Written in Tamil by S.Ramakrishnan, translated by Dr.B.Chandramouli
Raghav dreamed of a python again. He had never dreamed of a snake till he was thirty. But ever since he married seven months ago, the python had recurred several times in his dreams. Mirudhula was to blame.
She was fond of pythons. When she admired one, her eyes would widen as if she were swishing her tongue at a delicious gulab jamun. In confusion, he used to wonder: “What kind of woman is she?”
In the city zoo, there was a cage with an artificial tree containing a twelve-foot python. They did not know where they got it; it was the first thing they went to see as newlyweds.
“Ragav, look at its eyes. They flash with a secret. Its texture, the style of its coils, the small movements, all of it are amazing. I like it; I want to hold it in my lap,” said Mirudhula.
Ragav hid his fear and asked, “Should we go?”
“We just arrived. Why are you rushing?” she said, standing near the barrier, watching it with interest.
He could not understand what interested her.
“You know it is non-poisonous. Even at school, I got a prize for drawing a python,” said Mirudhula.
“It is still a snake,” said Ragav. She was snapping pictures with her mobile. A boy who came there hid behind his mother with closed eyes. His mother was pulling him forward, urging him to look.
Ragav left her alone and went to see the white tiger. When he returned, she was still admiring the python. He felt irritated to see her slowly licking an ice cream cone and watching the motionless python.
Young newlyweds go to the movies only. Mirudhula was not interested in the movies; in all of her 26 years, she had seen only less than ten.
“I fall asleep at the cinema,” she said. He could never fall asleep in a movie theater.
In his college days, he would watch all three new releases for Diwali and Pongal non-stop. The three movie theatres in his town changed movies twice a week. In a week he saw six movies, mostly second shows. If it was too late to go home, he would sleep on friend’s open terrace and in the morning, go to the college from straight from there.
Why did he marry a girl who disliked movies – he wondered.
Mirudhula was a salesperson for a multinational company. She was the single daughter of a dentist. She graduated from Manipal University after attending an Ooty convent. Having worked in Italy for two years, she was fluent in four or five languages. She made 1.5 lakhs per month.
They connected on a matrimonial site. When they first met in Amethyst’s coffee shop, her perfume intoxicated him. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her black and yellow salwar-kameez.
She spoke fluently and naturally with a fake smile on her face, as if speaking to a customer. She ordered an orange ice-tea, which Ragav had never tasted.
Twice, she repeated the same question: “Are you the only offspring?”
“Yes. My father is a college professor and my mom a schoolteacher,” he replied.
“Thank God you aren’t a teacher too,” she said. He didn’t get what was funny about it but laughed politely. Her charming beauty seduced him, as one might desire decorated pineapple pieces in a five-star hotel.
She seemed to be purposefully using a seductive voice.
“May I know how much you weigh?” she asked.
No girl has ever asked him that. Feeling shy, he said, “Sixty-eight”.
“You must lose 5kg, ” she said, smiling.
While opposite her, he felt as if it was drizzling on his face.
She winked, “Do you have any other questions?”
“You are very beautiful,” said Ragav.
“I am aware of it.”
“I am lucky,” he laughed lightly.
“I’m still deciding – have to think more. I rush nothing.” Mirudhula said, “I am different and difficult to understand.”
“I don’t want to scare you off yet, but I am like that only.”
She licked her small lips as she spoke. Her lips were sexy; the upper one was slightly smaller.
‘I think I am an inch taller than you,” she said.
“Is that so?” he exclaimed. “It is not a problem.”
“It would be a problem for me. You should wear platform shoes,” she said.
“Sure. I can do that.”
“Do you drive?” she asked.
“No, I only ride a bike.”
“I got a car as soon as I got the job and drive to work daily. I love driving.”
“That is really cool. We don’t have to use ola then,” he said.
She disliked that comment. Slowly combing her distressed hair, she munched on the orange wedge.
“Aren’t you curious about my car?”
“Sorry. I know nothing about cars.”
She teased him, “Do you walk on the road with your eyes closed?”
“I wear a helmet. I hardly notice anything else.”
While she ate a sugar cube, she regarded him quietly. Her eyes seemed to seek something in him. What was she looking for? He could not stand her scrutiny.
She smiled. “We will meet again.”
Her perfume lingered long after she left. Ragav picked up and tasted a sugar cube just like her.
It was the first of their three dates. After that, their families got together and arranged the wedding. Unlike traditional marriage hall weddings, theirs was a lavish affair at a beach resort. Mirudhula’s father spared no expense. They honeymooned in Hawaii. She enjoyed varied foods, including fish. Raghav craved rice.
Even when she was kissing him in bed, Mirudhula was slow and deliberate. Her kiss was emphatic. Her embrace was slow and long. Their lovemaking was urgent and refreshing, like eating ice cream in the summer.
