(Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer is my favourite author. I translated a long story of his, ‘Premalekhanam’ (Love-letter), some 25 years ago. This is how the story begins…)

Dearest Saramma,
In these difficult times when life is yearningly youthful and the heart brimming over with love, how do you, my dearest friend reconcile yourself to it all?

As far as I am concerned— every moment of my life I spend in my love for you Saramma. And what about you Saramma? Requesting you to think deeply and accept my love with a sweet sweet reply.

Keshavan Nair

Having written off thus in one shot, Keshavan Nair caught himself suddenly looking back over his shoulder. A sort of vague sense of Saramma standing behind with her soft sweet smile. Oh! just a feeling. He read the letter through. Has poetry. Has Tatvagnana. Has mysticism too. Why?— Doesn’t it contain the whole great secret of Keshavan Nair’s heart? The letter now appears better than intended. He folded it in four and put it in his pocket. Getting out of the bank he turned and walked up a narrow bylane. Then a sudden thought: When given the letter will Saramma read it and poke fun at him? Or will she give a reply? And if so what will her reply be? What stands out foremost from Saramma’s character is poking fun… He recalled an incident from the past: A joyful discussion with Saramma. The jokes turned to the subject of women. Saramma told of some great poet or other having sung of women being God’s supreme creation. Keshavan Nair laughed. “Women have only moonlight inside their heads”, he said. He also told the true story of a seven times wedded gentleman as an example. That gentleman’s seventh life partner in the act of eagerly requesting for something fell downstairs and landed on the granite floor below. The gentleman was coming back after leaving her in the hospital when he met his brahmachari friend and was telling him,

“The accident is not so serious!”

“Didn’t you say that the skull cracked open?”

“Yes that’s true.”

“Can you see the brain matter?”

“Hey!” — the gentleman who has intimately known seven women is telling the nityabrahmachaari: “Just because the skull is cracked does it mean you can see the brain?- isn’t she a woman?”

“From which I infer”, Keshavan Nair told Saramma, “that the heads of women are filled with moonlight.”

Saramma had only laughed politely, a bit, at hearing that. Saramma has not talked about it afterwards. Yet wouldn’t the news that Saramma’s head was also filled with moonlight have touched her? Would she bring the topic of moonlight and make fun of him when given the premalekhanam? Isn’t she a female? Must have forgotten the whole thing. Keshavan Nair entered the hotel thinking this way. Not in the mood for coffee. Nevertheless he drank a cup and smoked a cigarette and sat in the hotel a long time thinking: When give the premalekhanam will Saramma give a sweet-beautiful reply or will she make fun of him? The thing called love has not touched Saramma! Lakhs of times Keshavan Nair has tried. But, whenever, quietly he made a move to open love’s scent bottle, she closed her nose! What is this bad smell? Doesn’t he bathe nowadays? This is the manner in which she looks at him! What way then to make her love him?

(Read the full translation here)

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