Gopalam sat on the canal bank. There is sand where he sat. It is shining white. He is amidst that sand. Hence, he is visible. Even in the darkness he continues to be visible. There are stars above. They are twinkling. They emit light. But, don’t appear to be doing so. That light shines on the earth. It shines on the hills. On the water too. It shines on everything. But, none can be seen. All of them would be hidden in the darkness. There would be darkness where they are hidden. Where there is darkness, there wouldn’t be any light. But, where there is light, there would be darkness. So, in spite of the stars, it is dark.
Gopalam is looking into the waters. Waters are not visible to him. There is darkness there. He is seeing that darkness. It appeared dark. He thought darkness is black. He struck a matchstick. Darkness was not seen. An iron nail was seen on the sand. It is dark. Even in light it appeared black. In the light, the darkness was not apparent. If it is there, it might have appeared dark. It did not. So, darkness is not blackness. Then, he does not know of what color the darkness is. He would not worry about things not known. So, he stopped thinking.
He has not stopped thinking totally. He has stopped thinking about things not known. But, he is thinking about something that is known. He knows why he lacks peace of mind, so, he is thinking about that.
Everyone is thinking that he is a nice man. They keep saying so. No one says that he is not. They don’t even think so. It would be good if they do so. He would have peace of mind.
No one knows that he has done some bad things. They did not even try to know, since they don’t know. There is a reason for that. On the very day he came to the village, he did a good thing. There is another house next to the one he arrived. There is a girl in that house. Suddenly, on the same day she fell sick. People in the house were very agitated. They had no money to show her to a doctor. G heard the matter. He fetched a doctor. He paid him. After a week the girl recovered. Meanwhile her husband came. He cared for her. He praised G.
The matter became known to some people. Those some people went and told many people. Many people went and told many people and some people together. All of them together told everyone. All of them praised him. Said a ‘good man’. Eulogized him. G laughed in himself. There was selfishness in his help. He did not know before that the girl was married.
But, his selfishness was not apparent to anybody. It was hidden in ignorance. That ignorance is like the darkness. Darkness would be there where light is there. Ignorance would be there where knowledge is there. But, where darkness is there, there wouldn’t be any light. Where there is ignorance, knowledge would not be there.
People there are not fools. But there is foolishness in them. So, he is a good man. Good man means, one who does good things. It is alright even if good thoughts are not there. The deeds should be good. There is a lot of difference between deeds and thoughts. A deed is apparent. A thought is not. Twain shall not meet sometimes. So they are north and south.
But, usually thoughts and deeds are one. They are very close to each other. They stay side by side. So, they are east and south.
Thoughts and deeds are indices of the heart. That heart belongs to Gopalam. So Gopalam is north and south. Gopalam is east and south. Gopalam is east. Gopalam is south.
Similarly Gopalam is east and west. Gopalam is east and south. Gopalam is west. Gopalam is south.
Gopalam is everything. Gopalam is there in everything. Gopalam’s heart is there in everything. He acts according to the thoughts. He acts as if thinking. He acts according to the occasion. He changes when acting. That change is artificial. He does not like that artificiality. So, he feels bad.
That pain is not related to the body. It is of the heart. His heart is soft. It loves. Feels compassion. Feels pain. It is such a good heart. But, that heart made him do bad deeds. He did them. Feels bad for doing so.
He feels like telling about that pain to the others. But cannot. All are respecting him. They are thinking that he is a good person.
He cannot say that their impressions are wrong. If he does, they would feel cheated. They would feel bad. He does not like to cause them pain. So, he cannot tell them. He hides the matter without telling. Hiding so, he suffers. That is his weakness. The same weakness is his goodness.
Goodness comes because of not doing bad. It comes out of weakness also. At such place there has to be artificiality. So, he is acting artificially. Everyone is not capable of acting like that. It is hard doing work that we do not know. Hard work causes pain. His weakness is causing him pain.
But, he has committed bad deeds. Those deeds are causing him pain. His goodness is causing him pain. That goodness made him do bad deeds. He is feeling bad because he did them. He feeling bad and so, he is a good person.
But, he feels that he is not a good person. No one would endorse that opinion. Everyone respects him. Honor him. Take advice when necessary. Speak without malice. Share secrets. They are such nice people. He is unable to continue among them. He feels like crying on seeing their goodness. He feels bad that he is cheating them. He feels like divulging his real self. But he cannot.
He is not acting on purpose. He is acting without being able to do so. None doubts him. His kind heart does not allow anyone doubt him.
He has a lot of own matters. They are bad deeds he made due to goodness. They are not being contained in the heart. He is hiding them per force. He is suppressing them. Their pressure increased. It is resulting in pain. They are seeking for relief some way or the other. It would better if revealed to any. Some relief would be there. But, the possibility of disclosure is not happening. His goodness is not allowing him. The goodness in the other people is not allowing him. Goodness is hiding from goodness.
Gopalam is looking that way. Gopalam is thinking. Gopalam is thinking while seeing that way. Gopalam who is seeing is not seeing anything. Gopalam who is thinking is seeing certain things. He is not able to know where they are seen. They are seen from somewhere. Moving like a movie. They are coming one after other in succession.
He is there in them. Moving. He is speaking. He is laughing. G is seeing the man in himself. G is seeing his own image. He is wondering if it the same him who is acting. He is feeling bad.
