Book Excerpt: Brink by S.L. Bhyrappa (Translated by R. Ranganath Prasad)

A glimpse from Brink originally written by S.L. Bhyrappa in Kannada as Anchu and translated by R. Ranganath Prasad. (Published by Niyogi Books, 2020)

She sought no more details. In a mood to relieve himself by spilling out everything if queried, her stillness cut him off from relating any further. By such time, her hands had retreated away from his. He gathered that she was perturbed by his declarations. Beyond the shade of the mango tree beneath which they were sitting, the static touch of the sun seemed to mutually repel all and sundry. He sat silently. With a facial expression that increased the intensity of the stillness around, she looked up to the skies. After a short while, she was on her feet. ‘I am leaving. If you come along, I will drop you.’ He felt dejected. ‘You may leave yourself.’ She now turned towards him. Her eyes were feral. He chose not to face her sight. Reflecting that she merited neither eyeing nor being eyed, he turned to the ravine that was being ravaged by Helios. After half a minute, she said, ‘And that’s all?’ He turned to her. With both her hands, she removed the royal-jasmine string from her plait and flung it with all her might onto the scorching rock. Then she looked at him. He continued to be mute.

Fuming with rage, she spun around and hastily headed to the car, caring none to patiently mark her path between the thorny shrubs. He even heard the sound of her sari tear, contacted by thorn. She neither slowed down, nor cared to untangle the sari from the shrub. Sick of surveillance, he retrieved his craned neck and began watching the ravine below thaw in the sun. In three minutes, he heard the door of the car slam shut and thereafter the gunning of the engine and the movement of the car were also heard. His mind decreed that this lady wasn’t just short-tempered or bad- tempered; she was arrogant. His intellect decreed that he saw her no more. His mind was filled with agony and self-contempt for being attracted towards such a woman. In fact, I had distanced myself. She came after me again and asked to visit her. Now having flung the flowers that I had decked her plait with … pain surfaced deep in his mind. Pain that she possibly has spurned me? That question popped up shortly. Why should I be pained by her denunciation? He tried consoling himself. In a short while, he was weary of sitting there alone. Impossible. He pulled himself up. Down there was her house – which she said she could see from here – and within the compound was his scooter. He meticulously traced his path between the shrubs and reached the road. When he considered that it was three to four hours’ walk in the scorching sun to Mysore town limits, the thought about the scooter returned. He set out, discerning an autorickshaw or a bus, intending to hand the keys to Neelakanthappa with instructions to fetch the scooter. In the scorching receding sun, he headed to the steps to climb down the hill. 

Neelakanthappa hired an autorickshaw onwards and drove back his scooter. He reported, ‘Sir, she has reared two pups. They tugged at the chains and leapt menacingly at me. Madam held them back by the chains and allowed me to retrieve the scooter.’ He wanted to know if she had said something. If she had, Neelakanthappa would have reported it. Besides, what if she enquired or didn’t? He ignored the thought and tried to concentrate on his work. Sleep eluded him late unto night. Though he consoled himself that such incidents invariably muddled up the mind, he felt astonished as to why he had taken it so much to the heart. Got the house repaired. 

Then got familiar. Would have exchanged a bit of fun. Why should that upset me? Though his mind rationalized, sleep evaded him. Two such sleepless nights troubled him, and when he retired the third night, deep sleep instantly overcame him, sound till daybreak. He felt relieved. On waking up, in a calm state of mind, he began ruminating. She compelled me to speak out my mind. But why did I disclose this matter that I had not shared with anyone, nor would be known by anyone ever? I am at fault. But when truth was solicited, would not holding back tantamount to perjury? This question assured him that his declaration was righteous. But why was I impelled to disclose this part of me that I had shared with none? He was astonished again. 

Virajpet Bopanna’s project was completed to his satisfaction. Not just designing, he was assigned the job of supervising the construction too. After the disturbing hilltop episode, wherein she had walked out on him, he could hardly concentrate on his work. In about a week’s time, he applied himself though. Yet, the pain of rejection was smarting in a corner of his mind. 

