BY A N Mahambro | Translated by José Lourenço
When Bhau Bandodkar became the Chief Minister of Goa, Vittu said – this is really not a good thing, okay? Vittu was talking about his key. You see, about that same time, his key got lost. Altogether Vittu had fourteen keys. The account of those keys was as below:
1 Of the front door
1 Of the outer room
3 Of the inner rooms
2 Of the drawers of the table
2 Of the drawers of the cabinet
1 Of the cash box
1 Oof the almirah
2 Of the trunks
1 Of the safe locker
Out of these, the key to the almirah would get lost every day. The keys of the outer room, the table drawers and the trunks would get lost once every eight to fifteen days and the keys of the cabinet drawers would always disappear twice every three months. The one that never got lost was the key of the safe. And this time that very key got lost.
Even otherwise, Vittu is a bit feeble. A quarter less than twelve, as they say. If he keeps a thing somewhere, he can never recall it. And how tiny that key is! As small as a germ’s finger. If it got lost, how would it ever be found!
As soon as the key got lost, Vittu searched and searched the house. First he searched the outer room. He searched the table there and the drawers of the table. He searched the chairs. He searched the nails on the wall and the photo frames on the nails. He searched the storeroom. And the little stool there. Then he searched the three inner rooms. And the drawers of the cabinet. He searched the almirah. And the clothes in the almirah. He searched the pockets of the shirts and the trousers. Then he searched the kitchen. The pots, the pans, the vessels, the cups, the plates, the bowls, the lids, behind the hearth, the niches – he searched everywhere. He searched the ladder to the attic. And the attic. He searched the bedroom. The cots in the room and the mattresses on the cots, the bed sheets, the pillows, the pillow covers – everything.
After searching everything, Vittu told his wife – the key is lost. His wife felt bad. She went and searched all the places that Vittu had already searched. Then Vittu told his mother – the key is lost. She rose and searched all the places that Vittu and Vittu’s wife had already searched.
Vittu felt sorry for his mother. His mother felt sorry for him. Vittu’s wife felt sorry for both Vittu and his mother. Vittu had two sons. Pattu and Tittu. When the key was lost, Pattu was singing and Tittu was jumping around. Vittu said to Pattu – What bloody fellows you are!
Pattu said – What happened?
The key is lost.
What shall I do?
Then we will find it?
Tittu heard that. Both of them sat down and began crying. Vittu snapped – What are you singing! When Pattu and Tittu cried it sounded like they were singing. Their singing sounded like they were crying. When Vittu yelled at them, they shut up.
Vittu’s wife told one of the neighbours about the lost key. That neighbour told a second neighbour. The second told the third. The third told the fourth. The fourth told a fifth. Vittu’s mother told Shenvtu’s mother and Shantu’s mother-in-law. Then Shenvtu’s mother told Shenvtu’s father and Shenvtu’s father told Shantu’s father. Shantu’s father told Shantu’s father-in-law and Shantu’s father-in-law told Shantu’s mother. Pattu and Tittu told the same thing to their friends Tiblu and Giblu. Then this fellow told that and that told this and they told them and as this went on the news spread everywhere.
Then Shinnu, Kattu, Dulgo, Krushnnem, Tirvinn, Bhagi, Anton, Kushtta, Caitan, Marie, Damiao, Filsu, Ramakant, Durgem, Shenvtu, Abolem, Souza, Fernand, Naik, Kurado, Mashnnem, Fondo, all of them came over to Vittu’s place. Out of these, Tirvinn, Bhagi, Marie and Abolem came to visit Vittu’s wife. She was nine months pregnant.
Those who had come to inquire into the matter of the key asked Vittu how he had lost the key. And Vittu told them that in this way and that way the key was lost, adding some tamarind and chilly to his story. He told each visitor – yesterday I woke up well, had tea quite well, ate and drank very well, had bath well, went out quite well, returned home well, ate and drank and slept well, today morning I woke up well, had tea quite well, had bath and washed up well, heard the news of Bandodkar becoming Chief Minister very well and then suddenly go to see...
