karma. He is asked by God to inspire another soul Mo who has still much to learn. Poocha's main task is to show his early lives to Mo, dissect his former ugliness and give hope to Mo through the tales of his ascension. In contrast to Poocha's ability to recall every moment of his myriad lives, Mo can only remember the details of his last life on earth. In that realm beyond death, they both step into a sort of three dimensional "cinema house" to view the terrestrial lives of Poocha. The first life they select is the incarnation of Poocha in the form of Abdu... The story of Abdu is the story of one man's obsession to perfection. The character of Abdu is unique in its "characterlessness". It traces his life from penury to the dizzy heights of fame as a perfectionist actor. The story is intertwined with the tale of Mo's own previous life as an Arabian King. Strangely, the two stories connect each other despite being separated by centuries and end in a grand and explosive finale.
But she was used to this waiting.
In fact, her entire life had been one long wait. Paused, punctuated, and peppered with smaller waits. There were waits of different kinds — long waits, short waits, vain waits, winning waits… Waiting the waits while the world went by…
There was a saying in Malayalam that Fatima had grown up with, which went something like this: “father for the plate and mother for the wait”. But in Fatima’s case even before she graduated to wifehood, she was waiting. Waiting for her turn to draw water from the only common well in the vicinity of her little hut. Waiting for her bricklayer Dad to find work so that she could feed the cancer in her sick mother that was eating away her innards like some unseen, silent, hungry beast. Waiting for her mother to die ending the hope and misery of one more little wait. Waiting for the sun to peep in the dhobhy ghaut house where she helped out scarring her tiny hands in tanks of dilute caustic soda and heaps of difficult drapes for a few wet rupees. Waiting for the rain to return to her little tapioca patch, waiting for the twigs to stab deep into the soft, giving earth with their exploring roots, waiting for those exploring roots to become ripe enough for the bricklayer’s plate. Waiting in the shadows for all the queuing customers at the ration shop to leave so that the shopkeeper’s humiliating response is not heard by anyone when she asks once more for rice on credit. Waiting for Iqbal to return from his mistress’s house. Waiting for him to exhale the same lies that were first believed and treasured like golden words and then slowly flushed out from her memories when the truth of their untruths were unveiled. Waiting for Iqbal to use her gullibility to strangle her and leave her spent by the wayside like a crushed cigarette butt. Waiting for the little wonder that was Jamee. Waiting for strength to seep into her neck, into her little liquid bones, brown velvety skull. Waiting for the first smile, the first steps, the first tooth, the first unfledged breath of “Umma”. Then the waiting for the mystery of Abdu.
The mystery of Abdu.
Waiting for the coldness to thaw. Waiting for expressions, nuances, wisps, mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, colour, character, ambition, dreams, greed, pain, tears, hate, violence, life, living life, breathing life, to flash in those beautiful living-dead eyes of his.
One wait in vain.
But she grew to love the waits. Waits were hopes. Waits were tomorrows. Waits had dreams. A drug. A heady addiction. A motive force…
'Aah, what sad stories! What lost lives!' Mo shook his majestic head, the tip of his beard swinging lazily.
'Karma in action, dear, impassive Karma in impassive action,' Poocha said, his voice assuming a correcting tone.
'That reminds me,' Mo's face brightened, 'Lesson no.1 -- What is this thing called Karma? The Big Light did mention something about it. He -- or She or Whatever -- told me you would explain it in more detail. A while ago, you too made some comment about it. You see, my religion -- which I followed faithfully and that in turn promised me a paradise of many virgins but eventually delivered only you, my furry master -- did not give me any hint of Karma.'
'Religions, you should understand, were made by men. To serve them, to be their mistresses, their weapons in war, their powers in peace...'
'But,' cut in Mo, a trifle shocked, 'what about our divine prophets. Did they not deliver God to our lips? Through the nectar of our religions?'
'Our prophets, unknown to themselves, became the prophets of profit. For lesser men who bent their words, twisted their dreams, warped their visions. This is the history of Man, your history, my history. A repeating history retold through the crumbling pages of time, endlessly whispered like a stubborn echo. Only the players kept changing while the play remained deviously unchanged in its essence. Now coming back to your question on Karma -- Karma of the stone heart, the Maintainer of Universal Balance. Karma of the blind eyes, deaf ears, with a sword in one hand and a gift in the other. Karma the Preserver of Nothingness in the highest unchanging, timeless, spaceless realm of Reality. That Reality is the only Truth; Truth Absolute.' Poocha's voice had assumed a grandeur hitherto unseen by Mo who stood spellbound in awe.
'But, Sire,' Mo said in a small voice drenched with doubt, 'Are you suggesting that all else is a lie?'
'Illusions. Layers and layers of illusions.'
