fiction short fiction



“Are you not going to the temple?” asked Amma as she saw the neighbor wheeling out his bicycle, yes it was the day before the examinations.

Agnostic Anandan took out his Hero cycle for a religious tour of local deities.

Anandan is not a part of the novel Raju was writing, he is not even a minor character and he(Raju) could honestly put hands on his clean chest and say that there had been no sly references to Agnostic Anandan and his pre-exam activities in the novel. But it somehow helps in the overall plotting atmosphere. Only Raju understands what that means.

This was quite a non-linear start, Raju never wrote any exams now, it was definitely a memory plunged deep back in Raju’s memory. A time of high school, a time when he thought he first met Hanuman Murali.

You can never really say the exact moment when you met a person, you can make up a realistic one, and so Raju in his hearts of hearts thinks that during one of these temple tours that he encountered Hanuman Murali in the garb of the monkey God mouthing Ram Bhajans. This was totally false. Hanuman Murali only features briefly in this story and his presence is almost ignored.

Anandan, on the other hand was a top ranking student; he sat in the first bench in class (even in 11th standard) and raised hands for every single question that any teacher might want to ask, many other students believed that he had some sort of secret notebook in which devised all the questions for him the questions these teachers might ask. This rumor had somehow reached the ears of glass-wearing teachers as well. But that is another matter.

Even being completely prepared was a very restless state, Raju who had been accustomed to only breaking the sealed pages in textbooks only days before the examination had the misfortune of having to hear Anandan’s grunts while he played table tennis with his bank managing but yet still at home father.

“Maths only, I’ve done every problem in the book thrice and can solve similar problems with the same logic” Anandan would say to any concerned onlooker.

But the day before the exam was a different one, it was the time even when elephants feel a slight chilling. Raju went to temples on most days, as learned men would say, “he was a man of faith” but the day before the examination was purely allotted to studying ninety percent of what was to be studied, he can’t go worshipping on that day.

But one does not simply ignore God for a day and expect to pass, even Agnostic Anandan had left room for things to go down wrongly and raised all hands above to the holy to realize the questions he had anticipated, for anything outside it; would be a humiliation for life, even his rational thought would not help him from his friends. “Logic”, as one wise man said “is hardly a weapon before a charging group of laughing schoolboys”

God goes by many names, only because he does not have a ration card in Chennai, so even a tour within the borders of our neighborhood would prove to be time consuming.

Raju suddenly did realize that this would be the perfect way for him to seek out facts from Anandan’s mythical notebook, maybe that would help him increase his chances in getting not only good scores, but also perhaps a smile from the girl who sat at the farthest corner when the names for the embarrassing parent call was announced. These were devious thoughts, this would never help Raju, not only getting grades and this was as far as the Atlantic Ocean to his novel.

This moral fact was well known to Hanuman Murali, who sat in full costume while a make-up assistant was adding final touches to his green paint. He had miraculously come to know of this sly idea which was germinating in Raju’s mind, in the otherwise innocent mind of Raju.

‘Hanuman’ Murali often wondered if he was God, not only because he got these flashes of insights while he was just about to sleep, as he was that late afternoon. But also because he had been widely praised in periodicals with substantial circulation and many of his friends often patted on his back and told him, ”Dei you were born to play this part”

God was kind. He knew these flashes of insight would only confuse our Murali, but being the kind God he was; he never removed these flashes but jettisoned them with thoughts of self indulgence, from which Murali could never come out of. Ok, at least till the drama bell began to ring. He barged into the scene and started to burn Lanka.

Meanwhile, but not far away.

Raju began to seriously doubt the result of his devious plan. Anandan had suddenly transformed into a shlokam muttering boy whose tightly closed eyes indicated that the existence of such a notebook was not only false but the topic of Anandan’s intelligence had been grossly overestimated. Why would he go to a temple otherwise? Maybe the notebook had stopped its magic or had Anandan forgot the chants which would invoke yellow writing in the book. There was no secret book, there will never be.

<As both desperate looking boys cycled over town in search for help from the eternal hand, their mothers’ hands deftly prepared dinner> (Unrelated booming voice over, can be used as pleased)

As evening passed into early night and when thoughts began to wander about the rooms where the question papers were stored; the boys returned home: pious but determination to brave the night and pass the tests.

The incident however had a haunting effect on Raju when decided to write a novel, the concept of an answer ready secret book appealed to him, it was the equivalent of a literary genius/assistant who would write for you, but reality depressed him. He missed a golden opportunity of making the story of the secret book into a novel.

Anandan however showed relief while writing the exams the next day and all exams henceforth. The secret book was still a talked about thing, the mythical book rumored to be  somewhere locked secretly, placed below heavy journals was story told by every senior to his junior. The story only gained prominence when Agnostic Anandan became the assistant controller of examinations in the local university.

It was at this point Anandan brought one blank note and hid it under the stack of others. A rush of excitement in the form of blood circled Anandan’s body. The secret book.