Summer Vacation -2

‘Nyaval?’

‘Yes, Ammu, nyaval. Haven’t you seen nyaval fruit? Maybe you haven’t. Deep purple in colour, about the size of a marble.’

‘Can you eat nyaval fruit?’

‘Of course you can. They have a slightly sweet and sour taste. I used to eat them a lot when I was a schoolgirl. And that reminds me of a girl, a certain Devu from Madathil House. She was famous for her black tongue. Once she remarked that my eyes reminded her of two dark nyaval fruits on a ceramic plate. I was really scared that I would go blind. I couldn’t get a wink of sleep that night.’

Suddenly Muthassi bent down and picked up a gauze-like dry leaf lying under a coconut tree and said ‘I could use this as a strainer when I make oil out of scraped coconut kernel.’

I continued walking towards the nyaval tree and asked Muthassi, ‘ Where is that Devu you talked about now?’

‘Oh, Devu,’ Muthhasi reflected with a wistful smile. ‘She died a long time ago.

Now I am the only one left. All my friends – they all are gone. Karthu, Vadakkermuri Chinnammu, Marath Kunju- all my companions, dead and gone.’

‘Are the all dead?’

‘Hmmm’

‘So now you are alone, Muthassi, without any friends.’ I felt sad for my Muthassi, lonely in her old age, so I went up to her and hugged her close.

‘Don’t worry, Muthassi. Haven’t you got me? I’ll always be with you,’ I consoled her.

‘Yes, Ammu. That’s more than enough for Muthassi.’ She tightened her hold on my hand, and so we crossed the field and reached the courtyard in front of the house.

‘Muthassi, just look at your hands, with all the veins standing out! I can’t even see veins on my hands. Why is that?’

‘You are a small child, Ammu, whereas Muthassi is a worn-out old woman.’

Muthassi threw the dry leaf into the front verandah, and we went on to the bathing enclosure next to the pond. A towel and a red soap dish with a piece of soap in it were lying on the steps leading to the pond.

Seeing the soap dish, Muthassi threw exclaimed, ‘I forgot that I had left soap here. I am lucky the crow didn’t steal it.’ ‘Why Muthassi, do crows eat soap?’ ‘

No, but a crow might take it away, attracted by the colour.’

Dear Muthassi, I thought, how naïve she is.

That used piece of soap was not at all pretty. And yet she thought the crow would steal it. A piece of soap worn down by use, looking like a fragment of a tile!

Was it likely the crow would be tempted enough to carry it off?’

‘So Muthassi, you think the crow knows what is pretty?’

‘Of course, Is there any doubt? The crow has a keen eye for beauty. Otherwise why does it carry off small oil bowls?Ammu, birds are very intelligent. They have more common sense and knowledge than human beings.’

‘Why is that?’

‘It is like that. That’s all.’

With that cryptic remark, Muthassi took my dress off, dipped in the water, soaped it and placed it on a stone.

to be continued…..

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacations are always special. First of all, you do not have to study for one whole month. You can watch lots of TV, and play as much as you want. You can visit your native place and have lots of fun. Eat Mango.

I have done all that for so many years . I used to wait for my exams to get over. Infact, I used to be so over  excited about coming to Bangalore,  that  I never completed my last paper in final exams.

My ajji (Granny) used to wait eagerly for us to arrive. She was paralyzed and could not get up on her own, so her life was restricted to the bed. But she always asked question about my school, my friends and my studies. I think no kid likes to be reminded of school and studies in summer vacation ( unless of course you are a topper in the school ) so as soon as she finished asking questions, I would give the shortest reply possible and run outside to play with my cousins.

When I came across this story in The Inner Courtyard, it reminded me of my ajji and those carefree days of childhood. Also makes me think of loneliness of the old. Just a simple story that touched my heart…

Summer Vacation

It was always there, as long as I could remember a small, emaciated tree, somewhat bent and with shriveled up branches. That was a summer with no hint of rains. I watched the tree, its leaves, and above the few leaves, the spiders wed hanging from a bare, sickle-shaped branch.

That tree was the only one of its kind, in a field full of coconut palms planted in memory of family ancestors who had been cremated on the southern side of the house. I wondered if it was telling us, ‘I know I should not be here. But please take pity on me. Don’t destroy me.’

I was walking one day with Muthassi – so I called my grandmother- picking up tiny dry miniature coconuts now and then and collecting them in the folds of my skirt. I asked her,

‘What is the name of that lonely tree?’

Muthassi’s eyesight had never been too good, not even in her youth. She blinked once or twice, straining to look in the direction that I pointed. She said, ‘that one’s nyaval tree.”

to be continued……