Inspiration for me has been the biggest motivation. I once read a story that inspired me so much that I had to write a tribute to it, the story below titled Jimmy is a tribute to 'Mohiniattam' a story by The Fool.
A piece of land by the road side, a field once but now a playground, a green blanket of grass for the cows of the village sit touching the compound walls of Muthanna’s home.
A retired forest officer Muthanna was once the king of the jungle that spread across kilometers of land surrounding Bagamandala. Two well built forest guards always by his side, his trusty gun in his tight grip, the neatly ironed bright green uniform covering his wide frame, a thick moustache symbolizing his pride, watching Muthanna walk the streets of Bagamandala fascinated me.
Muthanna was a man who could send a shiver down anyone’s spine with just one glare, the tigers in the mountains, the elephants in the jungle roamed in fear of Muthanna, I always imagined.
One summer when I was ten, postman Ponappa had told me the story of Muthanna slaying a tiger with his bare hands.
"He encountered the beast on his way back to the forest office from his routine inspection, the animal had gone rogue with attempts of killing humans. Muthanna got out of his jeep stared at the tiger, he pulled out his gun and threw it down on the ground and said “I will give you a fair fight at life. He pounced on the tiger bringing it down with several blows. He took a nail from one of its claws as a trophy and hung it around his neck with a gold chain and walked away without a scratch."
After Ponappa left that day, inspired by Muthanna’s courage I had spent many a days walking around our small estate in search of a worthy contender to battle and spent glorious hours holding a small bug looking at it and saying
“I will give you a fair fight at life.”
Muthanna now retired spent much of his time staying indoors or working in his small coffee farm. A contrast to his glorious past, wearing a dhoti and a white mud covered vest, walked around his farm with a stick in his hand. His wife Kamalamma a school teacher at the Government middle school had a few years before she retired as well. Devoid of kids and no relatives close by, their time was mostly spent with just the two fighting or alone by themselves.
Muthanna having lost all his power, his gun and his kingdom had gotten crankier with each passing year. Every single act of his wife irritated him; the salt never seemed to be enough in the food and the sugar always too much in the coffee. She could try hard but could hardly meet his expectations, she was forbidden from the garden which he maintained with utmost care.
“My plants will die if they look at your face.” He always shouted at his wife.
His wife having to deal with his temper spent a lot of her time praying to lord Bagandeshwara for relief from her irritated husband.
Everyone feared Muthanna, anything could tick him off and nobody wanted to come in his way of furry. His trips to the market always ended with him shouting and threatening to kill one or two. Shopkeepers on seeing him on the streets would jump into a prayer hoping he would not enter their shop.
His smiles had faded, the lines on his forehead increased, stubble on his chin and an aging body, Muthanna was no more the man the jungle beasts had once feared.
Along with his wife the children in the playground by his house also faced the wrath of his anger almost everyday. Although having lost several of their cricket balls to Muthanna the kids still took their chance by coming to the ground every evening.
The sight of the playing kids angered Muthanna, their speeding cricket balls could damage his well groomed coffee plants, dirty his white washed compound wall or break the glass of his windows. A stick in his hand ready to whack any kid who dare enter the compounds of his house, he sat on his door steps sipping his evening coffee but keeping a watchful eye on the kids playing in the ground every evening.
Gowri a four year old dog had littered at the corner of the ground about three months back and three grown up puppies roamed the ground in playful mood. One of the three always strayed away from his mother to find his way to Muthanna’s compound.
Jet black shiny coat covering his body, a white patch on his chest, white on his two front paws making him look like he were wearing a pair of gloves and a small white patch at the end of his black tail like a jasmine blooming from the end of a branch, ‘Jimmy’ he was affectionately called by the boys in the play ground.
Kamalamma on a few occasions had fed the dog a piece of dosa which tempted him to walk towards the compound wall. She had once mentioned of bringing home Jimmy, but Muthanna was in no mood to listen to her demands. He had walked out of the room leaving her alone and heart broken.
Everyday morning standing near the compound wall Jimmy would wait for a while for a piece of dosa. Never had he once wandered in the evening, the boys playing in the ground gave me enough attention to keep him occupied. But one evening he dared to enter the compound walls of Muthanna’s house.
