Sunday, May 23, 2010

वागानोव की व्‍यथा और अन्‍य किस्‍से..


कुछ लोग अपनी किस्‍मत में जाने कैसे हीरे की हंसी और पत्‍थर के आंसू लिए आते हैं, कि पत्‍थरदिल दुश्‍वारियों में हो सकता है आंखों में एक गहरी उदासी घर जाये भरी रहे, मिजाज का सेंस ऑफ़ ह्यूमर कभी बेदम नहीं होता. बहुत वर्ष हुए विश्‍वविद्यालयी दिनों में करीबन डेढ़ सौ पृष्‍ठों की पतली रूसी कहानियों के हिंदी अनुवाद की एक किताब पढ़ी थी, 'वागानोव की व्‍यथा और अन्‍य कहानियां', पढ़कर बहुत आनंद आया था. आनंद की संभवत: एक बड़ी वज़ह यह भी थी कि जिस तरह के रूसी परिवेश ओर किरदारों की आमतौर पर किसी रचना में अपेक्षा रहती थी, अपेक्षा करते रहने की आदत-सी बन गई थी, वागानोव में उस परिचित, पहचाने मोनोटॉन को गजर-मजर की रंगीन चकरी पर दौड़ता छोड़ दिया गया था. यह बहुत बाद में पता चला कि वागानोव के लिखवैये वसीली शूक्शिन मॉस्‍को फ़ि‍ल्‍म स्‍कूल में न केवल तॉरकॉव्‍स्‍की के समकालीन थे, कहानियां बाद में लिखनी शुरु कीं, पहले अभिनय में हाथ आजमाया, बाद में फ़ि‍ल्‍में भी बनायी थीं. लेकिन जैसा उनकी कहानियों के साथ है, कि सहजता से सुलभ नहीं हैं, कुछ वही बात शूक्शि‍न की फ़ि‍ल्‍मों के साथ है, पहचाने रास्‍तों से खोजिए, मिलती नहीं हैं. एक का जाने किस दुर्संयोग से टौरेंट मिला तो फ़ि‍ल्‍म्‍ा देखकर मैं फिर दंग हो रहा था कि 1973 में शू‍क्‍शिन की यह कैसी दिलेरी रही होगी कि वह वामपंथ की पहचानी दुकान चलाने की जगह जेल से निकले कैदी के बाहरी संसार से सामंजस्‍य बैठाने के दु:स्‍सह द्वंद्वों की कथा कहने के रास्‍ते गये. मगर उस कथा में आत्‍मा के तार पहचानने की ज़ि‍द में लगे लोगों का रोमान, उनकी आंतरिक उथल-पुथल, देहाती लैंडस्‍केप सब मन बहाने, और आंखें खोलनेवाला है. मगर आप शू‍क्‍शि‍न को खोजने की कोशिश कीजिए, देखिएगा आसानी से आपके हाथ न चढ़ेंगा. हिंदी में तो वागानोव नामवर के संपादन में राजकमल ने ही छापी थी,  मगर अब उनके सर्कुलेटेड किताबों में वह आमतौर पर नहीं दिखती.
हाल में एक दूसरे रूसी लेखक का बुखार चढ़ा, सेर्गेइ दोबलातोव. शूक्‍शि‍न की तो पैंतालीस वर्ष की उम्र में मौत हुई, दोबलातोव मरने की जगह 1979 में अमरीका भाग गए, मौत का मुकुट बारह वर्ष बाद पहना. शूक्‍शि‍न की किस्‍मत रही थी, जीते-जी किसी तरह अपनी रचनायें छपवाते रह सके थे, दोबलातोव को रूस में रहते के दरमियान यह सौभाग्‍य प्राप्‍त नहीं हुआ, यह कसर उन्‍होंने अमरीका आकर पूरी की. मौत के पहले तक हर वर्ष एक के हिसाब से किताब निकलवाते रहे, और उनकी कहानियों में और जो भी तत्‍व हों, न हों, वे भयानक रूप से ह्यूमरस और मनोरंजक हैं, लेकिन फ्लि‍पकार्ट पर चेक करिये, आपको वहां बड़े सीधे-सीधे दोबलातोव-दलिद्दर मिलेगा. यह पूंजीवादी प्रैस, पता नहीं, अपनी खिचड़ी पकाता कैसे हैं?