When Vittu’s brother-in-law came with his wife, that’s Vittu’s sister, to Vittu’s house, Vittu’s wife was crying that her belly was paining. The brother-in-law and his wife enquired into her pain. Vittu’s wife kept crying. Vittu’s mother said – I had told Vittu to take proper care of her. But the fool didn’t take it seriously. He is always dithering here and there.
Maybe he didn’t want a child so soon, the brother-in-law wondered.
But when did she start hurting like this? Vittu’s sister asked the mother.
My dear, what to tell you, yesterday morning both of us woke up well, ate well, had bath quite well, slept well, woke up today morning very well, turned on the radio nicely, heard the news of Bandodkar becoming Chief Minister very well, and just then Vittu came out and said to me – Mother, something bad has happened. My heart sank and I jumped in fright. You see, she had just entered her ninth month. I cried out – arre, what happened! Vittu said – the key is lost. And just then this pain started…
The brother-in-law and his wife just left the matter at that and left.
All day, people kept visiting. When the men came, Vittu would tell them the same story, repeating it in the same way. When the women came, Vittu’s mother would tell them her same story, repeating it in the same way. Vitu’s wife would see who had come and accordingly sit and cry of belly pain.
Evening fell. Vittu went to the temple. Prayers were being sung. Hardas was saying in local Marathi – What to tell you, O Lord, this world is very complicad. When what will happen to anyone can’t be said anymore. Today someone’s key gets lost, tomorrow his wife gets lost, the next day his kids get lost, the day after that he himself gets lost…which is why Sant Tukaram Maharaj says, wherever you go, you are with me…
Vittu got irritated. The key is lost, fine…what if I get lost tomorrow?…what if my wife is lost tomorrow? He got up. Fell at God’s feet. He told the bhat to make a divine request. The priest asked him – these days what is costlier, coconut or sugar?
Vittu said – sugar.
Then the priest said – O God, today this Vittu has specially come to your feet. Please make him find that key which he has lost. Then he will offer you his weight in sugar, this is his vow. The priest told Vittu, God will surely do your work. If he doesn’t do it, my brother will do it.
The priest’s brother was an astrologer. Vittu met him. After listening to the whole story, he asked Vittu – have you brought its horoscope?
The key’s horoscope.
No. I haven’t had it done.
Then how will we know where it has gone?
Vittu kept quiet.
When was the key made?
Five years back.
The locksmith gave me the key at ten in the morning.
The astrologer took down the details of the height, weight, shape and colour of the key in great detail. Then he prepared the horoscope of the key. He peered all over it for a long time. He counted something on his fingers. Then he looked up to gaze heavenwards. (Was he studying the horoscopes of the stars, perhaps?) And then he said – Your key is moving to the south.
But it does not have legs. How will it walk, asked Vittu impatiently.
Don’t ask useless questions.
I am not asking useless questions. But tell me one thing, right now is my key in my backyard? Or is it near the village ferry? Is it near the Canacona market? Or is it near the Vivekanand memorial in Kanyakumari?
I haven’t understood your question.
You said my key is travelling south. Which south? Of my house? South of the village? Of Goa? Or of India?
If I tell you all these things, then what is left of my astrology?
At that moment the priest from the temple appeared there and he said to Vittu – For ten rupees my brother does not tell more than this.
Vittu cursed him and paid him ten rupees. And he went home. Sat down to eat. Just then the door bell rang. A policeman walked in.
Is your key lost? He asked Vittu.
Yes. Who told you? Vittu asked.
You heard that and you came here?
If we don’t do these works, who will do them? Police are at the service of the people. You tell us what is to be done and we do them.
Vittu kept looking at the policeman for a good two minutes. He wondered how this righteous cop from Ram Rajya ever reached his place.
Alright, so how will I get my key? Vittu asked him.
File a complaint.
That someone has stolen your key. If you suspect anyone, put down their names as well.
