Its almost a month since I have reached my home in Palakkad. It is for the first time after a long period, to be precise, since August 2006, that I am staying for such a long time at my home with parents. With nothing else to do other than reading and watching TV, I was testing my own patience level, as days passed by.
Even then, I was enjoying the drizzling rain, and occasional sunshine, and very rarely, chirping of birds and above all the surrounding greenery of the place.
There are lots of changes that have happened to this place in these years.
Ironically, the flowering plants in my garden are all gone and are now replaced by “garden tiles”. Thankfully the old mangotree managed to escape the pressures of being cut down, for the reason of blocking the view of our house considerably, only because of our sentimental attachment towards it. But I notice there are no more squirrels or birds in it. There was a time when I used to spend a lot of time observing parrots, humming birds and many other birds whose names I don’t know. On the initial days of my arrival I was totally disappointed, not able to spot even a single cat around the locality. I used to have at least two cats visiting my house daily when I was a kid.. Of course I used to lure them with a bowl of milk and make sure it comes daily to house. [ I have got strict instructions from my husband to keep away from cats for time being.. He knows my affinity towards them.. I have agreed to it under the reassurance that I can get one of my own once our kid has grown up to a age to handle pets :) ]
If this is the case with my house garden, the space in front, which used to be our playground, when I was a child, has undergone drastic changes. Those small tile-roofed houses where some families stayed for rent is now no more. A two storied shopping complex has taken over its place with a mobile tower on its terrace. There are at least 5 mobile towers now surrounding our house!!
This play ground was where me, my brother and children from neighborhood used to play all sort of games.. ‘kottiyum pullum’, hide and seek, cricket, badminton, cycling..
On the corner there is still one tamarind tree planted by santha chechi, which made me remember one incident that happened when I was, may be, 10 or 11 years old. One day we were playing cricket, assuming one coconut tree as stump ;), and I was fielding. The boy who was batting hit the ball hard and it wend near one of the tile roofed house where a family stayed for rent. The womanin that house, afore said santha chechi, was a nice natured, but an extremely fragile and weak woman. There was a water pot made of mud in front of her house which she used to fill with water from her house owner’s well. Even on hot days the water remained cool in this mud pot and was our resort as refreshment after a day’s play. The water always used to be sweet with a pleasant odour of mud and refreshingly cool.
So it was my turn to go and collect the ball. As I went there I found the ball lying in front of this house. The front door was wide open. I heard loud noises and whimpering sound from inside the house. I managed to get a peek inside the house through the door as I picked up the ball and moved towards the water pot. It took some time to take in the scene that I have just witnessed.
I saw Santha chechi retreating towards the corner of the house, and in front of her was her husband in a menacing stance. He was a ‘well known’ drunkard of the place with red eyes and a cruel face. He was having one of his sandal raised high above his head in his hand, and was nearing her. He looked merciless with his red eyes gleaming with anger.. She was crying, but at the same time trying hard to control her voices from going out of the house.
Mechanically, I drank some water from the pot, wondering whether he actually assaulted her or will do so. I am not aware of that, but this scene itself was quite disturbing for me. I ran back to my friends with the ball and said nothing to anyone. Everything was same as before, except that the water I just drank tasted salty, and was never again sweet.
Days passed by, but this incident always remained in mind. Every time I saw Santha chechi, the image of her pleading with her husband with moist eyes came to my mind.
One night I was half asleep, with my parents. When I woke up in between my sleep their conversation was about drinking and drunkards.
Somehow I got the impression that they are talking about my father consuming alcohol. I started crying hard. My parents were quite surprised and tried to find out the reason for the sudden change in my behaviour. After long consoling and persuading all I managed to ask my father was “Achan kallu kudichille..” (Father, you consumed alcohol?”)
My mother and father started laughing at me.
“No dear, it was not about me that we were talking.. I have never drunk in my life and will never drink also, I promise”, he said.
The happiness and relief that I felt at that moment was enough to compensate the shame that I felt for misinterpreting their conversation at that point.