नीचे शूक्शि‍न की कहानी की अंग्रेजी नकल चिपका रहा हूं, कभी फ़ुरसत में पढ़ि‍येगा..
नौजवान वागानेव की व्‍यथा..

Young Georgy Vaganov, a young law graduate and young investigator at the district public prosecutor's office, was on top of the world that morning. The day before he had received a letter... Thrice young, he expected everything from life, everything, that is, except that letter. Maya Yakutina had been in the same year as him at law school, a proud girl with chiselled features. Neither then, when they were students, nor now, when he wanted to picture Maya in his mind, could Vaganov avoid an insidious and irritating comparison. Maya was like a wooden doll fashioned by a skilled master. Yet the very fact that she was like a doll, an exquisite doll, made her attractive, in some inexplicable way, suggesting that she was a woman too, capable of cooking the dinner and of bestowing joy that no one else could bestow. In other words, she was a woman like all other women, and also as exquisite as a doll. Georgy Vaganov wanted to analyse the whole thing, but actually there was nothing to analyse; he was just in love with her, Maya Yakutina. Four boys in their year had been in love with her. She had ditched the lot of them by getting married just before finals. To some brilliant physicist, people said. "She was a pretty girl, but on the make. Pretty girls are all the same," they all decided. But Vaganov couldn't bring himself to blame Maya or feel slighted. Ftrstly, he had no right to and, secondly, blame her for what? Vaganov had always known that Maya was not for him. It was a pity, of course... But perhaps it wasn't a pity, perhaps it was a good thing. If he'd been given Maya, like a gift from the gods, it would soon have been the end of him. He would have turned into a creep straightaway: he would have wanted to stay in the town at any price and agreed to the role of a dogsbody. Just so he could yap around Maya, without being on a lead. Yes, however you looked at it, it was all for the best, as they say. This was how Vaganov tried to calm himself down, when he finally realised he hadn't got a chance. And he succeeded. Or thought he had succeeded. But now it transpired that people don't calm down in matters such as these. Yesterday, when he got the letter and saw it was from Maya, he couldn't believe his eyes. But the letter was from Maya... His heart started beating so fast that he thought quite seriously: "This must be how people faint." And in the least daunted by this, he just left the landlord's section of the house and went to his living room. Burning with a delicious presentiment, he read the letter through, stroked it, put it up to the light and looked at it, and all but kissed it. He was too embarrassed to do that, although he did feel the urge at first to kiss the letter all over. Vaganov had grown up in the countryside, with a strict father and a mother who was always busy, always hard at work. He'd seen little affection and was shy of it, particularly of kisses, for some reason.
Maya wrote that her marriage had "cracked up", that now she was free and wanted to use her vacation to travel round the country a bit. In this connection she asked:
"Dear Georgy, for old time's sake please meet me at the station and let me stay at your place for a week-I've been longing to see that part of the world for some time. May I come?" She went on to say that she'd had a chance to think over her own life and the life around her and now she understood, for example, why he, Georgy, had worked so hard and agreed so quickly to take a job in such an outlandish place. "Now then, steady on, old girl, steady on," young Vaganov thought happily. "Don't start counting your chickens just yet."
So with this letter nestling in his pocket young Vaganov was now walking to the office. He would have to write back to Maya either at work, if there was time, or at home that evening. He searched for the words and expressions he would need in his letter, a letter that must be simple, generous and intelligent. Searched for them, found them, rejected them and began searching again... And all the time his heart was bubbling: "Will she really be mine? It's not the countryside she wants to see, is it? She doesn't give a damn about that..."
Pondering this fascinating question of such vital interest to him, Vaganov walked into his office, took out some sheets of paper and was about to start writing his reply. Just at that moment the door gave a slow unpleasant whine.
And a shaven head peeped cautiously round it, the head of the man he had seen a minute or two ago sitting on the couch in the corridor.
"C'n I come in?"
Vaganov hesitated for a moment, then said with barely concealed annoyance.
"Very well then."
"Good morning." The man was about fifty, tall and lean, with long workman's hands which he didn't know where to put.
"Take a seat," Vaganov told him, pushing aside the sheets of paper.
