Compelling persuasions, p.1
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       Compelling Persuasions, p.1

           Jeff Tikari
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Compelling Persuasions


  Copyright Jeff Tikari

  Compelling Persuasions

  A tale from rural India

 

  Young Panak considered himself a thinker and writer; his collogues considered him opinionated and mad; his thinking was at variance to theirs, he was stubborn and bull headed to boot.

  The human ‘soul’ was the singular obsession of Panak’s preoccupation. He would contemplate for days in deep thought – missing out on food, snacking when hungry, and sleeping fitfully at night.

  I suppose ‘soul’ is a combination of energy a life-giving force, with somehow a destiny intertwined. But what is this force? And what is energy? Both terms are so vague and interchangeable. He decided he needed a ‘soul’ to properly study it. But how would he get hold of a ‘soul’? Nobody had ever done so!

  He would kill his wife!!!

  Yes, of course, killing her would help his experiment; he would have to make sure he captured her soul - that was the whole idea – he wanted her spirit.

  Panak lay awake at night: he thought of ways to take her life and the method he would use to capture her spirit.

  Kanika was his wife of five years, but there was nothing between them; he wouldn’t miss her – she never was anyone he thought about; she was just there. At times he didn’t notice her, forgot her existence, he would see her as she walked past, a couple of feet from his nose, and he would wonder who it was until his mind came back to the present

  Panak had married Kanika when she was fifteen –good looking, good figure, but dumb! Her father had let out a big sigh of relief after the ceremony. Her family had painfully accepted that no one would marry her, for she was dull and stupid. The malaria that had struck her down as a child had affected her brain: she would sit for hours looking at nothing, saying nothing. She was ‘all grown up’ now and though her brain was underdeveloped, her body had matured unhindered.

  Panak had married her because his mother kept badgering him to marry before she died, ‘I’m getting old, son,’ was her constant whine. He didn’t want to marry at all, but his mother’s hounding was distracting him from his writing, from his study of the occult. Though he had eventually conceded to marry, he was angry at being coerced; he would like to ‘turn the tables’ on his mother.

  During his travels through the country to collect material for his writing, he had visited the village where Kanika lived. One look at the girl and he knew he had his revenge! He would marry this 'retard' and show his mother what comes of harassment.

  His mother was horrified when she saw the girl, but he insisted. If she wanted him to marry he would marry only her.

  And so a wedding took place.

  That was five years ago; he had slept with her once! He would not take her out, for people would stare and patronize her which embarrassed him. As compensation for her loss of outings with him, he paid her bus fare back to her village every few months; she was grateful and happy to go. But her parents looked sad on seeing that fate had struck their only daughter this cruel blow.

  She had a friend in the village pundit who was always patient with her: he would explain to her, like one would to a child, that which she could not understand. She learned slowly. She didn’t mind him groping her breasts in exchange or making her handle his front part; it did nothing for her; she was glad to please him and grateful he took time to explain things to her. He had entered her a few times too, not in front…

  “No, no,” he had said, “that will put a child in you.”

  She realized, over time that she had a certain hold on him, tenuous though it may be, but it was there. She had never had sway over anyone before.

  “But how am I going to think like you people?” she asked the pundit on her visits. “I know I am stupid and just cannot think, but you’ve got to help me.”

  He gave her herbs to eat and concoctions to drink saying it would help her. But it did not and she became more insistent that he help her.

  “Eat a lot of brain in your diet,” he told her in desperation, “it will help your brain to develop.”

  She had consumed brain in her diet: chickens’, goats’ and sheep’s for years now and it had not helped.

  “It’s not working,” she told him.

  “You are eating the brains of animals; they are not very bright so it is not showing quick results. Perhaps, it will take a long time.”

  And then one night ‘like a bolt from the blue’ a thought entered her dim mind: it would have to be the brain of a human being! Someone clever, someone clever like her husband! That’s it, she decided, she would have to eat her husband’s brain!

  She mulled over it for months; she would have to kill her husband and eat his brain. But she could not think of a way to do it…her brain was too weak to plot it. She studied him every day: he would sit at the dining table, oblivious of his surroundings, pen in hand and eyes staring into space. She would walk around him a few times, but he would not see her. This looks too easy, she thought; even she should be able to kill him.

