Is she a cow or a Kangaroo ?
My father’s shrewd eyes made a quick survey of the interior of the house where the wedding was to take place and noticed that there were sufficient bath rooms and bedroom facilities for the womenfolk . For men, it matters little as they would go and sleep on the thinnai or frontage of any houses nearby or even sleep under the trees ! In one of the most enjoyable weddings I attended, I opted to sleep in the open, and had to run for life when a battalion of black ants invaded me, while under sound sleep, cradled by the river breeze.
Appa also noticed that it was Athai, the eldest sister of the PMS brothers was the de facto head of the family and she was the driving force behind the wedding arrangements. It was she, who was raising the twelve children of her brothers, having joined the PMS family after she became a widow, within a month or two after her wedding while she was in her early teens. Embodiment of sacrifice and affection, she lived a pious life taking care of the needs of the two families including her aged father, who had only complaints as his possession.
It seems when Athai was playing in her mother’s court yard, a Kaniyan, local astrologer or face-reader happened to pass that way and commended, ” Bangi oru para,,baagyam ozhakku ‘ scintillating beauty but scanty luck” I do not know how the kaniyan could predict her life just by glancing her face for a moment but the elders had unshakable belief in many such magical wands. .
My father went and sat close to Athai to discuss the wedding arrangement and was happy that things were moving smoothly. He called a few youngsters from our group and instructed to extend any help sought by Athai. He called me and commanded, “I want you to behave like a grown up man and not a child. I am sure that you know your responsibility”
“Yes dad, yes dad” I replied and bolted out. I peered into the kitchen. Children of the family of varying ages between one to twenty two sitting in a line awaiting the food to be served by the women folk. Babies collected their milk bottles went to a corner of the house to enjoy the feed lying flat on the floor.The other kids enjoyed their snacks, gurgling and gossiping, laughing or fighting.
While growing in combined families we never felt that we lacked something called privacy or freedom although when we turn back, wonder how so many men and women of different age, aspiration, mood and character could live under one roof .
We all had a wash. Some snacks with coffee was served. Chami pattar was in a hurry . He finished eating quickly and entered the kitchen. With an air of authority, he boasted to the person standing there,” I am the bride groom’s maternal uncle “
” That is written on your face” the kitchen supervisor greeted, “can I be of any service to you, Sir”
” pack a dozen iddlies, two or three dosa, undiluted chutney and chilly powder separately.” Pattar instructed, “sweet cakes in a separate pack and hot coffee in a big flask”
”immediately” the host agreed with pleasure, ” you are the most important person after the boy’s parents and tomorrow you have to shift the bride groom above your shoulders and help him to throw the garlands around the bride’s neck. It is therefore necessary to build up your comically thin body frame fit to face the challenge”
“You are absolutely right ” Chami pattar was equally good in leg-pulling, ” the moment I saw you, I developed a kinship probably because we had milk from the same cow “
“Ha,ha,ha ” the host enjoyed the joke. ” Sir, I am not revealing a secret, the maternal uncle, like you, also is a weight lifter”
” Varacholluda, pathoodalam- ask him to come, I will face him ” Chami pattar laughed and the host too joined in sharing his small happiness . “Packets ready ?”
“They are, they are” while handing over the packets, the host muttered at Pattar’s ears, “kep this as a secret; I am the maternal uncle of the bride groom!” That was true.
Chami pattar blinked when the host added, ” tomorrow morning are you going to carry the bride groom or me? Remember the brides’s uncle is a —–“
“Pahalvan like you ! ” Pattar shouted and escaped.
We had several such occasions to share jokes and those lighter moments are missed in the present day weddings. We are in a hurry, even when we attend the most important celebration in a friend’s or relative’s life. Wait in the Que, shake hand, present the gift , eat and bolt out!
Despite my father’s warning to strictly mind only my work, I followed Chami pattar. He entered into a house close to the bride’s .
Why did he go there with food packets ?
Lakshmi, another member of our group, asked my uncle for a cup of milk for her baby.
“My sweet baby likes only cow’s milk and that too obtained from black cows. We have two such in our house ” She boasted.
“I can give you cow’s milk but cannot assure that it was solely from a black or blue cow ” My uncle remarked,”because the colour of cows change according to the colour of the person who milks them “
” T.puram is notorious for scarcity and colour change ” Lakshmi lamented, ” had I known this before, I would not have attended the wedding at all”
My father who was overhearing the conversation took her to the cowshed and asked, “Lakshmi how many cows are here and how many black in colour ?”
“Total eight, two black ” Lakshmi counted and gave the figure.
“When I sent them from Palkkad, all the cows were black” My father tried to convince her. “The sea is close by and its breeze has changed the colour of six and if you don’t collect milk from the rest two soon, their colour also will change. I will get a vessel now”
“That is OK mama, I will collect milk from the kitchen.” She paused ,”mama, I wanted to clarify a doubt. Will the shade of my skin too improve if I stay here longer ? “
” I doubt” my father replied, ” the sea breeze will brighten only skin-deep darkness. Yours goes a bit further down “
There after Lakshmi never mentioned about the body shade of the cow when her sweet baby cried for milk.
Her mother, however, did not like my father’s remarks about Lakshmi’s skin shade.
” Kalyani, our black cow mama ” she told dad, “will come running the moment she sees me, folding her front legs and ____”
“It is not a cow then Meena, but a kangaroo hopping on its hind legs ” he interjected with a smile.