"I've er ... like ... brought this testimonial," the man said. Pleased to have found something for his hands to do, he began fumbling anxiously in the inside pocket of his jacket for the something called a testimonial.
"What testimonial?"
"Against the wife. They've brought a charge against me, see... And I want to explain..."
"Are you Popov?"
"That's right."
"Well, what is it you want to explain? Why you started the fisticuffs? Why you beat up your wife and the man next door? What's a testimonial got to do with it?"
By now Popov had fished out the testimonial and was standing with it in the middle of the office. He must have been quite handsome once. He was still a fine-looking man with his slightly prominent cheekbones, predatory hooked nose, high, clear forehead and honest, unflinching eyes... But he was dishevelled and bleary-eyed, of course, he'd obviously had a drop to drink yesterday, shaved hurriedly this morning and barely splashed his face with cold water. Brrr.
"Let's have the testimonial then."
Popov handed him two pages from a school exercise book covered with writing, stepped back to the middle of the room and waited. Vaganov's eyes skimmed over the uneven lines... He had stopped finding the explanations and complaints written by uneducated people funny. They simply wrote as they thought, and the result was no sillier than some phoney piece of smooth talk, and more honest at least.
Vaganov read to the end.
"But it doesn't make any difference, Popov."
"Wotcha mean-doesn't make any difference?"
"It doesn't change anything. You say here that she's a so-and-so, a bad lot. Say I believe you. What difference does it make?"
"What difference?" cried Popov. "But she put me inside on purpose! For a whole fortnight. Put me inside and then had it off with that... I know she did. Kolka Korolyov told me all about it. And I knew anyway without him... She told me herself."
"Told you herself?"
"She did and all!" Popov exclaimed, confidingly. "'I'll put ye inside,' she says, 'and sleep here with Mishka.' "
"Come now... Did she really say that?"
"She did and all!" Popov exclaimed again. And sat down, now that the conversation had stopped being official and turned into a normal man-to-man talk. 'I'll put ye inside,' she says, 'and live with Mishka for a bit to spite ye.'"
"Did she really say 'to spite you'?"
"Nah, course not. But I know her! And I know that Mishka too-can't keep his hands off things what don't belong to him. I'll stake my life on what I've written here. They were living together, the bastards. Started the very next day. Kolka Korolyov caught 'em red-handed."
"Well, I don't know..." The young Vaganov was really at a loss. The man seemed to be telling the bitter truth. "Then perhaps you'd better get divorced, eh?"
"Where would I go if we got divorced? She'd be sure to get the house. They'd give it to 'er. And what about the kiddies? They can't stand on their own feet yet. I feel sorry for them..."
"How many have you got?"
"Three. The youngest's only seven. I think the world of 'im. Couldn't stand it on me own. I'd go on the bottle."
"Listen to you!" said Vaganov angrily. "You sound like a paralytic. 'Couldn't stand if, 'go on the bottle'. Well, what's to be done, eh? Now imagine you haven't come to complain to an official. You've just come to a friend. I'm that friend, and I don't know what to advise you. If you can go on living with her after that, all well and good, but if you can't..."
"I can," said Popov firmly. "It don't matter that she's had a bit on the side. Only it mustn't happen again. I'm to blame myself. Always making a hullabaloo and never showing no affection. If I'd been a bit more affectionate, she might never have thought of doing it."
"Then go back to her!"
"Go back to her... They want to put me inside! And they will with all those witnesses they've got and them medical reports. It'll be three years in the cooler for me."
"Well, what is it you want then?"
"For them to drop the charges."
"And what's the testimonial for?"
"To have some papers against them too. Maybe they'll take a look at themselves in it and decide to drop the charges after all. They're no angels either! Just think, putting a feller inside, then having it off... What sort of woman would do a thing like that?"
"But you did give her a good hiding, didn't you?"
"There was more shouting and hollering, than good hiding..."
"But you had to go and use your fists, didn't you?"
Popov hung his head guiltily and stroked his knee with a broad brown palm.
"Couldn't stand it..."
"There he goes again. Jesus, what a helpless lot we are!"
