This short story by Malayalam language writer VJ James is a sensual parable for our times

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Back in our Tharavadu, we have a Yakshi whom we have nurtured over generations. If you are wondering whether this is the prelude of a magical novel written by Ettumanoor Shiva Kumar, you are mistaken. All romanticism aside, let me assert: the Yakshi is an eternal truth. If a frail-hearted man attempted to eulogise the full-breasted, red-lipped, narrow-waisted Yakshi, he would soon be reduced to a molten state.

If you wonder how I am able to describe it so precisely, there is a reason for it. I am the first born in the current generation. Though circumstances dictated that my birth occurred in Indianapolis, situated at the crown of the USA, the preordained interaction I have had with the Yakshi is a testimony that she exists.

I discovered only in my thirty-second year that the Yakshi was bound to appear exclusively to the eldest in a generation. It was a result of a secret pact made by my great grandfather, who had a marked proclivity for philandering and lasciviousness, and was a connoisseur of randy activities.

At the time, I had started a live-in relationship, after a successful dating stint with Monica Williams, a distant relative of the world-famous talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

We have a two-and-a-half-year-old son, too. His name is Jim. Neither Monica nor I was interested in that outdated custom of marriage, which stuck the label of “spouse” onto us. Although, in America, breaking off a marriage and remarrying is as easy as removing a sticker and repasting it elsewhere, we were determined not to waste any effort in such an activity.

I began with the topic of the Yakshi. She dwelt in a palm tree situated at the southern corner of the Tharavadu’s precincts. I was oblivious to the fact that a Yakshi was languishing there, unable to procure a passport or visa to visit the eldest born in USA. The southern corner of the family house, including the palm tree, had been apportioned in my name during the partition of the properties.

I had never felt any emotional attachment to that piece of earth. For a sensually inclined man, relishing life in America, there was no reason to brood over either the dark soil or an equally dark palm tree.

“If you were to sell the land, the total amount would barely match two months’ of my salary here,” I boasted to the caretaker when he phoned me from the village.

“No need to denigrate it so much. Why don’t you come over and settle the matter? After all, it is part of your legacy.”

The idea of “legacy” is a quandary. Indians, especially Malayalis, are prone to swinging back and forth while clutching onto that word. In the American culture, wafting along in a cloud of eau de cologne, a legacy hardly lasts a generation.

After many inveiglements, I succumbed and visited the native land to examine closely the much vaunted, elephantine legacy. It was then that the Yakshi appeared before me, displaying her astounding beauty and elucidating the pact made with my great grandfather. Now, who would swallow such yarns in today’s era? Especially someone like me, who exults in the techno-scientific lifestyle of America! Naturally, I felt like laughing, at first.

I was convinced that the Yakshi was a cooked-up tale, and that this was merely a woman trying to beguile me with her loveliness, but the Yakshi, unaffronted, soon proved the veracity of her existence.

Nobody but me could see that deadly, gorgeous creature. Despite many modernist declarations, the capitalistic nation and her kin, yours truly, are used to Superman, Spiderman and their assorted companions, who drop in daily to America, and thus, we are amenable to accepting a Yakshi too.

I took a fancy to the Yakshi, every inch of her, since she hadn’t lost the tiniest bit of allure despite the centuries gone by. Indeed, I paid mental obeisance to my forbearer who had signed an agreement enabling only me to glimpse the Yakshi. The night the Yakshi put her right foot inside my bedroom, my bewilderment about whether it was a wild dream or not rose sky high.

What ensued was a mating ritual fiercer than one with the female serpent Monica Williams at the end of our dating spree. No words could describe the acuity of the Yakshi! My certificates and doctorate degree in psychology became worthless.

I took umbrage at the caretaker, fulminating about why he hadn’t lured me back with the temptation of the “legacy” much earlier. The Yakshi, too, had been deprived of sensual pleasures for a long period. Suffice to say that our relationship bloomed lushly. In a matter of few days, we entered a stage where nothing was hidden from each other, and everything was mutually shared. When I opened the bundle of my American woes, the Yakshi divulged the suffocations of her provincial life.

Truth be told, the Yakshi’s predicament was quite pathetic. The erstwhile thick forests and unencumbered night sojourns had been lost to the encroachment of urbanisation. She couldn’t approach anyone for a bit of lime either.