It was twenty days since his afternoon trek down the hill. At 1.30 pm, the phone on the desk in his office rang. He received the call, ‘Hello.’ She rambled on immediately, ‘Now don’t reason that I am shameless. Why didn’t you call? Don’t you know that I am short- tempered? That I will not act wise when irate? And that you should forever excuse me at that?’ Her voice brought to him relief and anger at once. He did not say anything in reply. She waited half a minute before she said, ‘Hello, hello,’ and after eliciting a ‘yes’ from him, she continued, ‘Neelakanthappa may be there. His presence has tongue- tied you. I must speak to you. You must come here. If you don’t, I will come over myself and, in everyone’s presence, beg at your feet. 

Tell me when you can make it. I have much to talk. First, I have to ask pardon of you.’ 

In fact, Neelakanthappa had left for lunch. He understood that she had chosen to call at this hour because she knew this fully well. He said, ‘Madam, I am busy. This is a workplace. Do not present yourself here to enact some feet-grabbing or unfolding drama. Nothing remains to be excused. Goodbye.’ He placed the handset in the cradle. It rang again instantly. It was clear that it was she. He ignored it for a minute and more. Then he felt like lifting it and severing the call. But his mind assuaged. He lifted and said, ‘Hello.’ 

She said, ‘You have every right to punish me. But you should never slight me. I will not lunch until you come here. Not just now, until you come over and accept my apology, I will not drink even a spoonful of water. I give a damn to my life. I am not saying this to scare you. I am speaking out my mind.’ She replaced the handset. 

At first, he felt annoyed. Then his mind became muddled. A state wherein the whats and whys remained elusive, and his innards were completely shaken up. Thoughts like ‘I and she in no way correlate’ and ‘no possibility of contact any more’ melted as would a hunk of plastic that came in contact with intense thermal heat. She wants to talk to me, wants to earn back goodwill by repenting for her headlong behaviour. He suspected if she was pretending. The moment suspicion crept in, his determination began to steel. 

In a short while, Neelakanthappa returned from lunch. Now he could leave. His lunch usually was two idlis or two slices of bread and coffee at the Welcome Café that he regularly visited. When he headed there, he felt like visiting her. Without much ado, he turned towards Lalitamahal. To the right, the sight of the blue-green wall of the hill that towered aloft and framed the sky brought cheer to him. He reflected that a cordial relationship with one, rather than a non- committal distancing resulting from ill will, made living sufferable. I never have severed communication with anyone till date, except that Bombay madam. That thought reminded him that the intimate lingo that he had gotten used to in her company had given way to formal language in reminiscences about her, and he reflected that with such a person there was no possibility of any cordiality residual of rancour. By then, the hill filled the horizon to his right and he craned his neck to discern the spot that was witness to their rendezvous under the jungli mango tree twenty days before. He could not spot it readily. He applied the brakes and surveyed. When he aligned his sight along a line, recalling that it was twenty to thirty feet trek down the road, yes, that spot seems like it, from there the direction of her house, yes, that is it, most probably it is. Then on, he recalled the whole debate thereat, his declarations and her reactions. He thought of reversing the direction of his drive and returning. But deciding against abhorrence, neither abhorrence nor camaraderie, and deciding that today’s visit be categorical, he moved on. 

Excerpted with permission from Brink originally written by S.L. Bhyrappa in Kannada as Anchu and translated by R. Ranganath Prasad. (Published by Niyogi Books, 2020)  

About the Author

S.L. BHYRAPPA, the Kannada novelist, is regarded as one of India’s foremost writers. His works are unique in terms of theme, structure, and characterization. Bhyrappa participated in the freedom struggle, but believes that Indian independence was just a political freedom and that real independence is the intellectual freedom which is nurtured by the strong foundations laid in the teachings of rich Indian culture and values. Bhyrappa has been honoured with many awards including the Sahitya Akademi Award for Daatu in 1975 and Saraswati Samman of K.K. Birla Foundation for Mandra in 2010. His novels have been translated into almost all Indian languages. He retired as a Professor of Philosophy from Mysore University and lives in Mysore. Translator R. Ranganath Prasad worked for a public sector bank. He resigned voluntarily halfway through, and took interest in translation (English, Kannada, and Hindi). Eventually, he sought out true scholars – Dr S.L. Bhyrappa and Dr R. Ganesh – to benefit from their knowledge and wisdom. He participates in literary study circles, wherein classical Sanskrit and Kannada literature is studied under the guidance of Dr R. Ganesh. Initiated to metrical versification, he has penned about a thousand verses and participates in the performing literary art called Avadhanam.

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