Vaganov got up from his desk and began pacing round the office. He felt angry with the man and sorry for him, too. Popov wasn't trying to curry favour. Even with his relatively little experience, Vaganov had learned to tell when people were deliberately trying to make you feel sorry for them. Sometimes they were very good at it. "If you'd just kept your temper and filed for a divorce, the court would have had to decide how to settle it; and they might have... But it's no use thinking about that now, is it?"
"No, it ain't," Popov agreed.
They said nothing for a while.
"What can we do?" Vaganov thought. "They'll put that silly idiot in prison. However the case is presented, he's had it!"
"How did you get married?"
"How? Like everybody else. I came back from the war, and she was working in the village store... We got together like. I knew her before that too."
"Are you a local man?"
"Aye. Only none of my relatives are alive now. Mother and Father died before the war from stove fumes, both me elder brothers was killed in the war. I had two aunts and they're both gone too. Got some nephews in town, but I don't know where."
"Where's your wife now?"
Popov looked enquiringly at the investigator.
"Where does she work, you mean? Same place, in the village store."
"Is she there now?"
"Aye."
"Who did the testimonial for you?"
"Nobody. Did it meself. 'Can't have that; says the lads. 'Must shoot a few papers back at 'em.' 'What can I shoot back?' I thinks. So I wrote that one..."
"Alright, leave it with me and I'll try to have a word with your wife. Off you go."
Popov got to his feet... He wanted to say or ask something else, but only looked at Vaganov, nodded his head obediently and went cautiously out of the room.
Left on his own, Vaganov stood for a long time, gazing at the door. Then he sat down and looked at the white sheets of paper he had taken out for the letter.
"Well, Maya?" he asked. "What are we going to do?"
He waited for a warm rush of tenderness to flood over him, but for some reason it did not come. "Dammit!" Vaganov said angrily. "I'll write this evening," he thought.
The cleaner at the public prosecutor's office went to fetch Popov's wife from the village store, which was nearby.
In the meantime Vaganov looked through the "papers" for-the case against Popov. Yes, they were obviously trying to get a prison sentence for him. And how brisk and business-like it all sounded. They'd hired someone who knew his onions. Vaganov pulled over Popov's "testimonial" and read it through again. A sad and comical human document. It wasn't really a testimonial at all, just a true account of what had happened. "So I has a shave and goes to see her. She's lying there like a boa constrictor on a feather bed. 'Go on,' I says, 'tell us what you got up to while I was away.' She sees things aren't too good and starts hollering. So I give her a clout to make her shut up. Then she ups and runs off-not to her family, mind you-off to that Mishka again. Then I lost me temper and couldn't stand it..."
Popov's wife, a good-looking woman of about forty, not at all shy, with the familiar manners of a shop assistant, showed at once that she knew the law: the law protected her.
"You know, Comrade Vaganov, I don't get a moment's peace. It's the drink makes him behave like a hooligan. Now he's accusing me of going off with some Mishka or other! Uncouth duffer."
"Yes, yes..." Vaganov copied the brisk woman's familiar tone and led her on. "It's disgraceful. He must know the law's very strict about that these days. Perhaps he's forgotten."
"He's forgotten everything! Never mind, he'll soon remember again. They'll give him three years, then he'll have time to remember."
"But what about the children ... how'11 they manage without their father?"
"Oh, they're big now. Anyway a father like that's no good to anyone."
"Has he always been like that?"
"Like what?"
"Oh, behaving like a hooligan and fighting."
"No, he used to be much quieter when he drank. Then he started being jealous of Mishka. Last year that was. And the things he threatens to do! 'I'll cut both your throats!' he says."
"I see. And who is this Mishka?"
"Oh, goodness, he's just a neighbour. They moved here last year... He's a driver for the village store."
"Is he a bachelor?"
"Well, they both moved here, but they haven't sold their old house, see. His wife don't think much of this place, but Mishka likes it here. He's crazy about fishing, and that's one thing you can do here. So they're living in the two places. With a garden there and another one here. So she keeps travelling to and fro, his wife, looking after the two, greedy thing."
"I see..." Vaganov was now quite sure Popov was right. His wife was being unfaithful to him. In an insolent, shameless way. "He says here that you told him outright:
'I'll put you in the clink and live here with Mishka.'"
There was nothing about that in the "testimonial", but Vaganov remembered what Popov had said and pretended to have read it there. "Is that true?"