Sitting and sipping his evening coffee Muthanna almost missed the dog enter his expanse. Jimmy walked up to him and barked with affection, startled by the sudden shrill noise Muthanna reached for his cane and without a second thought chased away the dog swinging the cane furiously in the air. Jimmy in fear ran away but he was a excited too of the action that had his heart racing faster.
The next evening he walked up to Muthanna again and the same treatment stood waiting for him. A few days passed but his determination didn’t fail, is it the biscuit in my hand or the smell of my coffee, Muthanna couldn’t point a finger at the dog’s attempt to come back to him every evening.
Jimmy like every evening for the past 10 days walked up to Muthanna one day, dark clouds had filled up the blue sky the sun was forced to disappeared behind a dark cloud that roared in furry, soft gray light covered Bagamandala, thunder and a lighting passed by every minute warning of the heavy rains about to lash on the sleepy village. Muthanna looked at the dog, he stood surprised staring at his wagging tail and his energetic bark. Panting with his tongue rolled out he sat erect on his four legs looking at Muthanna with sparkling eyes and no sign of fear.
Muthanna curious, picked up a piece of biscuit and threw it in the air, Jimmy jumped and caught it before it could land on the ground. Excited by his lightning-quick reaction Muthanna threw another piece at the dog, and this time he jumped even higher in the air to catch it.
Realizing that he was holding the empty coffee glass all this time and had run out of biscuits, he walked into the kitchen to wash his glass. Standing by a cement sink he washed the glass and turned around to get a piece of biscuit. Surprised he stood looking at Jimmy who had followed him in. The dog looked at him with his ears bent, a tilt in his head and his eyes fixed at him.
The clouds in the sky roared and the children in the ground shouted with joy when the first drops of rain hit the ground. Muthanna reached down to the dog and smiled.
He petted him for a few minutes before giving him another piece of biscuit.
“Jimmy you want another one?” he asked the dog.
Jimmy barked in response to earn another piece of biscuit.
They walked out to the front yard, a drizzle of rain welcomed them both. Jimmy jumped out on the ground with his mouth wide open at the sky, running around in circles trying to catch the drops of rain in his mouth. Muthanna stood for a few minutes smiling and watching him, not in any mood to control him self he joined Jimmy, running behind him trying to catch him. Excited, Jimmy joined in the game of ‘catch’ with Muthanna and ran around faster. The walls of the compound, the air in the front yard, his dear coffee plants and the cold iron gates all heard the sound of Muthanna’s laughter for the first time in many years.
Kamalamma running back from school was surpised to hear the sound of laughter echoing of her compounds walls, she reached the gate and stood shocked looking at her husband laughing and running behind a dog. Her prayers were finally answered, in shock she stood but a smile took birth on her face, her brow relaxed from the tension it covered, her shoulders felt light as she watched her husband smile.
She stood there quite not wanting the moment to end, fearing her presence might anger her husband.
Muthanna realizing his wife’s entry stopped his game and looked at her with a smile, he smiled at her and called Jimmy at once. Kamalamma could hardly remember the last time Muthanna had smiled. She smiled at him and stood looking at the two play as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Jimmy tore away from Muthanna and ran towards her. He pushed at her leg with his nose and nibbled on her toe calling for her attention. She bent down and placed a kiss on his forehead, he barked at her excited.
Muthanna walked up to her and smiled
"I will make some coffee for you come lets go in before it starts to rain heavy."
Kamalamma had never imagined such a day would come in her life. The dark clouds in her life seemed to have parted away and the smile of the bright sun glowed on her face.
As they walked into the house they stopped and turned to see Jimmy following them in, Muthanna bent down patted his head and smiled at him. He was about to go in when a cricket ball bounced into the compound, terrified kids lined up near the gate with no hope of getting their ball back.
Tossing the ball in the air and catching it, Muthanna walked up to them, following him close stood Jimmy looking at the kids.
He threw the ball back to the kids and said
“I will give you all a fair fight at life.”
Not understanding what he had said but happy to have the ball back the kids ran shouting out in joy. The clouds rumbled and a steady fall of rain touched the ground.Muthanna smiled and stood at the gate watching the kids run back into the streets leading to the market as lights on the streets lit up and slowly walked out the cloudy evening welcoming the moon lit night.