I became like a child in a dreamless slumber. Don’t remember how long I remained like that.
“What happened to him, madam, any help ?” inquired Pushpa.
“Don’t worry Pushpa,” consoled Ammalu. “20 % effect of intoxication and 80% drama. Anyway, get some black tea with no sugar, please”
“Look through the window and tell me what you see outside?” Said BB, ” that will help me to decide whether Ammamu madam’s assessment is accurate or not”
“Meadows and mountains have vanished BB,” I told her, ”even floating clouds have gone. I see nothing but a vast expanse of space, ‘bahiraakasham’
“Meadows, mountains, mannankanti ” Ammalu expressed her exasperation, ‘chandeelai rentu killu kudukkanum- he deserves nothing but pinches at his back ”
”Fine, that is a good progress,” BB encouraged me, ” your panchapatram has slipped form your hand, you have forgotten your mantras and as a tortoise withdraws its head within, you are pulling that ‘bahirakasam’ towards your inner self, towards your ‘hridayaksam’. Is isn’t so ?”
” Parasu, intha rintulae ethukkuda baadhai jasthi ? Of these two, which one is more influenced by alcohol ?” Ammalu asked my cousin.
“Both are in the same boat, manni, ” he replied.
“So, they are in sea, not in air?” Asked Ammalu with a twinkle.
” Sa ya eshonthar hridaya aakasa: Thasminnayam Purusho manomaya : Amritho hiranmaya:
In the stillness and silence of my inner space, shines a dazzling brilliance, to describe I have no words ”
That jewel from the Thithiriyopanishad brightens my mind whenever it becomes cloudy.
“Are you sorry now that you could not perform your sandhya or Gayatri ?,” enquired BB.
“Are you sorry now for all the troubles you gave to your wife, all these years as a disobedient husband . Are you prepared to apologize to Ammalu?” That was Ammalu’s jocular query.
” Ammalu- who is that Indian elephant and Chinese dragon?’
”He has fully recovered !” Ammalu sighed and told BB, “Let us give him some food “‘
“Chukku vellam ” I demanded. ‘Plainiae okkanthu, kallaem kutichuttu, chella petty, chukkuvellam nnu ellam kettal, nan enke poavaen, Parsu- from where will I get him betel casket and spiced warm water ?’ Ammalu asked Parasu.
”Don’t worry, Manni, I have both” He consoled her.
Parasu’s chukku vellam, medicated warm water, brought back my brain almost to its normal state.
“BB, story please” I demanded.
” Eat first ” Ammalu commanded.
BB continued her life story, after I had some food.
“Two decades rolled on after we became an inseparable part of Appa’s family. Amma used to say, ‘ we should be like ‘mor’ buttermilk and ‘neer’, water and never be like ‘mor’ and ‘milakai’ chilli ”
”But chilli adds flavour, ma ,’ I used to argue. ”yes, it does, but you remove it before drinking the liquid. I do not want anyone to be separated from this group ”
But that separation did happen; unavoidably, unexpectedly.
Appa selected a girl for Raja anna . The horoscopes were agreeable, the family background of the girl was verified and found good. What was left was a meeting between the two families and the boy and the girl. We all went to the girl’s village, were received well. While the discussion was going on, the girl’s mother asked Appa, who Muthamma was.
”She is like a member of our family, though not blood related” Appa replied..
”Just out of curiosity, I asked that is all,” said the host and continued, ” I just wanted to know your relationship with her”
”She is like a daughter to me,” Appa replied.
”Will she continue to live with you even after our children’s’ wedding?,” was the next question ” just out of curiosity, I asked that is all”
Appa lost his temper. “She will live with us till our last days, if that is what you wants to know”
Amma tried to get up but Muthamma asked her to be seated and turning towards Raju and Gowthami, that was the girl’s name, asked,” you like each other ?”
They both said ‘yes’. ‘Then go ahead with the arrangement’ Muthamma told the girl’s mother. ”I will not stand in your way”
Appa and Amma were furious. They were not prepared to severe Muthamma from their family, come what may. Raju also supported them fully.
But Muthamma was firm. She told ”Appa, if not today, tomorrow this problem will arise. Now children are growing up. One by one, we have to get them married. New relationships will open up. A tribal woman in an orthodox Brahmin family kitchen is not something acceptable to many. I will stay in another house close to you. Easwary , after her education and marriage will anyway be separated. Till my last breath, I will serve you, whether I live with you under the same roof or in your cowshed or in your neighbor hood .
To forget the hand which fed me is to forget the womb which housed me ”