"He wrote that, did he?!" cried the woman loudly. "The cheek of it! Well, I never!" She even laughed. "Just think of that!"
"Is it true?"
"No, it is not!"
"She's sure of herself alright, the hussy,"-Vaganov thought angrily. "I won't give him up to you as easily as that!"
"So you want him locked up?"
"Yes, locked up, Georgy Konstantinovich. It's the only way. Let him do a stretch."
"Don't you feel sorry?" Vaganov couldn't help asking.
Popov's wife stiffened. She gave the young investigator an enquiring look, then smiled ingratiatingly.
"What for?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't know," Vaganov replied evasively. "You can go now." He gave the woman a hard stare.
The woman said "Uh-ha", got up, walked over to the door, then turned round worriedly... Vaganov went on staring at her.
"I forgot to ask why you had children so late?"
The woman was really flustered now. Not by the question, but because the investigator had changed before her eyes: his tone and expression... In her confusion she walked up to the desk again and sat down on the chair which she had just left.
"I just didn't get pregnant," she said. "That was all. And then I did get pregnant. So what?"
"I see, you can go now," Vaganov said again. He put his hand on the "papers". "Everything..." he stressed the word, "will be fully investigated. The trial will be a very strict one: and whoever is guilty will be brought to justice. Goodbye."
The woman walked over to the door... Her departure was less confident than her arrival.
"Yes," the investigator remembered. "And who's this..." he pretended to be searching in Popov's paper for the name of the witness, although that name was not mentioned there either. "Who's this Korolyov?"
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed the woman at the door. "Kolka Korolyov? He goes boozing with my old man, no one's going to believe a word he says!" She was confused now. You could tell it from her voice.
"Is he a registered alcoholic then? This Korolyov?"
The woman was about to walk back to the desk again and tell him all about Korolyov. She obviously realised that this was the weakest point in her offensive.
"Who registers them here. Comrade Vaganov! He's just a friend of my old man's. They fought together in the war..."
"Very well, you can go now. We'll get to the bottom of it all."
His gaze alighted on the white sheets of paper waiting for him. And looking at them, his thoughts began to wander. Maya... A remote, spring-like, marvellous name. At last he could start writing some beautiful, heartfelt words, one by one, lots of them! All the morning he had been itching to sit down and write that letter. And he would let these beautiful, feathered words fly like winged arrows from a bow-and shoot them one by one into the trim figure of faraway Maya. He would shoot so many that Maya would cry out with inevitable love... He would pierce her wooden heart, Vaganov thought, and strike the part of her that was alive and capable of loving just for love's sake, without being on the make. Then suddenly he thought to himself clearly and simply: "But can she do that? Is she capable of loving like that?" And having asked himself this calm and sober question, he would have to give the equally calm and sober reply: probably not. It was a question of upbringing, the sort of life she was used to... She just couldn't, and that was that. Just take that affair with the talented physicist... But, on the other hand, who could say! To be objective you'd have to know more about the circumstances-about the physicist, and how it began and how it ended. "Steady on, old chap," Vaganov thought angrily, "don't get carried away. What's happened? You've just witnessed another sad story of someone's clumsy life... So what? There have been plenty before and there'll be plenty more to come! Are you going to measure yourself against each of them? Whatever for? It's sheer nonsense! Why should an uneducated man, aware of nothing but his own defencelessness, and his cheeky, shameless wife who, unlike her husband, is aware of being fully protected, why should they of all people, with their lack of common sense, suggest how he should solve this of all things, in his by no means simple and by no means mediocre, as he liked to think, life?" But it was a fact that after the Popovs' story Vaganov had lost all desire to "shoot" at faraway Maya. The clarity and excitement of the morning had clouded over. Everything inside him had gone anxious and taut, as if someone had thrown a stone through the window... "I'll write this evening," Vaganov decided. "It's silly of me, probably because I'm so young, to mix work with my private life. I must keep them separate. I mustn't complicate things."