  Of late, Panak noticed his wife kept staring at him. Could she possibly be picking up some faint brain transmission from him indicating he planned to kill her? These dumb types had some strange powers. He looked hard at her, but only encountered a blank look from her glassy eyes.

  She confided in the pundit:

  “You said I was eating the brain of animals and as animals are not clever it is not helping me.”

  “Give it time, it will help eventually.” how was he going to get out of this one he moaned?

  “I have decided to eat a clever brain.”

  “What do you mean, what’s a clever brain?”

  “I’m going to eat a man’s brain, a clever man’s brain – like the brain of my husband: he’s clever, his brain should help me.”

  The pundit was staring at her open mouthed. She couldn’t be joking – no, she was too dumb to joke. Oh my God, she is serious!

  “Look, don’t be silly that won’t help.” Lord, what had he got himself into?

  “Of course it will help – you said so yourself. And how can you now say it won’t help?”

  “Just relax, Kanika. Let me think this out, don’t do anything stupid.” Please, God, help me, he prayed silently.

  “Have you been lying to me so you can play with my breasts?”

  “No, no, I haven’t been lying, promise!”

  “Well then it is settled. You will have to help me.”

  “Help you…to kill your Husband?”

  “Can you think of any other way I could eat his brain?”

  Panak was putting the last touches to his plan. There were still a few lose ends he would have to tie up. He had located a lead lined coffin: “It’s completely air tight,” the undertaker had assured him. Well, that was one angle that was covered. He still had to talk to a Christian priest. He needed clarification on certain points: if a devil’s spirit could enter a human body; then surely a human spirit could be made to enter an animal’s body - stood to reason! He would have to ensure everything was perfect; there would be no second chance.

  He would refrigerate the coffin by filling it with ice and after drugging his wife place her in it along with a ground squirrel. Whilst her body would succumb to the extreme temperature, the squirrel would go into hibernation and survive – squirrels could do that. It would survive until a certain temperature, beyond which it too could perish; the trick was to catch it before it succumbed and so ensure that its weakened metabolism would accept his wife’s spirit. He would then have a squirrel with a soul!

  Ha!

  The doorbell rang jerking him out of his reverie.

  “Yes?” He opened the door tentatively.

  “I am a pundit from the village your wife
comes from. May I come in please?”

  “Okay… I am busy though.” He noticed the saffron robes and the smell of incense about him.

  “I won’t take much of your time.”

  The pundit had come on a whim; he didn’t have a plan, and would have to play it by ear.

  Kanika walked in and her face lit up: he has come to help me, how nice! She smiled at the pundit and joined her palms, “Namaste! I’ll bring you some tea.”

  “Well, what is it you want?” Panak asked, somewhat annoyed at being disturbed.

  “Nothing really, I was in the area, I thought we would chat.”

  “Chat! About what?”

  Punditji scratched the stubble on his chin, “Well, I believe you don’t get along with your wife…I mean you don’t exercise your conjugal rights…”

  “What’s it to you?” Panak was now getting angry.

  “I believe you married her to spite your mother. Well, your mother has been dead these four long years now – God rest her soul - should you vent your anger on an innocent young girl? She has not been at fault, so why torture her? Give her a chance; I dare say she deserves it.”

  “Right, okay! So you have now had your say, finish your tea and then I would appreciate if you left.”

  Kanika went to the woodpile at the back of the house; she picked up the axe and ran a finger over the blade: it was sharp enough - it would have to do. Punditji was here to help her; she must do it now.

  She had heard that in the ‘Hindu Tantrik’ way when a woman was to take the life of her husband she would loosen her hair, bare her chest, and apply mustard oil over her upper body and breasts. Kanika did that now and holding the axe aloft entered the room where her husband was conversing with the pundit. Both men looked up, their mouths fell open: Kanika was panting with excitement; her bare oiled breasts heaved rhythmically and her eyes stared out demonically.

  “Hold his arms,” she shouted to the pundit.

