E Harikumar

To The Unknown Realms

E Harikumar


There was wonder and trace of fear in Vandana's eyes. Years back I saw the same expression in Indira's eyes. When I told her about the writing table in the attic Indira also sat wonder struck. In between she woke up and asked.

"How come only when Nandettan tried did it open?"

Now after thirty years Vandana is asking the same question.

"How come it is so, Dad?"

There were goose pimples on her hand. What should I tell? For nearly two years I tried hard to decipher the meaning of the chess board but couldn't. In such a situation what should I tell her?

"Look darling there are a lot of things in the universe that we do not know. Why should we insist on knowing everything? Leave something to the unknown."

Vandana fell silent. I am afraid I have ruined her peace of mind. Her exam is nearing and she has great expectations of the future. She wanted to learn computer engineering and become a software professional and reach the Silicon Valley like her cousins. Kuttettans' daughters Raji and Neetu are in San Jose and LA. The elder one is in H.P. and the younger one in e-Bay. So Vandana won’t compromise on her studies. But in the case of this cursed chess board, we cannot be sure of anything. In a very curious, unknown way it influences us.

"Then, did Dad go again to the attic?"

I was thinking. Yes I did go, but when was it?

Kuttettan was talking.

"You know one thing? People who hide a treasure leave some key along. But then that will be in cryptic language. You can't easily decipher it. Many people leave a map somewhere. That way it is easy to trace the treasure. Now whatever we have is a chess board, which means we should work hard."

That's how we have decided to visit an astrologer. At least we would know about the person who had created this marvel of a chess board! Madhava Panikkar, the family astrologer was sitting on an easy chair. His grey hair was cut very short. Seeing the two of us coming he straightened and asked.

"Kuttan, what is special?"

"Nothing, uncle."

"Then why have you come. Want to know if you will get through in the exam? Isn't it?"

"Hum, hm.." Kuttettan was faltering, and then gathered strength to say. "We want to show you a horoscope."

"Horoscope? Show me."

Kuttettan fished out the horoscope from the bag he held and handed it over to Panikkar uncle. He untied the palm leave bunch and started reading. I watched the change in his countenance.

"Can I see this guy?" He asked Kuttettan.

Kuttettan was taken aback on hearing this question. Panikkar uncle continued. "No, I haven't yet met a man who is 120 years old. Now tell me where did you find this?"

"We got it from the attic." Kuttettan spilled out the truth.

"No, no. You children shouldn't meddle with these things. This is the horoscope of a person who died over sixty years ago, one of your ancestors. To be precise, he’s the uncle of your grandmother, your father's mother. I had only heard of him in my childhood."

"How was this man?" Kuttettan asked. "Was he a wealthy man?"

"Why do you want to know all these?"

"Just so....."

"People do not talk good of this man. But then in the olden days people won't say anything good about members of rich families. I had heard he had a lot of wealth."

That was precisely what Kuttettan wanted to know.

"You children should not play with these things. Go immediately and put it back where you got it. Actually this should be thrown in the river. But then certain rituals are required. You children cannot do that. In future you shouldn’t play with such things."

Kuttettan nodded. Panikkar uncle was like a family member. He has the authority to chasten us. Not only that, if my uncle happen to know this, it will create problems for us. We wanted to ask him not to mention this to uncle, but then he himself said.

"I am not telling your father about this. If I tell, you two will get nice beating from him. Now you go."

Kuttettan wrapped the horoscope in paper and put it back in the bag and got up. He asked.

"Panikkar uncle, will I pass in the exam?"

"Why, do you have any doubt?"

"No..... just to know."

"Your star is Uttathradi, that is Saturn. You need not worry about it."

He was relieved. He asked.

"What about this boy?"

"Your name is Nandan, isn't it. What is your birth star?"


"Ayilliam? That is Mercury." Panikkar uncle frowned, "give me that horoscope."

Kuttettan took out the horoscope and handed it over to Panikkar uncle. I had an uneasy feeling inside of me. Why did Panikkar uncle asked for that horoscope when he heard my star? Panikkar uncle was browsing through the palm leaves, and at times scribing something on a piece of paper. They were figures. We couldn't understand anything. After ten minutes of calculations, he bundled up the leaves, tied it and handed it back to Kuttettan.

"You take it back immediately where you got it. Don't delay."

"Why Panikkar uncle, anything wrong?" Taking the horoscope from the astrologer Kuttettan asked.