That evening Vaganov shut himself away in his room, turned off the radio and sat down at the table to write. But in his mind's eye he kept seeing the guilty Popov and his chirpy wife. Like an obsession, like the onset of madness... Vaganov tried calling himself some unflattering names and reasoning with himself calmly and logically... But it didn't help. There they were, standing in front of him. It was not even they themselves, although they were what Vaganov remembered all the time, but what they had told him, that kept confusing his thoughts and feelings. "Very well, then," Vaganov said angrily to himself at last. "If you're a coward, just say so-straight out. This is what's happened: that Popov woman has in some incomprehensible way reinforced your secret suspicion that Maya is just as selfish and out for what she can get, only the other woman's not much good at it, whereas she's smarter and far more successful. But that makes it even worse, even more painful. That's the danger you sensed here. So why not just say straight out: 'They're all the same!' and put an end to it without even starting to write the letter. And be a coward and go on persuading yourself. It's safer like that. You wretched pettifogger!"
Vaganov sat motionless at the table for a long time... He really was suffering. He stretched out for a sheet of paper again, then paused once more... No, he couldn't bring himself to write it. Something inside him was holding him back. Telling him that he might be doing something stupid. He had a cowardly feeling, probably inborn: what if it all went wrong! That's what he was afraid of, to be quite honest and objective. "You plebeian and son of a plebeian! Go on, make a mistake, do something silly... Nothing venture, nothing gain. Don't toss caution to the winds, of course, and get all sorts of illusions, but it's mean and petty to go weighing everything up like that. You'll never get anything if you're so tight-fisted! Come on, let's write that letter. We won't write a great poem or shoot arrows at Maya from afar. We'll just tell her straight: you'll get as good as you give, sweetheart. Tell her that."
...Around four o'clock in the morning Vaganov finished a long letter. It was already light outside. The cool air of the early June morning wafted through the open window. Vaganov leaned against the window frame and lit a cigarette. The letter had worn him out. He had started it about twelve times, torn it up, fretted and cursed, and now he was very tired. So tired that he couldn't bring himself to read it through. It wasn't so much that he didn't want to, but more that he was afraid. The letter didn't make anything clear, nor was it particularly clever. Vaganov had been aware of that all the time he was writing it. All the time he had felt he was trying to show off rather than... He dragged nervily on his cigarette several times, sat down at the table and began to read the letter.
"Maya! Your letter came as such a shock that I haven't been able to think of anything else since I got it the day before yesterday. I keep asking myself what it means. And can't find an answer. So now I am asking you: what does it mean, Maya? Of course you can come and stay with me for a week. But that's what I'm asking about: what does it mean? You know how I used to feel about you... And my poor heart tells me that I still feel just the same as before: I love you. And that is what gives me the right to ask and say what I think about you. And about myself. What does it mean, Maya? Is it running away from oneself? Alright then, come and stay here. But where will I be able to run away from myself? I have nowhere. And I will want to run away, I know that. So that's why I ask you once more (like in a cross-examination): what does it mean, Maya? Write me another letter, please, a short one, and answer this question: what does it mean, Maya?" That was how Vaganov began his long letter... He put it aside and cupped his chin in his hands. He even felt his heart begin to ache from his own stupidity and helplessness. "Just like a parrot! What does it mean, Maya? What does it mean, Maya? Ugh! You worm!" This indecisiveness really was like a terrible misfortune. It was the first time in his life that Vaganov had been in such a fix. "Oh, God, what shall I do? What shall I do?" Vaganov tried to think of someone he could go to for advice-he was even ready to do that-but he couldn't think of a soul. There was no one here whom he could trust and tell his troubles to without feeling ashamed. The only person he could think of was Popov, the frank, honest eyes, the intelligent forehead... So what? "So what, Maya?" he said again with angry sarcasm. "It's nothing, Maya. It's just that I'm a creep, Maya."
He screwed the letter into a tight ball and threw it out of the window into the garden. Then he lay down on the bed and closed his eyes tightly, like he had as a child when he wanted something unpleasant to be over and forgotten as soon as possible.
That morning as he walked to work Vaganov felt terribly tired. For some reason the same tune kept going round and round in his empty head: "I'm playing my accordion for passers-by to hear..." He'd decided not to write a letter for a bit. Not until things were a bit clearer, not until he had decided whether he really was capable of achieving anything or had simply imagined himself to be clever and competent, as other people had encouraged him, silly idiot, to think. He must find that out first and not deceive himself, not have any illusions about himself. Only one thing was clear so far: that he loved Maya and was afraid of getting involved with her. Afraid of responsibility and losing his freedom, afraid that he would not be strong and reliable beside her, and that it would mean the end of his career. "Let's see how you wriggle out of that, you manly creature," he thought about him with genuine anger. "Let's wait and see."