But my key is lost. I don’t feel anyone has stolen it.
If that key is lost, it’s not our business to find it. If anyone has stolen it, it is our duty to catch the thief.
Alright, if I file the complaint, will I get my key?
It is our job to make efforts. How can we tell whether we will find or not find it? These days even if a minister goes stealing around, we cannot say for sure we will catch him.
He was a policeman for certain, but he spoke like a lawyer. Vittu wrote down the complaint in police language. And once again he asked the cop:
Who informed you that my key was lost? Which neighbour?
That is not important. It is more important to find the lost key, said the policeman as he left.
By this time, Vittu was quite exhausted. He went and lay on the cot. Screw the whole world, he thought, and slept soundly.
The next morning Vittu rose and sat on his porch, deep in thought. Just then he saw someone on the road. He looked like Sukrata and spoke like Brahmadeva. As soon as he spotted Vittu, he said –
I heard your key is lost?
You will find it.
How is that going to happen?
Any lost item is always found if searched for properly.
The loss of a key is an event. There is a cause for every event. No cause, no event. An event does not necessarily have only one cause. There can be more than one.
We must seek out these causes.
After that will I find my key?
You will understand how and why the key got lost.
What’s the use of understanding why the key got lost?
Understanding will help you search better.
But why this double trouble? Instead of searching for the causes, I am searching for the key itself.
You will not find it.
Why is that?
Even if you find it, you will put me in trouble.
If you find the key without finding the reasons first, I will then have to find the reasons for your finding the key in such a way.
Alright, then you only tell me how to find the reasons.
First you tell me, what happened when you lost your key?
I don’t know. You tell me.
When your key got lost, the key that was there now no longer is there. Hence you could no longer find it. The reasons for it no longer being there can be many. For example:
1 You cannot remember where you kept the key, hence you can’t find it.
2 You remember where you kept the key, but you have not really kept the key there, hence you cannot find it.
3 You remember where you kept the key, but the key is not there, hence you can’t find it.
4 The key is where you have kept it, but you can’t remember that place, hence you can’t find it.
5 From the place where you kept the key, someone has taken it and hasn’t replaced it, hence you can’t find it.
6 From the place where you kept the key, someone has taken it and he doesn’t remember where he has kept it, hence you cannot find it.
Vittu felt this peculiar man was spinning yarns and tangling everything up like a politician…Vittu told him, I will find all the rest of the reasons, thank you. If you hang around here anymore, you will screw up my head. And then I will have to seek the reasons for my head getting screwed.
After the man had left, Vittu bathed and dressed and at around ten or ten-thirty, he went to the Palacio (the Secretariat). He met the Chief Minister’s personal assistant and told him the entire story and also told him he wanted to meet the Chief Minister. The PA told him that the Chief Minister was completely busy for the next one and half months. That all the appointments had been quickly taken up as soon as he had become the Chief Minister the previous day.
Now what shall I do, asked Vittu.
Go to Bhau’s house, he was told.
The next day Vittu went to Bhau’s house. There was a crowd of people there. But as soon as Bhau saw him he took him in before anyone else and asked him what work he had come for. Vittu told him everything about the key. He told him about the police complaint as well and that they didn’t seem to take the matter seriously enough.
So you want me to tell the police to look for your key? Don’t they have other work to do? Bhau scolded him.
No no…that was a v..very v..valuable k..k..key, Vittu said timidly.
So how valuable is it?
The cost of that key?
I don’t know.
Bhau rose and went inside. Vittu wondered if he had gotten angry. After a moment Bhau returned and put a fistful of notes into Vittu’s hand, saying – Take this money. Make a new key.
Vittu came home and sat down to count the notes that Bhau had given him. To his surprise, the money that Bhau had given him was enough to make even a golden key.
The original Konkani version of this story appeared in Samkaleen Konkani Lagukatha (Contemporary Konkani Short Stories) edited by Pundalik Narayan Naik, published by National Book Trust, New Delhi, 1998
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