They temporarily stayed at Mirudhula’s apartment upon returning to Chennai. Mirudhula was serious about renting a new home. She rented a flat on the top floor of a newly built apartment building with 34 floors.
Ragav said, “A first-floor flat would have been nice.”
“One must live in the highest location possible. It is nice to see the city beneath my feet,” she said.
He felt uncomfortable living so far up. What if the lift failed? What if the balcony glass barrier cracked? Why was there so much glare in the morning? His mind bubbled with doubts, questions, and fears. But her morning routine was to stand on the balcony with the morning brew in the hand and admire the sprawling city below. The fast wind blew her hair in waves. He disliked standing on the balcony.
Mirudhula was a great cook, but she only cooked when she liked it. The other times, they catered from the hotel only. She was never late for work. Even at home, she never seemed to rest and kept moving. Ragav, however, liked to relax on the sofa after work. On Sundays, he slept until noon. Not her. She exercised every morning. She took great care of her figure and health.
Leaving together by car, she dropped him off at the metro station and proceeded to her workplace. She never drove him to work. She often got home by 9 p.m., whereas he was back by 6 p.m.
While waiting for her, he watched television. Occasionally, he cooked for himself. All his dreams of married life were dashed in a few weeks. He felt that his life was like a book read and finished in a hurry.
One day Mirudhula fought, saying he lacked toilet etiquette. He yelled at her another day for storing Chinese food in the fridge that smelled foul. Despite the petty fights, she often surprised him with gifts. He too took her shopping every week without fail. To appease her, he ate in some restaurants that he disliked. Her poise was evident in her every action.
She had the habit of buying strange things online. She bought wall mounted blue lights for the bedroom. The rotating blue light made the room look like a pool. When she moved around in the room, it was as if in a dream.
Another time, he was busy at work when she sent him a video and texted him to watch it right away. It was a revolting scene that showed a python swallowing a baby monkey.
Angrily, he called her and demanded to know why she sent him that video.
“Did you see? The python swallows the monkey and turns, looking eerily silent…something strange…”
“Isn’t the baby monkey unfortunate?”
“Snakes eat when they’re hungry–anything wrong in that?”
“Don’t send such videos anymore. Why would I look at them?”
“I liked the video so much I watched it 30 times today. You are my better half, so I shared it with you.”
He cut the call with “Stupid”
It was two days before they spoke again. He became more enraged when she ignored his anger.
That Sunday, she made many of his favorite dishes. She deliberately wore a silk sari. Showered him with kisses; his anger melted away.
A few days later, she told him while leaving for work, “I’ll get a package; accept it but don’t open it. I’ll open it.”
“What package?” he asked.
“Surprise” she laughed.
A guy delivered a big box, just as she said. It came from Taiwan.
Despite being curious, he did not open it, not wanting to anger her.
Unusually, she called before coming home that day: “Did the package arrive?””
“They delivered it in the afternoon itself,” he said.
“Can I get you something from McDonalds?” she asked.
Knowing she wasn’t planning to cook, he replied, “Pick it up yourself.”
She asked, “What sweet would you like?”.
“I’ve given up sweets,” he said flatly.
She cut the line by saying, “Well, we’re eating today.”
Mirudhula came home carrying two bags. One package contained food and the other sweets. Was it her birthday today? He wondered. Then he remembered her birthday was on May 8th. He could not figure out what was special about that day.
The package she carefully unwrapped contained a rubber python folded six times. She caressed it lovingly.
“Touch it and see how soft it is”
“What is this for, Mirudhula?” he asked.
“They have included a hand pump to inflate it; please help me,” she said
He took the hand pump and inflated the rubber python through a port. He watched it slowly expand. The snake unraveled to over ten feet of smooth coils. She wore it on her shoulders and smiled.
“Come close… let us wear it together,” she said.
As he grudgingly consented, she wrapped the inflated python around his shoulder as well.
“How is it? Can you feel the silky touch?” she asked.
“It feels strangely slimy, “he said as he tried shaking it off.
“I searched online and ordered it from Taiwan for 300 dollars,” she said.
“It’s not worth it. What made you buy it? I don’t like it,” said Ragav.
“I will spend my money as I wish. You like nothing.” She said, reclining on the sofa, hugging the python. He was a bit scared to look at her. As she stroked the python’s head, she stroked it with her cheek; only its tail was dangling outside the sofa.
“Ragav, I am thrilled today. Let us celebrate.”
“What is there to celebrate?”
“You won’t understand. Even before we were married, I said I was different. You even nodded your head.”
“That doesn’t mean you should have a Python at home… who would do that?”
“This is not a true snake, just a toy.”
“Why do you need a toy?”
“Then why do you have a fish tank? You like watching fish, right? Did I question it?”
“It is not the same.”
“It is all the same. Look Ragav. Whether you like it or not — us living together means compromising on some things I like.”
“There is no such rule.”
