Anadhikritapuram, a tiny village in the southern state of Kerala, was where we used to escape during school vacation days. At a time and age when satellite TV had still not made
inroads into our collective consciousness, for us children catching butterflies or tying strings to dragonflies, was the height of entertainment. We chased the elusive kingfishers, as they flitted from tree to tree or just lay flat under the massive canopy of the mango tree, watching strands of sunlight snaking through the leaves – yes Sir, we were in paradise. Our grandparents stayed in this tiny village and we had a free reign of the family estates. We used to roam around the village and it was during one of these romps that we met Puran, making one of his rounds of the village.
Puran or Puran Joshi was the local watchman and used to patrol the village streets at night. He was from Nepal, and had moved into APuram some ten years back and now even spoke the local language Malayalam, with a funny accent. Life was easy in APuram, with almost no crime, Puran could easily catch up on his sleep while on duty. He supplemented his monthly income by running errands for local people. Puran was a very gentle, soft-spoken, polite and courteous man. It was difficult to imagine him ever being able to catch a thief, I always thought that even if he managed to catch one, he would apologize to him and let him go with a gentle pat on his back. Puran also had an amazing singing voice, he would sing old hindi movie songs while working, though hardly anyone in APuram understood a word of what he sang.
Puran, though had one small problem, which was his love for the strong spirits. His meager salary ensured that he got few chances of indulging in this habit, but once he had poured a reasonable quantity of the fiery stuff down his hatch an amazing transformation took place. Gentle Puran would change into the devil himself. He would go to the middle of the market and shouting at the top of his voice insult most of the prominent local people. A couple of times he had been hauled by the local police and put behind bars, but once the effects of the brew cooled, Puran would again become the paragon of humbleness and servitude. Soon even the police started ignoring him, his drunken escapades were considered as a part of the local entertainment which was free and enjoyable as long as you were not at the receiving end of his tirades. Once in a while he would mention Grandfather and as was his style, he rarely minced words. Poor Grandfather, never in his life had he hurt anyone neither did he have any enemies, but still this badmouthing used to hurt him a lot, though grandfather never showed that he minded.
Grandfather was a yoga enthusiast. Every morning at four thirty sharp he would jump up, after his early morning ablutions, grab a thin mattress and walk over to the courtyard. There spreading the mattress he would twist and turn himself into all sorts of poses. Only after an hour of this would he start his day.
One evening Puran was in a really bad mood and gave an extra special performance in the village square, he had been especially nasty about grandfather and it was with great difficulty that grandfather prevented some of the uncles from going ahead and bashing up Puran. The next morning a by now totally sober Puran was making his early morning rounds and had just turned the corner and reached the perimeter of the walls of our house. There he thought he heard some sounds and so silently pulled himself over the walls and peered in. Grandfather had by now reached the part in his exercise schedule where he had to sit in the lotus pose. The sun had just risen in the eastern horizon and narrow streaks of light were shooting through the courtyard. Now imagine this, a dark courtyard, an old man sitting in the lotus pose with only his face illuminated by the rays of the rising sun. Puran almost fainted, this vision was too much for him. For Puran a man born in the land of the Buddha, this seemed like a scene straight out of the holy books. Grandfather appeared to him like one of those saints and holy men who still roamed all over India. Quietly he got off the wall and went his way.
After this ‘vision’ life for Puran underwent a change. Not that he stopped drinking altogether, for that would require more than a vision. Every time he got drunk, Puran would quietly run off towards a corner of the village where there were some old abandoned mine shafts. There in the isolation of those caves and caverns he would shout and shriek to his heart’s content. After a few hours of this and after having expelled all the anger out of his systems a calm and gentle Puran would walk back to the village.