James had just stepped out into the big bad world. His lean, sinewy arms at his hips, he stood at the door of his small house. Life, just a week back, had been so different. He was the typical indifferent son of a hard-working father. His father Chellappan passed away three days back, set finally at peace from a life-long chase by tuberculosis. And hence the family business of cutting wood now rested upon his shoulders, heavy and bearing, like the long teak trees Chellappan used to set to work upon in his heydays.
James surveyed his father's shed. There was the powerful torch which the saaypu had presented him when he did a handsome job of bringing a jackfruit tree to its knees in the summer seven years back. The photo of The Lord and the lamp flickering reverently beneath. Sundry little tools - jacks, saws, wedges. And in a corner, resting upon a formidable-looking block of teakwood, was the axe. Like the Gandiva to Arjuna, or the sword of Hattori Hanzō. It was beauty in sheer functionality.
However, James did not really like the tree-felling business his father had carried on with pride. He'd had a tough time distinguishing between 'wood' and 'would' in primary school anyway and it had plagued him till the time he'd dropped out in fifth standard. He still did not know, but by now he did not give a damn.
Trees were meant to be. They'd been there for ages, and he hated the thought of having to wreck them to their roots. The smell of sap as he introduced the axe to the wood stung his nose. Then there was that mournful creak and the huge saddening thud, signalling the be-all and the end-all of the tree. This was definitely not his cup of tea. He was a man of nature. There's this feeling that overcomes a man who stands at the summit of some hillock nestled in the bosom of the Western ghats, when the monsoon wind strikes his chest and the drizzle caresses his face, and all that lies ahead to sight is a vast expanse of greenery.
The axe. Today was the fourth day he set out with it, to chisel out his livelihood. The sun had barely risen. Approaching the shed gingerly, he paused at the door. The growing repulsion to what his father had been doing all these years kept rising within him.
He'd had two passions in his life so far. One, and the latest, was the girl he'd seen two days ago. Like a forest fairy. Fair, tall, and pretty. He'd enquired about her discreetly to his mother, and had come to know that she lived half a mile away. Ria. Her name was Ria Kishan. What a strange surname. But it mattered to him not. It could've been Kishan or Shanky or Krishnan for all he knew. His manly heart was filled with a passion for the woman, filled like the first time one truly falls in love. Yesterday he'd seen her face in the tree he was cutting down. It was too late, though, to stop. The damage had already been done and the wood lay at his feet. He was too scared to do it again today.
The other thing close to his heart was too general to be described in words. A passion. A passion for knowing things, and how things were the way they were. It wasn't science. All he knew of science was the stuff he'd been dictated in his late school days. He used to walk with two older boys to the small school four miles away. They spoke things he'd never heard about. Of how water is actually two gases. Of how you could make fire that did not hurt you. And there was this talk about a strange constipated guy they called Noottun. Noottun apparently wrote about his loss of motion and became famous all over the world. He still remembered the things they said he'd written. Three things, was it not? First about something being stuck the way they always were, until you pushed it out or pulled it in. The second thing was about the force you needed for motion. And something similar for the third. He'd forgotten. Try as he might, he couldn't recall it.
Not that it mattered anyway.
He eyed the axe. And there she was, her face clearly seen in the shining metal that clasped the wooden handle. He made up his mind. The sight of the axe and what it could do filled him with disgust. He closed the door of the shed and began walking. Out into the woods. He didn't know where his legs took him. He walked on like a man possessed, strong legs steadily hammering away the distance.
And there she was. Standing by the well, with the steel bucket by her waist. Her hair danced in the wind, and her anklets made the best music he'd ever heard in nature. She turned back and looked at him. He stood dazed, entirely enraptured by the sight of her. She kept looking. He felt weak at the knees. There must've been something, something in the way he looked, or the way he stood.. his pose, that must've caught her fancy. He stood totally transfixed by her gaze.. And then it rang true. Noottun was right!! The forgotten line rose in his mind..
For a very axe-shun, there's a knee-quell and a pose-hit Ria Kishan.
Note: For those who are in the dark about what a Shenoy is: They're named after their master - Narendra Shenoy. To understand the Shenoy, you've gotta read the entire story, then go through the last line carefully. Read it aloud, in fact. Fast, if needed. I'd suggest going through 'groaners' like this and this one wiki entry.