  But both men were too shocked to react. Kanika, with raised axe moved towards her husband. The men jumped up: Panak grabbed her arms and twisted her around whilst the pundit removed the axe from her grip.

  “Kill him!” she screamed.

  Panak turned her around and slapped her hard twice on the face. Kanika collapsed on the carpet in a heap, her nose bleeding.

  That was three days ago. Panak had kept her sedated and she had slept all day. Panak assumed she must have suffered a trauma, possibly because he had not touched her sexually for years now – not since their wedding five years ago, and she was a young healthy girl! He would compensate her before he killed her: let her die sexually contented.

  Next day Panak gave her a lethal dose of sedatives. He had packed the powerful sedatives in ten capsules that would dissolve in her stomach in twenty minutes – time enough to make love to her for the last time and to give the final touches to the coffin; time too to place the ground squirrel in a sequestered corner in the coffin.

  Panak disrobed and walked naked to his wife’s bed and undressed her. She looked at him with big eyes, but didn’t say anything. He stroked her breasts: she did have a very lovely body he saw, and then he entered her. When he climaxed he heard a little involuntary moan from her – that touched him. He too had enjoyed it very much and had sweated freely during the embrace. He got off her gently and went to the room where the coffin lay.

  He sat by the coffin thinking: perhaps, he should give her a chance; she had really done nothing to displease him. If, when the sedative began to work, he were to exercise her, forcing her to walk and induce vomiting she would recover from the effects of the sedative. Of course, if he put her into the ice filled coffin she would die. He wondered which option to take.

  This was a whole new development: for the first time in his married life he was thinking of her and of her feelings. The pundit was right, it was no fault of hers that she was struck by cerebral malaria as a child and had suffered brain damage; perhaps a neurosurgeon would be able to do something with her… he would have to investigate that line.

  But what of his experiment… he would have to put it ‘on hold’ until he could get around to it. It really needed to be re-thought; he would take one thing at a time. First he would see if his wife could be helped; it would probably cost a heap, but he now felt he owed it to her.

  Kanika crept up very quietly behind him, axe ‘on the ready’. She could feel the sedative taking hold - she must hurry. He was crouched over the ice filled coffin and did not hear her. She lifted the axe and brought it down hard on Panak’s head: splitting it open and killing him instantly. The momentum of the downswing threw her off balance; she tottered and fell headlong into the ice filled coffin jolting the lid shut. She struggled feebly, but the sedative had now taken hold.

  She relaxed and let the soothing waves overwhelm her.

  A Mindset

  There weren’t many left now!

  Girdhari Singh leaned his angular, bony body across the wooden fence and surveyed his stock. The horse had been killed two nights ago - his frill top Tonga would be useless without a horse. He never liked bicycles and had never learnt to ride one – learning at his age would be ridiculous. He would just have to walk.

  He looked at the forest scrub twenty yards away – that was the distance that separated his stockyard from the forest …twenty yards! He sighed. How could he protect his stock from marauders?

  His wife was too frail to walk any distance; perhaps he would sell the buffalo to buy a horse. There would be no milk to sell and his already strained resources would be stretched still further. If he didn’t take his wife out every once in a while, she would just sit in a corner and let her sorrow overwhelm her, she could again fall into a comatose state, to rouse her from which would be a difficult task.

  A tiger had killed their only son, eleven year old Tinku, three months ago, as he grazed the family cattle and goats in the forest scrub. They had been losing an animal every now and then to visiting tigers. On that unfortunate occasion Tinku had been over enthusiastic in his efforts to chase a large old tiger away. He had got too close to the tiger that was very hungry and angry - one swipe from his massive paw and Tinku had almost been decapitated.

  Girdhari Singh and the Village Headman along with some friends trekked the dusty track to the Forest Department’s office in the small adjoining town to report the case and to persuade the Officer to declare the tiger a man-eater. But the unsympathetic Officer had shaken his head, no!

  “How can I declare the tiger a man-eater when it didn’t eat anybody?” he leaned back in his chair, his ample stomach making a little mound behind the desk. “The tiger swiped at Tinku as he got too close. Obviously, it felt threatened and took action to protect its self. Don’t you all agree?”