The image that Gopalam is seeing is bluffing. It is in love with the girls. It is cheating innocent people. It is entering the houses of call girls. Gopalam felt bad. But the form does not. It is laughing. It is moving happily. Gopalam got angry. He shouted at the image. He shouted at self.
Gopalam who shouted laughed in himself. That laughter was not heard outside. It did not cross the lips. Since the lips were locked it stopped inside. Laughter that stopped went back. It sat groaning in a corner of the heart. The groaning came out. Gopalam unable to laugh, groaned.
Gopalam’s image appeared again. He wanted not to see it. Image disappeared. Something remained there. That remainder was darkish. He was seeing that darkness. He was seeing through the darkness. He was seeing the darkness through the darkness.
A little light was seen. There was a lamp in the middle of the light. Gopalam’s image came near to that lamp. Gopalam never cursed. There was a female with the image. He was seeing her. He was seeing the flowers in her hair. They were not giving out fragrance. Looks they are wilted. They were bent and were dropping on to the shoulder. There was the white blouse on the shoulder. The Pallu slipped and fell on the cot. She blew off the lamp.
Gopalam closed his eyes. Darkness. He opened the eyes. Darkness. He was there in the darkness. There was darkness in him. There was darkness in his heart. The heart was there in the darkness. Gopalam’s heart is darkness. Gopalam is darkness. East is dark. North is dark. South is dark. Darkness everywhere.
He again lit a matchstick. There was light around him. He looked from that light. From the light he saw the darkness. Darkness was visible. Matchstick burnt off. There was darkness around him. He saw from that darkness. From darkness he saw darkness. Darkness was visible.
He could see only one thing. That was darkness. Darkness like the ignorance. Darkness that sinned. He sinned in that darkness. That sin was giving him pain. He wants relief from the sin.
But relief was not in his reach. His goodness was not allowing him liberties. It is binding him. It is hiding his bad deeds. He thinks of disclosing. But he cannot. There are no friends worth disclosing to.
Gopalam has friendship with many. That friendship is serious. But there is no intimacy in that friendship. There is respect in it. Fear would be there where respect is. There would not be intimacy where fear is. Where there is no intimacy, private matters don’t come up. So, he is not able to tell anybody. Honour is not allowing him to tell anybody. Goodness is not allowing him to tell anybody. Honour and goodness together are stopping him from telling. Out of goodness came honour. Out of weakness came honour. Out of weakness came fear. So, he is a timid man.
Gopalam has fear for the people there. He fears before the goodness in them. He wishes that the goodness is not known to him. For that he wants to keep a distance. But, they keep coming closer to him. They open their hearts’ doors before him. Beyond the doors there are their clear hearts like white papers. No stains on them. Neither any soot on them. They are clear like the jasmines.
He fears on seeing the hearts. He fears to see such white color. So he does not move around in bright light. Away from the day he sits in a dark room. Moves around in darkness. Keeps thinking in darkness. He has no fear for darkness. It is his habit to sit by the canal in darkness. But, during the day he would not venture there. He does not like light. So he does not move about in light. He has fear for light.
Those without fear will also drop off the feeling of disgrace. That would mean that brave people are devoid of shame. But, Gopalam is a timid man. So Gopalam has a lot of shyness feeling. Shy Gopalam cannot talk happily. Cannot go round happily. He keeps quiet. Shyness is making him silent.
Bashfulness is an ornament for women folk. But Gopalam is a man. So the character is a wrist watch to him. Shyness is the waist belt for Gopalam.
Together they are making him handsome. Adding honour. But, it appears they are not giving him any happiness. He thinks of dropping them. That appear as fetters to him. He wants relief from those fetters.
But, Gopalam has no freedom. Gopalam cannot talk freely with anyone. Cannot tell private matters to anyone. Cannot even ask for counsel. Shyness stops him from asking. Goodness stops him from asking. Honour stops him from asking.
It would have been better without that honour. He could talk with all as he wished. He would act as he wished. No need of doing anything stealthily. No need of cheating anybody. He would do it out in the open. He would tell all and laugh it off. But he has this honour. So he is an unlucky person.
Gopalam is an unlucky person. He came to know of the thing only that morning. Sumati came that morning as usual. Sumati is a friend’s sister. She takes tuition from him. He gives tuition. He would make her sit for a while, chat up and send away. He likes her. Loves her. The love remained in his heart. Never came out. It is trying to do so. A good day is not nearby. If it is there, it would have come out.
That girl came and asked him for help. He loved that girl. So, accepted to help immediately. That girl told. She is in love with the math teacher in the school, it appears. He also loves her. They would like to be married. She asked him tell the matter to her brother. Somehow, he should make the brother agree, said she.
Gopalam has to do that favour to that girl. Gopalam never said he wouldn’t. He said he would. She has a lot of respect for Gopalam. she opines that he is a good person. He is in pain because of that. He felt bad because of the bad ideas within him. He felt bad because she recognized those bad ideas.
He suffers for everything. Very soft heart. He cannot bear when the others are suffering. He is thinking about the action needed so that they don’t suffer.
Far away a small light flickered. He got up and went near. An owl was peeping from a hole in the tree. He made noise. It ran away. It went into another tree’s hole and slept.
Gopalam started from there. He walked along the canal side. Ran. He ran away into the midst of new people.
Gopalam ran away.
Original in Telugu by Sri Seela Veerraju. Translated by Dr K B Gopalam