Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Boy Who Saved a Brinjal (Yuva Prequel)

And there he was sitting, in a dilemma not knowing what to do. He wasn't in such a predicament even when he was contemplating on whether to tell his dad about his smoking or the time he was on his maiden sea voyage. He was at the end of his thinking capacity on what to do.

Mahatma Gandhi had visited Madras to inspire youth in the freedom struggle, to equip them with his methods: nonviolence, pacifism, Swadeshi policy—the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. Vishnu Iyer, his best friend had invited Gandhiji to his house. That's the root cause of his dilemma because there was a problem which can only be known by learning the flashback. [Grab a mosquito coil for better understanding.]

Vishnu Iyer, much to the ire of his parents and relatives married his true love, Iris Scott, a Britisher and as the fate would have it her estranged father was a loyal lieutenant to the governor-general of Madras. So going to their home might sully Gandhiji’s name, after all it’s not exactly aligned with his swadeshi policy.

How Vishnu Iyer and Iris Scott found the magic between them is for another day. Long story short; it all started as a discussion during one of the language classes during barrister training. Iris Scott, a fellow student announced to other Indian students, her love for Sanskrit and declared it to be the most ancient language and the mother of all Indo-European languages.

Being a proper Tamilian, Vishnu couldn’t tolerate such foul falsehoods Iris had spoken and had no way but to contradict her views, explaining to her, how ancient the Tamil really was and citing examples of fine literature in Tamil to showcase the rich fabric of Tamil that was created, no not centuries, but, millennia ago. They debated, they laughed and they talked, and they discussed over coffee, and obviously a lot can happen over a coffee. Those discussions during coffee led to something much more romantic and beautiful.

Just as Gandhiji had finished playback of this flashback that played in his mind, the toddler woke up and smiled in a cute and innocent way (obviously as he was a toddler), looking at Mahatma showing his two new front teeth. So tranquil was the infants smile that Mahatma Gandhi immediately forgot everything and took him into his hands and the decision felt obvious. Gandhiji suddenly became a child while playing with the toddler. He immediately bonded with him.

“How can one not go to this little one's house,” Gandhiji thought, “after all, the child’s father, Vishnu Iyer has been one of his best friends from his Barrister days in England, and one of the few who relinquished their Sarkari (government) jobs to join the freedom struggle.” After completing his discourses in Madras and he went to Vishnu's house.

“Hey Ram how silly of me! I've played with this child for three days yet I don't know his name.” Gandhiji thought to himself and took the little one into his arms and asked, “What's your name beta?”

Buba”, answered the little one.

“Ha-ha, Buba?”

Yuva, Yuva Iyer,” corrected Vishnu with tears in his eyes.

“Dear friend, what happened, what’s wrong?”

“Iris was so fond of that name. She spent a lot of time with our scriptures to come up with his name” told Vishnu his eyes still wet, “When Yuva was of eleven months his mother, Iris died in the 1928 Thames flood.”

“It’s ok. Wherever she is, she’ll always love you. So you’re so fond of that name? Yuva Iyer. I like it too. It has a nice ring to it.” said Gandhiji.

“You can’t be serious, Gandhi. That’s one messed up name. See Yuva Iyer. Eww! It’s as odd as it can get. I don’t like the name; it’s just that it reminds me of Iris and makes me sad. I love her, of course, but just that if only she had a tiny bit of sense to name the kid taking my suggestion.”

“What did you want to name him?”

Yuga. Yuga Iyer! Ah, the music it has to the ears. Doesn’t it have a nice ring to it?”

“But, Vishnu, Yuva and Yuga rhyme and thus have the same kind of vibrations, don’t you think?”

“Gandhi! That’s so absurd. They have different meanings. Surely the meanings have got to play some role in the vibrations? Please don’t say your tastes have decayed over all these years, maybe that’s just your age.”

“Nonsense! My tastes are as good as they were and I’m young enough to beat you to death, single-handed, but don’t worry I won’t, because, you know, of my non-violence vow. Nonetheless, now that you mention it, I don’t feel Yuva and Yuga rhyme a lot. After all, meaning has got to play some role in the rhyming, right?”

“Exactly! Thank god! My old friend Gandhi has not gone senile, yet.”


On the following day, while Gandhiji was discussing something with Vishnu, and suddenly there was a shrill cry, in probability a shriek uttered by Yuva. 

Everyone, including Gandhiji rushed towards the sound, the kitchen and there he was sitting on the floor and crying and the burn mark on his fingers was evident. Yuva's granny rushed and picked him up and asked, “Why did you put your fingers on the stove, I told you the fire will burn you.” 

While still crying, Yuva answered, in his gibberish included English, which when translated by his granny, meant, “The brinjals were on fire, they are getting injured, and I was just trying to save them.” 

While his grandparents and servants were making hubbub trying to do the first aid, Gandhiji thought, “Such compassion!” and wore a content smile and administered the ointment over the burns himself.

In the evening, showing Yuva's burn marks to Vishnu, Gandhiji said, “See this scar if I'm not wrong that’s going to stay with him for the rest of his life. But worry you not, scars come in handy. They bring with them something nice, like some magical power or a handy talent. I wish I had a nice long scar somewhere.”

“Is it? What power do you think this scar going to impart to him?”

“That’s, uh, difficult to answer. It'd have been better had it been a lightning shaped one or a trident or something better. But you see this is a rather odd one, more like an oval burn mark, like a symbol of some minor god. It might just bring certain expertise, I'm not sure. My simpleton cousin, after getting a scar on his seat, when my uncle hit him, went on to become a genius.”

Vishnu said, “Oh Yuva! How blessed are you to be praised by Gandhi all the time.”


In jail, on his deathbed Vishnu desired Gandhiji to adopt and take care of Yuva. He and Iris dreamed of India’s independence, so naturally it’d be their child’s goal as per the unwritten law of India, so he entreated Gandhiji to let Yuva participate in the freedom struggle, deciding the fate and the career of his yet-a-toddler son. Thereafter Gandhiji took care of Yuva as his own son. He grew up as everyone’s beloved sweetheart in the ashram. Somehow it was oddly amusing and relaxing to see a boy of foreign complexion, speaking in native tongue, growing up in the ashram which fought against the same foreign rule, to which half of his genetic material has the claim to. 

End of the prequel. 

Click here for the story Madrasapattinam.

Click here for the story The Lost Book.

Click here for the story On That Fateful Day.

Click here for the story Oh Dear Gandhi!


  1. brilliant dude, feels like reading short stories of r k narayn.

    1. That's a huge honour. R K Narayan is one of my favourite authors. Thank you very much.


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