He began his working day by sending someone to fetch Popov.
Popov arrived quickly, peering cautiously round the door as before.
"Come in!" Vaganov got up from his desk, shook Popov's hand, sat him down on a chair, then sat down beside him.
"What's your first name?"
"Pavel."
"How are things? At home, I mean?"
Popov said nothing. He looked at the investigator with his grey eyes. There was something remarkable about those eyes of his; was it that they were excessively trusting or wise? They were as clear as a child's, yet they had seen death, and grief, and the man himself had suffered a great deal... Perhaps this was where the strength of the human race lay, in this patience and submission? And perhaps everything else was just loutish, greedy and cruel?
"Not so bad... Why?" Popov asked.
"Spoken to the wife?"
"We ain't been on speakin' terms for a week."
"Noticed anything different about her?"
"I'll say." Popov grinned. "Yesterday evenin' she gives me this funny look and says: 'Been to see the investigator, have you?' 'Aye,' says I. Think you're the only one what can go runnin'to him?' "
"What did she say to that?"
"Nowt. Just kept quiet. And I kept quiet too."
"They'll drop the charges," said Vaganov. "I'll ask to see her once again, maybe even more than once... I think they'll drop them."
"And a good thing too," said Popov simply. "I don't want a spell in clink. What the hell! I getting on in years..."
"Pavel," Vaganov began reflectively to broach the subject that was weighing on his mind. "I want to ask your advice..." Listening to himself, Vaganov wondered whether he shouldn't be ashamed of himself, asking this elderly man for advice like some strip of a boy. Wasn't he being ridiculous? No, he wasn't ashamed or ridiculous. What was ridiculous about it? "I've got this woman, Pavel... no, I don't mean like that. There's this woman, see, and I love her. She was married, but now she's got divorced and she's hinting..." At this point Vaganov felt slightly embarrassed, because he'd got off to such a clumsy start. "Well, anyway, I love this woman, but I'm afraid of getting involved with her."
"Why's that?"asked Popov.
"Well, I'm afraid she's the same ... as your wife. I'm afraid it would be the end of me. I'd have to work just for her: make sure life was interesting and gay for her, not boring... And everything I'd planned to do would go by the board. I'd just have to please her all the time."
"I wouldn't say that," said Popov doubtfully. "Ye just have to live side by side, sharin' everything like the good times and the bad..."
"Oh, yes, I know what you have to do. I know all that."
"Well, what's the matter then?"
Vaganov lost all desire to continue the conversation. He had begun to feel annoyed with someone.
"I know what you have to do. How people should live. Everyone knows that. But what should I do if I know I love her and yet I know she'll ... never be a real friend to me? Is your wife a friend to you?"
"My wife!"
"Yes, your wife. Everyone's the same basically. We all want to be happy. Haven't you ever needed a friend?"
"All I can say is this, Comrade Vaganov," Popov had got the idea at last. "Ye can't expect nowt from that lot, them womenfolk. They'll only let you down. I've thought'about it too. About why folk can't live together properly. Every family's got summat wrong with it. Summat that's upset-tin' the apple cart. Why is that? 'Cos ye can't expect anything better from them womenfolk... That's the way they're made."
"Then why on earth do we marry them?" exclaimed Vaganov, taken aback by such categorical philosophy.
"Ah, that's a different matter." Popov spoke easily and confidently. As if he really had given it some thought. "A man needs a family, whether he likes it or not. Without a family, he's not worth a brass farthing. Why do we love our kiddies so much, eh? 'Cos they give us the strength to put up with the tantrums of them womenfolk."
"But there must be some normal families! "
"Show me one. It's all sham. They don't like washin' their dirty linen in public. But they fight hammer and tongs when no one's lookin'."
"Well, I never!" Vaganov was getting more and more surprised. "This is a sad state of affairs. What's a man to do then?"