“No problem. I don’t need your permission, anyway.” She laughed and sat down on the couch to watch an Italian channel. When she was angry, she would speak in a foreign language and watch foreign language channels.
Ragav locked himself in his room. His anger took a long time to subside. She might even bring the rubber python to the bedroom, he thought. Luckily, she left it on the sofa. She ate alone and came to bed as if nothing had happened.
She took the python to the bathroom the next day. She rubbed soap suds on it as she played with it in the shower. The wet python dried on the balcony.
He suppressed his rage and left for the office.
In the car, Mirudhula said, “You are overreacting, it’s just a toy.” This is like you playing video games; try to understand.”
He did not reply. That day, she drove him to his office on purpose. He came home to find the dried python in the hall, left there by the maid. He was furious.
When he touched its body, it felt like a snake but with motionless eyes. The plastic tongue twitched when he pressed its head. In the mirror, his visage looked strange as he wore the snake, like she did. It was such an expensive costume. What would someone from his hometown think? What is so special about this python?
He deflated the python. Folding the rubber shell, he cast it in the kitchen corner. It was the first thing she looked for when Mirudhula got home at 9.30 pm. Not finding it, she shouted, “What did you do with the python?”
“It is in the kitchen”
“You would have deflated it, I know.” She said, walking to the kitchen.
“Yes. It is disgusting to look at.”
“The problem is yours. What you did is inevitable; you’re a pervert.”
“I’m not perverted. Does anyone else keep a python at home?”
“I don’t care if others keep it or not. I’m not like others.”
“You are adamant.”
“Yes. I am like that only.” She said, deliberately inflating the python with the hand pump. It grew much larger than its usual size. She walked to the bedroom, lovingly hugging the python. Loud music blared. Maybe she was dancing with the python.
Ragav slept on the sofa that night. The python accompanied her to work in the morning. In the lift, an old man asked her, “Is that a rubber toy? Where do they sell it?”
“Taiwan” she said, laughing.
“I’ve seen a python in the Assamese forests,” said the old man.
She put the python in the back seat. She did not drive him to work that day. He rode to work on his bike. He could not concentrate at work. When he spoke to his mother, he told her what had transpired. His mother asked incredulously, “A rubber snake? Why did she buy it?”
“Who knows? She is a strange type.”
His mother was shocked. “Thank goodness she did not buy a live snake”
“She might even do that. I don’t know what to do.”
He heard his mother cursing in anger. Perhaps she spoke to Mirudhula’s father. Mirudhula’s mom called her the next day.
“Why did you talk to others about our problems?” Mirudhula demanded.
“I told my mother only.”
“Are you a schoolboy to run to your mother? What do you have in your mind? Am I crazy?”
“I can’t live up to your expectations, Ragav.”
“I understood it very well long ago.”
“Then you better close your eyes and ears. If you complain again like this to my folks, I do not know what I will do.”
“Why do you torture me? You can leave if you don’t like to live with me.”
“Why should I leave? I will stay here.”
“Well, I will leave then.”
Walking to the balcony with the python, she said, “It’s your choice.”. Leaning on the barrier, she held the snake up, and it wave in the air. To express his anger, he left for work early in the morning.
He arrived home late that night. The home was empty. He didn’t bother to look for her. She did not return the next day as well. He rang her father, but his father did not pick up the phone. After three days, Mirudhula called him one afternoon. “I have decided Ragav. I am leaving”
“It is your choice.”
“The house cost me over two lakhs. You must return it. I have informed the owner that I will vacate the home, since I have paid for the advance. You better find a new place. Our marriage was a bad dream. That is all I can say.” She hung up.
Ragav thought she’d return after her anger subsided. He couldn’t stand her stubborn behavior. He wanted to call her back and give a piece of his mind. When he called again, she did not pick up the phone.
Upon returning home that night, he discovered she had emptied the house of her clothes and belongings. But she had left behind the rubber python, which lay alone in the middle of the hall.
Why did she leave it behind? It was the root of all their problems. What was she seeking? Her wants were so weird.
He kicked the rubber snake with his foot, but even then, his rage did not fade.
To vent his anger, he trampled the snake with his feet. After deflating it, he took it to the balcony and cast it into the wind.
Flying in the air, the snake looked beautiful indeed.
Gulab jamun: Indian sweets
Diwali, Pongal: Festivals
S. Ramakrishnan is an eminent Tamil writer who has won the Sahitya Akademi Award in the Tamil Language category in 2018. He has published 10 novels, 20 collections of short stories, 75 collections of essays, 15 books for children, 3 books of translation and 9 plays. He also has a collection of interviews to his credit. His short stories are noted for their modern story-telling style in Tamil and have been translated and published in English, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Kannada and French.
Dr.Chandramouli is a retired physician.. He is fluent in English and Tamil. He has done several English to Tamil, and Tami to English. He has published some of them.
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