J.Kaval
Puli-Nakha-Thali


          It was summer in the valley of Ram Nagar. The sun was sunning up. The golden rays were flooding the office room through the open door.   
          "Good morning, Sister" The woman at the entrance greeted.
          “Good morning, Ma'am. Come on in. Please be seated.”
          Rev.Sr. Leena, the Director of Karunalaya, the Centre for Destitute Women, welcomed the early guest.
          The lady attired regally and charmingly like an apsara came in slowly and sat quietly. She looked at the sister for a minute and smiled sweetly. She then told,
          "Sister, my husband’s very sick. At any moment, he may die."
          "I'm sorry Ma'am. What happened? Can I help you?"
         "No…No. Thank you. At this stage, no doctor can help him. It's his karma. No one can escape from the consequences of one's Karma. Can any one, sister?"
          "I don't know. Honestly I have no idea. May I know the purpose of your visit?"
          "Just to offer you this" The visitor shoved a small box made of ivory towards Dr. Leena.
          "What's it?"
          "Please open it and see."
          Sister Leena opened the case and brought out a silver chain with a pendent of tiger's claws, encased in gold. She became more curious than amazed. She asked,
          "Whom is this for?"
          "That’s for you, sister."
          "For me? My goodness, what a joke! Are you serious? Ma'am, we’re nuns. We do not wear jewellery, especially of gold and silver"
          "I know all that very well, sister, I know. Please listen to me. That chain belongs to my husband. He's dying. According to our family priest, if that chain is worn by a Yogini, then the final hours of his death will be peaceful and his passage to Paralokam would be comfortable".
         "I see. It's very interesting. Tell me all about it"
          The lady became very pensive for a while and spoke gravely,
         "Sister, I know you are a religious woman dedicated to God. I know of your kind very well. I can be open to you. About three years ago, my husband kidnapped a Christian nun and raped her. I can understand the pain, agony, anger and the helplessness of that woman. I could feel her trauma in those moments. After being abused, the poor woman might have begged him to take her to a Mandir or a clinic. She might have even pleaded with him to drop her near a public street. But the devil in him left her on a deserted mountain path. I searched for her. I couldn't find. I prayed for her. I believe by grace of God she must be alive today…" She paused for a while.
          Sr. Leena felt a sort of revulsion inside. An acute ache ran all over her temperate body.
         "You must know, sister, if the victim is a virgin, she is to be brought home, cared for and later married or made a concubine. If she refuses, she is to be taken to her parents with enough in kind and cash. Such is the duty of our men and the Dharma of our Kulam. My spouse did a heinous crime and I hated him for his cowardice. I never understood why the hell he preyed upon a religious woman. After a couple of months, he became ill. He began to suffer from a sort of itching all over his face and hands. The bout of illness became intense. The medicines and poojas could not cure him. The malady gradually spread all over his body. He looked like the Naaman of your Bible, a despicable man. We now believe that it is the curse of the nun his victim. My father suggested that his chain must be worn by a nun so that my husband's death will be hastened and painless and his Yamalokayatra smooth. So, I gave you the chain. Would you please oblige? Let my man get Mukthi and I will have peace of mind…"
          The lady stopped for a second and looked at the sister intently and then in a humble manner begged,
          "Leena…my dear Leena, please help me….please."
          Sr.Leena, terribly shocked and deeply confused, slowly raised her head and looked straight at her visitor’s face. But she could see only the brightness of her eyes because of the veil the stranger wore on her face. But those eyes, that voice seemed very very familiar to her. Where was it?….When was it?….. The frames of the past lay scattered before her. Scenes began to take shape before her mind’s eye…
           It was the last scene of the play, directed and enacted by her team on the wide stage in the auditorium of the Mount Carmel College in Bangalore. On the street of Kurukshetra, Leena lay broken. She was the victim of rape by a royal warrior. The role of the rapist was played by Ms.Amita Agarwal of Delhi. The role of the wife of the rapist was played by Ms.Sonali from Bihar. It was the pleading of Sonali that echoed in Leena’s mind. The same voice…the same bright eyes! Did she ever think that life played on the stage would become one day, an event on a deserted path? Didn't she in fact become a victim of rape at Manoharganj in Bihar? So, ... so who's the visitor sitting across the table?  It must be Sonali, her classmate, intimate friend, the wife of the dying man. Yes…it …is…Sonali.
         "Oh my God, It's you…Sonali….how can it be true?  No….no…Oh Jesus, it cannot be real. Oh my dear Sonali…tell me I'll do anything you say…Don't go away…don’t go away…Please..." Sr.Leena cried out hysterically.
           Hearing the cries, Rev.Mother Sonali Krupa of the house rushed to the office room.  She saw Sr. Leena staring at the main door in a trance.
          "Sr.Leena, what’s happened?  Whom are you talking to?  Who are you looking at?  I heard you calling for me."
          Suddenly Sr.Leena came to her senses. She muttered, "No…no. Nothing, mother.  It's alright. It's just a daydream. Perhaps the sunshine heated up my head."
          The mother sensed something strange about her. She saw the silver chain on her neck.
         "Hai, Leena, that chain on your neck looks very nice indeed. It suits your neck well. With Puli-Nakha-thaali around your neck and in the saffron vest, you are a Munikumari."
          "Me? Really? Oh Mother, how did it come here? And on me?"
         "God knows. While I was cleaning the room, I found a knapsack on the floor near the opened window. In it I found that chain in an ivory case, a cheque for Rupees one lakh and a handwritten note for you. I do not know who had dropped it here. May be our long time benefactor, that anonymous holy lady!  How nice of her to remember us time and again!  According to the note, the chain is a gift for you, Leena. It also said that her husband had passed away the previous night. We are asked to pray for the departed soul. What a Godsend benefactor! Leena, are you alright?
          "Yea"
          “Then go, have your breakfast", Rev. Mother Sonali insisted.
          Sr. Leena did not feel hungry. She wanted to compose herself. She walked towards the prayer room.