Not a single man roamed around, eating and spitting betel leaf juice, anywhere in the Malayalam-speaking land. To add insult to injury, a powerful 110 Kilo Volt power line installed by the Kerala State Electricity Board passed twelve feet away from her palm tree abode, stopping all unfettered air travel.

This was the reason why six females of the Yakshi’s clan had turned into vapour. It was at that time, when the crisis of the very existence of the Yakshi clan loomed high, without any blood to drink and them dying before their time, that I appeared in the village, as if magnetised by the Yakshi’s allure.

“Long time since I have had a good paan break with all the ingredients. Can you get me a good paan mixture?” the Yakshi gushed in a voice bubbling over with equal measure of sensuality and nostalgia.

“Why not? The caretaker will get it in a jiffy.”

“Uh-huh! According to the pact, you are supposed to fetch everything for me personally!”

When the Yakshi smiled seductively at me, I shrugged and set off, searching for a shack selling Japan tobacco, Ceylon paan leaf and Rangoon areca nut. It was delightful to watch the the Yakshi prepare her betal leaf mixture.

When she offered me a leaf, rolled up with the intoxicating ingredients, I couldn’t resist that female scented enticement. Her lips were redder than the colour of the communist flag and pulled me in dangerously. First the Yakshi, then I, spat into the ancient brass spittoon luxuriously.

“What fun to chew betel leaf, eh?’ She queried.

“Oh yes,” I agreed.

“That is its specialty. Green leaf, white lime, yellow areca nut, and black tobacco…when you chew them together, you get red…the colour of blood!”

“True… but I have heard that Yakshis can be harmful.”

“Haven’t you heard that dogs bite?”

“Yes.”

“But would your pet dog bite you? Who would be as faithful as that one?”

I was rendered speechless by the Yakshi’s logical presentation and intellectual acuity.

“Yakshis are closest to dogs. They howl from the ecstasy of sighting us, and they can see and hear what humans cannot.”

Overwhelmed at the enlightenment bestowed on me by the Yakshi, the very next day, I purchased for her a pair of tinkling anklets – assured with warranty – to replace her centuries’ old ones, from the jewellery shop in town. When she catwalked around, her anklets jingling merrily and her waist chain exposed languorously, I lost all control of my senses.

I gifted her a bottle of “Bolt of Lightning”, costing eight hundred dollars per ounce. It consisted of the rare fragrance which spreads in the atmosphere as soon as lightning strikes. When she edged closer to me after spraying herself liberally with the perfume, lightning struck my manly parts several times.

Indeed, for a few days, I completely forgot Monica Williams and my two-and-a-half-year-old Jim waiting for me back in America. Who knew that having a Yakshi to oneself was akin to purchasing heaven? My only trepidation pertained to the doubts which would sprout in Monica’s mind over my newly acquired skills in the physical arts and sciences.

I might be able to wriggle my way out by explaining it as the result of travelling to the land of the Kama Sutra and the munificent effects of the environment. I could not explain it as the results of the Yakshi’s gurukula education system, could I?

Although a fortnight passed, the law of diminishing marginal utility, as taught in economics, did not turn out to be true in the Yakshi’s case.

I ruminated over the past lessons, sputtering that the Yakshi was neither an apple, with which to be satiated, nor another cigarette, with which one would be bored. If I could have met the great soul who once proclaimed that a man’s erection would hold even after three minutes of his death, I would have gladly glorified him. While the effects of the affair blazed through my veins, the very thought of returning to Indianapolis, and leaving the Yakshi behind, started haunting me. Every inch of me was in love with the Yakshi.

Though I had arrived with the plan of selling my property and depositing the money in the bank under my son’s name, I started dilly dallying intentionally. While boarding the flight to India, I aimed to free the next generation from the complicities of the family property. But now, I myself was delaying the return trip. No wonder the long-sighted predecessors never sold the property to anybody…smart cookies!

“If you sell the land, whoever purchases it will destroy the palm tree,” the Yakshi griped.

“But I have no option.”

“Where will I stay if the tree is chopped down?”

“Come with me to America. Nobody else can see you, right? I shall keep you there, without Monica having any clue!”