"Nay, nothing. This man was your ancestor, as I said earlier, your grandma's uncle. He was a tricky person. He had been practicing tantric and witchcraft. According to the horoscope his life is not over."

"How come, Uncle he died long time back. You said more than sixty year ago, then how come that his life is not over yet?"

"It's not life, but janmam. That is a lot of things we do not know or understand. Consider this as one of it. Let's not bite more than what we can chew. Now you go."

We walked back. I have noticed that he hadn't mentioned anything about my results. Looks like Kuttettan also forgot about it.

"Did you notice one thing? When you said that your star is Mercury, uncle was in a hurry to get the horoscope from me?"

"What could be the reason?"

"Who knows? Any way I have a strong feeling that there is something to it. That chess board is an indication of the location of the treasure. But I don't know how to decipher it. Let's try. Uncle told us the name of that old man. What was that?"

"Ittirama Menon"

"What a name!"

We went up to the attic to leave the horoscope back in the writing table. The journey was difficult. Somehow the encounter with Panikkar uncle left us with sense of fear. I had to go with Kuttettan to the attic, even though I had resolved not to venture on to the attic any more. I had to go because even Kuttettan was a bit scared now, and then my help is needed to open the box.

It was dusk and the attic was getting dark with shadows of things looking like monsters ready to pounce on you. I told him.

"We can leave it somewhere here and put it back in the box tomorrow morning."

"No way, Panikkar Uncle said this should be taken back to its original place and that too immediately. He won't insist on it without any sound reason. Come along...."

We reached near the writing table and sitting near the table Kuttettan asked me to sit and open the box.

I sat in front of the box. I ignored seeing Kuttettan trying to pushing the lid up without my knowing it. I pushed the lip up and it opened easily. I took the horoscope from Kuttettan and put it back in the box. I looked at him with a question.

"Close it." He said.

I closed the lid and we got up and walked a few feet when the click sound was heard. We walked fast. Kuttettan was musing. There was more of confusion than fear on his face.

Aunty was in the kitchen. The moment she saw us, she asked the usual question. "Hmm?"

"Nothing." Kuttettan said.

"Okay, then go and wash up and do your prayers. It is time your father came."

"Mom,...." Kuttettan asked hesitantly. "Who is this Ittirama Menon?"

"Ittirama Menon?" Aunty frowned. It seems she didn't even like the question. "I don't know anybody by that name."

"He is grandma's uncle."

"Oh,.... I don't even know your grandma, and you are asking about her uncle? What's the matter, tell me."

"Mom, do one thing. Father must be in the know of him. Please find out from him?"

"You didn't tell me what the matter is."

We heard the hoarse cough of uncle from the gate.

"Dad..." We ducked through the back doors to the pond and washed and in a jiffy were in the prayer room chanting prayers loudly."

Indira was in the porch waiting for her father.

Next morning we waited until uncle went to the fields to supervise the paddy cultivation, to rush to the kitchen. The maid Malu Amma was bringing the washed utensils to the kitchen from the sink outside. After keeping the vessels in their proper places, she took the two bucketful of clothes and kept the bar soap on top of it and went to the pond for washing them.

"What do you want?" Aunty asked. "Hungry?"

"No, Mummy....." Kuttettan was just stammering.

"Then why do you prowl in the kitchen?"

"Did you ask father about that old man?"

Aunty stopped stirring the curry on the hearth, and leaving the wooden spatula on a plate, she looked at us sternly.

"Dad is asking how come you heard about him. I said you might have heard it from school. Dad said it is just not possible. He died about sixty or seventy years back. He was Dad's grand uncle. Even Dad has only heard about him. Said he was a cruel man, had a lot of money. No one knows where all the money is."

"Was he living in this house?"

"Might be. His portrait was hanging in the living room for a long time. But then sometime back it was removed. Now I remember faintly, on the wall where the stuffed deer head was kept. His photo was on the right side of it. When your grandma died that photo was removed to keep grandma's photo."

"Where is that photo now?"

"Ah..., who knows, it must have been thrown in the attic.

Leaving the mother ignorant of the adventures of her son and nephew, we came out of the kitchen.


About this translation

An unusual novel by E Harikumar originally published in Malayalam (Ariyathalangalilekk oru kavatam അറിയാത്തലങ്ങളി'ലേക്ക് ഒരു കവാടം). In this novel, you will see many things beyond your logic. Every fifteen years a wonderful and unusual phenomenon changes a person's life completely. Irrational ecstasies often take the character to the mysterious levels of time.

അനുബന്ധ വായനയ്ക്ക്