  The villagers, who were kept standing in the sparse office, nodded their heads in understanding, but Girdhari was furious – the large turban on his head shook with fury, “How can you say it is not a killer and a potential man-eater?” Girdhari’s chin jutted out from his creased face in impotent rage. “It has been systematically decimating my stock and getting more and more daring! You want it to kill and eat a person before you declare it a menace?” his index finger waved in the air above his head with impotent anger. “Is that what you are waiting for? I don’t think you will have long to wait!” he stared belligerently at the Officer.

  “I feel for you, Girdhari,” said the Officer patronizingly. “You are a father and you have lost your only son. Believe me, I am really sorry and sad that this should have happened, but the tiger can only be declared a man-eater when it kills and eats a person. Not otherwise.” He looked at their faces with smug superiority. “Like one cannot hang a person on the assumption that he is a potential murderer. I similarly, cannot declare the tiger a man-eater unless it is one!” With finality in his voice, and an open handed thump on the desk, he ended the meeting.

  Girdhari secretly swore revenge. He told his wife he would avenge their son’s death. She only looked at him bla
nkly, not much was registering with her he saw with apprehension. She was closing her mind from the world, retreating into herself. She had shed a lot of weight. Her sorrow was progressively overwhelming her. ‘Please, God! Don’t let her fall into a coma again, for I don’t think, in her weakened state, she will survive it,’ prayed Girdhari silently.

  Girdhari set to studying the tiger’s habits and would follow it for miles – birds and other animals gave out signals to indicate the tiger's presence and so Girdhari had no need to keep the animal in sight. Every tiger behaves a little differently and Girdhari kept a mental note of how this one was different. Eventually the tiger would complete his circuit and return to the village with Girdhari in tow.

  The villagers noticed Girdhari’s abnormal behavior. The Headman broached the subject advising him to move his stock from the forest fringe to a place closer to the village so his stock wouldn't get taken.

  "If I move my hut and stock to the other side of the field, my crop will get eaten." Girdhari loved where he lived: the forest sounds, the morning mist, the oxygen laden air – he would miss it all if he moved further away.

  “But they are getting eaten, anyway!” pointed out the Headman. “You have taken to roaming senselessly around the forest. You go absent for days. What’s with you? Are you losing your mind? Tell us, for we can collectively help you.” He looked compassionately at Girdhari.

  Girdhari smiled; they would soon see how he, the fearless Rajput, avenges any wrong done to him. “No,” he said. “I am okay!”

  “No, you are not!” said the Headman. “We take food for your wife when you are absent; do you know that? She forgets to cook for herself. And you go on a ‘walk-about’ through the forest? Now if that isn’t peculiar and dumb behavior, then what is? Pull yourself together, Girdhari, we are here to help you!” said the Headman consolingly.

  “I suppose you are right.” Girdhari nodded looking outwardly contrite. “I will have to take more care of my wife. Just give me a few days; I am getting over my grief. Roaming in the forest takes my mind away from that terrible memory.”

  The Headman understood. Tears came to his eyes in sympathy for Girdhari’s shattering loss. He hugged Girdhari and held him close: “We all understand, my brother, we will continue to look after your wife as best we can; after all, what is village brotherhood if we don’t have empathy for our own brothers?”

  Girdhari would have to be more circumspect. He would have to be seen to have taken heed to the advice of the village Panchiat (court). He thought of a plan: he couldn’t poison the watering holes as that would also kill other innocent animals and, who knows, a human might drink from it too. Girdhari himself had drunk from these water sources on occasion. He took to poisoning the kills. He had studied the tiger’s eating habits and only poisoned those parts of the kill that he was fairly certain the tiger would eat during his next meal. Over poisoning or using strong poisons ran the risk of infecting other scavengers that would also partake of the kill when the tiger was not around. He used Echinacea seed, finely ground, which he sprinkled on the raw meat. Echinacea would be a mild poison, which would weaken the tiger with continuous diarrhea and stomach cramps.