“We are forbidden from crossing the seas. That is why you don’t have Yakshis in America. Even if I manage to make it, you have Spiderman and Superman ruling the roost over there! How can a local Yakshi withstand a possible gang attack? The Americans have claimed patents to even Tulsi and Red Sandalwood, haven’t they? God, I cannot imagine them applying for a patent for a Yakshi too!’

“What should I do?”

“My female mind has an insight!”

“What?”

“Change the ownership of the Tharavadu to your son’s name. He should get full rights when he becomes a major. Then nobody can sell it.”

Wow! Brilliant!

I really liked this solution. After all, Yakshis are traditionally gifted with high intelligence. I was not going to gain anything worthwhile by selling the house and land anyhow. It was because the property had stayed in the family that it came my way, with the Yakshi too joining forces with me.

In order to formalise the legal changes required to transfer ownership to my son, I continued to inhale the fragrance of the Bolt of Lightning and bed the Yakshi. When the quantity of the scent began to dwindle irredeemably and hit the bottom, I realised that I could not postpone my return trip any further, and confessed to the Yakshi:

“Though I am extremely unwilling, I have to go back.”

I had assumed, as a result of the intimate relationship, that the Yakshi, too, would be hit by an equal amount of agony. But shattering my expectations to smithereens, she burst out laughing.

“You cannot just leave, you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve told you only about the initial part of the pact. To appear before the eldest of the generation and to surrender to his desires. But I need blood to exist, don’t I? Who will provide me with it?”

“What about a goat’s blood or a cow’s? Sorry, cow blood can be an issue. Hmm, what about buffalo blood?”

“For a Yakshi, human blood is mandatory for continued existence. Since the chances of this diminishes with every generation, I ended up making that pact with your great grandfather.”

“What pact?”

“For every pleasure one relishes, there is an assured payback. The pact was that I would survive by drinking the blood of the eldest of the generation, to whom I surrender.”

Lightning struck through all the bolts which concatenated in my body. The truth, that a debauched forefather who couldn’t control his blood surge had intentionally leased away the life blood of many imminent generations to assuage his lust was more shocking in impact than a 110 Kilo Volt powerline.

“Why blame only your great grandfather? For your selfish desires, you too endangered the next generation by gifting him the property, didn’t you?”

Darkness flooded my eyes when the sin of putting my two-and-half-year-old in debt to the Yakshi hit me.

“This is unfair! I shall not permit it!”

“Who needs your permission anyway? Has anyone ever won a battle astride a straw-horse?”

“I am not bound by my ancestor’s pact. I will not accept it.”

“Fool! Did you get the family property with your permission? Both assets and liabilities are inherited equally. Can one government disown tje previous government’s debts? I admire your boiling blood, but it is useless.”

“Why didn’t you disclose the hidden conditions during our first meeting?”

“Ha ha! That’s the way with human transactions too, right? The hidden conditions emerge only after the deed is fructified. Your legal warnings are a joke! They are designed in a manner so that nobody can understand anything on either reading or hearing them. Even your religions and politics are teeming with hidden agendas! Once you join in, you are caught forever. Now, death…No options there!”

“But…you assured me that you were faithful like a pet dog?”

I sent forth my last arrow, enervated at fighting a hopeless, losing battle.

The Yakshi effortlessly destroyed its sharp edge and laughed:

“That’s called luscious temptation…”

The “I” within me was exhausted completely. Without any goddess to seek refuge in, or any world police to come to my aid, I desperately thought of my Monica Williams and my little Jim. If I could spit on my sensual desires, which had entrapped yet another generation, I would have done so. But it was too late.

I had an intense wish to warn my son, even from far away. It was then, only then, that I recollected the cautionary messages that my grandfather and father had often sent me! I bitterly regretted that I had never paid any attention to those presaging messages.

Yet, my dear Jim, like all betrayed primogenitors, I too shall place my hopes on you.

At that moment, I could see the fangs appear in the mouth of the Yakshi, who had been nurtured and nourished over generations by my family. As the pincers sprang from the much-kissed and reddened lips, and lovingly aimed for my jugular, I could do nothing but meditate on the ineffable pleasure of death.

At the end of life, you realise, only in the last second, that the family house was on top of the palm tree, and it was the Yakshi’s black magic that made it appear grounded.

Afterwards, at the foot of the palm tree, only teeth and hair shall remain.

Also read:

Fiction pick: ‘The Ladder of Yarn’, a short story by Malayalam language writer VJ James

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