"Just stick it out and hope for the best. And don't kid yourself. A wife as a friend? That's a laugh. Be thankful that they have kiddies at least... And don't hold it against them for being made like that. What's the point?" Popov was quietly confident of his truth. Now that he realised Vaganov wanted this truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he let him have it. He was looking at the young man calmly, even quizzically, not in the least nervous.
"I see, I see," Vaganov said. "No, Popov, you're only saying that because you're upset, unhappy. It's not really like that..."
Popov shrugged his shoulders.
"Ye asked me what I thought, so I told ye."
"Yes, that's right. I'm not arguing. You could argue about this till kingdom come, but..."
"Of course. Everyone lives like that, right from the start. Suppose someone had told me: 'Don't get married, Pavel, lad, or ye'11 regret it.' What would I have done? Sent him to the devil and done what I liked. That's what all folk do."
"Yes, yes," Vaganov agreed with him. "That's true. Alright, then." He got up. Popov got up too. "Goodbye, Pavel. I think they'll drop the charges. Only mind you don't..."
"Not on yer life. Comrade Vaganov!" Popov assured him. "I'll never do it again, I promise. It was daft... What can ye knock out of them, eh? Let them feel ashamed of themselves. Like I'm ashamed of makin' all this fuss... Goin' around tellin' tales... Who wouldn't be ashamed of that?"
"Well, goodbye then."
"Goodbye."
No sooner had the door closed behind Popov, than Vaganov sat down at his desk to write. While he was talking to Popov, he had decided to send Maya a telegram saying:
"Come. No luxury suites. Omnia mea mecum porto. Will meet. Georgy."
He wrote it down... Read it through. And whistled the same tune, "I'm playing my accordion", at the clever wording. Then he tore the piece of paper neatly, picked up the pieces, then walked over and dropped them into the waste-paper basket. A blank sense of relief flooded over him. All the anger and irritation was washed away. But he couldn't work today. So he went over to the desk and wrote in big letters on a sheet of paper:
"Not feeling well. Have gone home."
He wasn't up to seeing anyone in the office or talking to them.
On the way home he sang quietly to himself:
I'm playing my accordion
For passers-by to hear.
What a shame a birthday comes
But o-o-once a ye-e-ear.
It was a marvellous day, not too hot, but warm and fragrant. There was no dust yet, the summer was just beginning to mature. Its young green vigour was driving the sap of life out of the earth; everything was in bloom, or just beginning to bloom or just finishing, and where the blossoms had faded were little swelling balls which would soon be fruit. A superb, heavenly time! It was still too early to regret that the days were growing shorter. Those days still lay ahead.
Vaganov turned off to the post-office. He went in, took a telegram form from the counter, sat down at the edge of the battered, ink-stained table and wrote Maya's address... His pen hovered for a moment over the space for the text... Then he wrote one word: "Come."
And sat there staring at this daunting word. He looked at it hard for a long time. Then crumpled up the form and threw it into the waste-paper basket.
"Changed your mind?" asked the woman at the counter.
"Can't remember the address," Vaganov lied. He went outside and set off resolutely in the direction of home.
"Fancy me learning to lie like that!" he thought about himself impersonally, as if it were someone else. "Didn't bat an eyelid."
No scent of hay wafted from the meadows. Haymaking had not yet begun.

यह दोबलातोव के संग्रह 'अवर्स: ए रशन फैमिली' की एक कहानी के पाठ का पॉडकॉस्‍ट‍ है, द न्‍यू योर्कर के वेबसाइट से उठाकर चिपकाया है, वह भी कभी सुनिएगा, समझिएगा, दोबलातोव क्‍या बला थे!

3 comments:

  1. "omnia mea mecum porto" - too [ :-)]

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  2. आदरणीय अज़दक जी, आपने तो बड़े फेर में डाल दिया। बागानोव और शुक्शिन की पूरी सामग्री पढ़कर आने में तो बहुत टाइम लग जाएगा। अभी बयाना लीजिए, पूरी टिप्पणी लौटकर दूंगा यदि पढ़ पाया तो... :)

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  3. पता नहीं क्यों पर आज आपकी पोस्ट पढ़ना भला सा लगा, कहानी तो अब पढ़ूंगी, जरा प्रिंट निकाल लूं, कंप्य़ूटर स्क्रीन पर पढ़ने की अपनी आदत नहीं।

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