From ‘Rajan’s Train Robbery’ by Zacharia
Translated from Malayalam by Ajithan G. Kurup
At last Rajan decided to hold up and rob a train. In newspapers he had seen pictures of young revolutionaries holding up trains and shouting slogans while people of consequence, whose journeys had been held up, paced impatiently along the tracks.
‘People of consequence,’ Rajan said to himself, ‘when I hold up your train, do forgive me. Think of me as a guinea pig that has somehow stumbled across the tracks. Consider me a mere object of study before you: I am someone forgotten by both revolution and government. I didn’t have the skills to make capital either. I shall not tire you with slogans. I shall only rob you, quickly, to quell the hunger of my little one, his mother and myself. Forgive me for bothering you.’
‘Revolutionaries,’ he continued to himself, ‘forgive me for holding up the train alone; for accumulating capital without slogans. Before the boundless significance of slogans, my desires and the desires of my family are as insignificant as mustard seeds. Our tired voices are not even strong enough to cry out our helplessness. Forgive us this silent revolution of mustard seeds.’
Yielding to the grasp of a great sorrow, Rajan heard the lines of an old poem echo within like an ancient peal of thunder:
Does it matter whether the poor are born or die?
Forgive these vain words, O wise ones.