'Even the Big Light is an...illusion?' Mo asked hesitantly.
'The One you call the Big Light is the Gateway to this Reality,' Poocha said, his voice like thunder.
'Then what is the point of all this?' Mo's eyes flashed with the fire of burning rage, 'All this endless pain and torture. The limitless roles we play life in, life out.'
'A celestial play...' Poocha cut in. His voice suddenly soothing like a gentle brook.
'You call this a game?! All this pain and suffering Man has to endure life after life is for the benefit of some divine being's casual entertainment?!' Mo's eyes grew wide.
'The pains of life are as illusory as its pleasures. The man of knowledge is as unscarred by the pains as he is unmoved by the pleasures. And this realization brings with it freedom absolute.' Poocha went on, his voice calming the fire in Mo.
'It can be terribly lonely being the One True Reality. It is indeed an eternal entertainment. A Divine Masturbation, this universe as you know it!' Poocha smiled, his ancient whiskers lifting like the wings of a bird about to take flight.
VGS heaved his bulk up the concrete TNHB steps and into his concrete TNHB studio apartment which, judging by its workmanship, was probably built by the same little urchin children who made sand castles in the Adyar beach. He lived a life of concrete TNHB solitude, which did not worry him as it did the over-concerned brahmin grandmother next door, who seemed more interested in why he never married, why he kept late nights, why he wore only white khadhi, who his rare visitors were, what he was doing for a living, what he ate in the morning, what he drank in the night, why he ate what he ate, why he drank what he drank, where he was going, why he was going there, why he shaved in the morning, why he didn't shave in the morning,... than the affairs of her own over-sized, over extended family fighting for floor-space and tap water within the concrete TNHB enclosure she called her own sweet home.
The packed wet heat of the apartment licked his face like a faithful dog as he opened his front door to let it out. The harmless looking yellow postcard lying on the red cement floor would have escaped his attention if it wasn't for a family of cockroaches that scurried over it on their way to the kitchen for a night-cap. He held it under the naked light bulb after carefully adjusting his reading glasses over his fleshy nose. It was one of those customised postcards sent by people who either had a lot of mail to send or wanted to create such an impression. The sender, one Shekhar MBA (Harvard), had his name, address and telephone number printed on the top left hand corner of the postcard. The scribble across it simply said "It's about your book. Please call me." The signature beneath it was unintelligible, probably due to overuse. Shekhar occupied ten minutes of his mind-time before he drifted to a dreamless sleep. He had wondered who this guy was; any way Poes Garden, where this Shekhar's address was, was an exclusive neighbourhood of Madras. Where the super rich and powerful stayed.
What Abdu found exciting was the way in which she would make love to him. The bed room games that invariably preceded their sessions of passion were more than just plain foreplay. In contrast to the tiring rut of the routine progression to climax; the same stale dances repeated endlessly, unpassionately, unlovingly with his other "sex-mates", sex with Roja was a refreshingly different experience. It was at once cerebral and physical.
Once, after tearing off her clothes, she pushed a pleasantly surprised Abdu on to the bed and clumsily straddled him.
'How is my Rose tonight? Thorny, horny, or just-plain-corny?' Abdu whispered, a light smile playing on his lips. To Abdu, her thorny moods were the most stimulating for its inherent unpredictability.
Her eyes held a wild light as she ripped open his shirt. 'I am going to split you open and suck your heart out tonight,' she hissed as she grabbed the knife lying on the fruit basket that Jameela had placed on the bedside table a while ago. She brought the sharp tip of the knife to the base of Abdu's neck and slowly traced it downwards. A thin line of blood emerged like a comet trail. 'What the hell are you do...' Abdu's word's were cut off by the palm of her left hand over his mouth.
She then licked the traces of blood off the knife and placed it beside her. 'Now for the surgery,' she said smacking her lips. She made the motions as if to pull open his chest cavity. 'Aah! What have we here!' she exclaimed, 'a chest of hearts like a nest of fledglings! One, two, three, four...' she started counting with her index finger tapping his chest at each count. 'Eighteen hearts for Abdu the great!' she finally cried excitedly. 'Waitaminit, I see labels on each of them. Romy... Raju... Mahesh... Karna... Perillay...' she went on as she pretended to read the imaginary labels. After she had read the last one she said with an expression of mock puzzlement, 'But where is Abdu's?'
'Maybe in here,' Abdu replied, his eyes lit up with amusement as his fingertips grazed her chest. 'Let's see,' she said picking up the knife once again and making a similar light cut on her chest. 'Nope. Not in here. Only one, and that's mine,' she said matter-of-factly to Abdu's surprise. 'You never had one. That's why you've been stealing it from your poor characters,' she giggled as she added, her hands moving down his stomach 'now let's talk about organs that you are well endowed with.'