  Very soon, he noticed the tiger weakening. But strangely enough, so was his rage and resolve. He wanted the tiger to suffer and die slowly; for, after all, it had killed his son who was only doing his duty by ensuring safety of the herd. Girdhari pictured in his mind, again and again, how he would do a victory dance around the dying tiger so that the tiger would know why he was being killed.

  Girdhari couldn’t follow the tiger all the time; these long marches were sapping his strength. One day it dawned on him that the weakening strength of the tiger would render it unable to kill game… ‘My God!’ he thought aloud. ‘Am I creating a potential Man-eater?’ He must immediately terminate this madness. What was he doing? He was torturing a poor animal…‘poor’, did I say ‘poor’? Girdhari was bewildered. He was beginning to feel sorry for the animal he was pursuing and slowly poisoning. I suppose the Forest Officer is right, he conceded grudgingly, the tiger, could have felt threatened and reacted instinctively.

  Girdhari sat down to think. As 'Forest People' it was a moral duty of his clan to look after the well-being of the animals and birds of the forest, instead he was letting his personal misfortune consume his mind with hatred and revenge. His responsibility now should be to look after his dear wife and nurse and nurture her back to health. Not neglect her to satisfy a personal and self-constructed revenge that would not bring back his son, anyway.

  He went back home. He needed more time to think this through. What if the now weakened tiger was to turn man eater? He shivered involuntarily; the blame would be fully his. ‘Hey, Ram! What am I doing?’

  In time the inevitable happened: news filtered through that in a neighboring village a tiger had killed a young widow who had gone into the forest to collect firewood.

  Girdhari was stunned. He realized there was no other way, he was morally bound to go there and own up to what he had been doing. The fate of the tiger was in the hands of the Forest Department, he no longer could determine the tiger’s destiny. His own future could not be predicted: he may be sent to jail.

  Girdhari approached his brother’s hut a few fields away. He told his brother of all his misdemeanors and begged him to look after his sorrowing wife until he was back…whenever that may be. His brother – naked bodied, wearing a loincloth - argued the point and asked if Girdhari thought his wife could survive alone if he was put in jail for any length of time? “And what,” he asked, “makes you think that you are responsible for that widow's death? Sure you weakened the tiger, but that does not mean that it becomes a man-eater. There have been many weak tigers that have died of starvation because they could not hunt. Just because they were weak does not mean they become man-eaters.”

  This tiger, obviously, had a tendency towards taking human life. “I say go there, by all means,” said his brother, “and see the situation. Don’t try to be a bloody martyr! You put yourself in jail, and you will have your wife’s death on your head! If you have some misbegotten glorious idea of giving yourself up to the authorities and bask in some very dubious martyrdom, you may as well, before you go, strangle your wife! It would be a far kinder death than what you are planning for her.”

  Girdhari stood aghast. What his brother said was correct; why hadn’t he thought of it? Had he become so ‘self centered’ that he could only think of himself? He would do as his brother suggested: he would go there, but only as a neighborly gesture of concern.

  The village Headman heard that Girdhari was going to the ill-fated village to offer condolences from this village and was very grateful and effusive in his thanks. He gushed with praises for Girdhari: “Even though he is not on the village committee,” the Headman said. “He is still conscious of his ethical duty, and has taken it upon himself to do this onerous task on our behalf. I salute him for his humanity!” Girdhari was sent off with handclasps and kind words from all his kinsfolk.

  “Hai, bechari.” said the villagers of the stricken village when Girdhari reached there. “She was a young widow who has left behind a crippled child. Who will look after this child? The in-laws considered both mother and child unlucky and turned them out of the house, blaming them for the death of their son who was killed in a bus accident.”

  Girdhari trembled with excitement “I… I will look after the child with all my heart!” he exclaimed.

  He ran all the way to his village with the child in his arms. He placed the child in his wife’s lap. “Here’s a son for you that the good Lord has seen fit to bestow upon us!” he said with a happy catch in his voice.

  “Lord be blessed,” she exclaimed rising with wonder in her eyes and a beautiful vibrant smile on her face. “He has heard my prayers and returned my son to me!”

  Postprandial Peg

  A story based on the life of tea planters in the verdant

  Sub-Himalayan region of West Bengal
(India) circa 1960

 
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