Tuesday, June 28, 2005


So, I asked Krishnammal about Lila last night. Lila has come to Kuthur to be arrested for failing to appear in court. Apparently, she was originally arrested at the same time as Veerasamy, nearly ten years ago, but unlike Veerasamy she has not been appearing in court every week to have her case postponed. She’s been working in some other part of the state, though I couldn’t quite catch the name (perhaps Kanyakumari District in the far south), and when the order for her arrest was sent out, she didn’t want to be arrested in the district in which she was working, for fear of tarnishing her reputation with the people there. Actually, Jagannathan could be arrested at any time for the same offence, but they won’t do it, for fear of taking the blame if his health becomes worse.

By the way, the charges against Lila (who is from Kerala originally, and has been teaching me a few words of Malayalam, the language of that state - Vellam is water) are that she burned down the houses of some officials of the prawn companies. So here we are, sheltering an arsonist. She’s not the worst of our criminals, though. Veerasamy is an attempted murderer, and Jagannathan is the leader of the whole organization of bandits that has its headquarters here, and he went with a lorry full of weapons to attack the prawn workers and destroy the farms, physically impossible as it may appear. Even the dog here steals shoes. Krishnammal and I have both found our right chappals (Hindi for sandals), slightly chewed, hung on thorn hedges just outside the ashram this week. I had thought it was Veerasamy, but I guess he’s innocent of that charge. Our drivers break every traffic rule known to humankind. Krishnammal herself, saint though she may seem, is a kidnapper (not all of the children in her hostels from poor or abusive homes were taken with the full consent of their families). As for me, I have been known to break a bunch of copyright laws. I also break almost anything else, like a bull in a china shop. I am a complete and absolute klutz.

I first met Jagannathan in the Madras City Jail, when I was three years old. I don’t remember it very well, and at the time I didn’t really know what a jail was. He gave me a present: a leaf, stolen from a government-owned tree. Jagannathan has been in jail uncountable times, and most of the people here have probably been arrested at least once (Krishnammal has, in fact, escaped from a police van when the officers went to get tea. I forgot to list that among her offenses). It goes with the territory.

All combined, there are more than 500 false cases that are being postponed indefinitely. I wonder if they will ever be thrown out, if they will simply be forgotten, or if Veerasamy will have to go to court every week for the rest of his life, to stand there waiting from dawn till dusk. He asked me if I wanted to go to court with him on Monday. When I said yes, he looked at me as though I were crazy. Maybe I am crazy. Here I am, associating with murderers, arsonists, and vandals. Am I an accomplice?

P.S. Jothi appears to be recovering. I went to her house in Valivalam today, and met her daughter and grandchildren. Tomorrow I go to Akkarapettai, by the coast.


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