Mothers’s day musing. part 3
The good old man, who succumbed to the call of his palate, ignoring the request of his caretaker paced the length and breadth of the big backyard of our house, unable to bear the weight of his repentance and lamented, ” I was condemned as worthless and discarded by my family and it was Manni who provided me a shelter and feed for years. What an ungrateful animal am I ? I didn’t fulfill a simple wish of my caretaker.”
“It is OK, Kunjappa, you and me didn’t expect that your Manni would leave us so soon”. My farther tried to console him”
” True. But Manni knew about her impending end”, he replied. “Do you know that on the eve of her death, she had cautioned your wife to ensure that the servants do not exploit my helplessness and innocence . How could I ever repay my debt to such a sacred source of compassion? She is no more ; I am orphaned, I am orphaned”
He sat below the mango tree extending his legs and holding his head with his palm.
” kunjappa, get up and have some fresh coconut water “. Appa encouraged him to come out of his remorse. ” I need your help now in conducting the last rites of my mother lasting nearly two weeks . You are the eldest member of the family now and if not you , who else will guide me?”
After he was served with two fresh tender coconuts from the tree, my mother gave a small cloth bundle to Kunchappa. “Your manni wanted this to be handed over to you ”, said she.
Cleansing his soiled and moist hands, Kunjappa took the cloth bundle from my mother’s hand and when he saw that it contained a few unsoiled currency notes, he wept again, beating his chest . ‘Manni, manni, why did you leave me and go?”
Appa used to keep a small cash box near his mother’s head and deposit some money in it now and then. The old woman wanted to give a parting gift to the hapless relative and had thoughtfully, handed it over to my mother after Kunjappa had left for feasting in the nearby village.
”Amma, why don’t you hand over to him when he returns?”, my mother had asked patti.
” I wanted to give him some money for his personal use since long, but have been forgetting.” replied Patti, ” you keep it with you now and hand over to him whenever he returns.”
That was a turning point in Kunchappa’s life .”Anantha, I am with you now on” , he told my father, holding his hand, “and that is the only way for me to make up for the injustice I did to manni. Count on me for any help, now on.”
He meant what he said. Then on, he became a right hand to my father , in his business activities. Kunjappa , with his central protrusion and a snow white poonal across his shoulder, could be seen in the kitchen, in the cow shed, near cash box, among the servers, everywhere in the hotel. Earlier, he used to enter the hotel only for food.
Appa used to pay him some cash every month for his help in his business. Kunjappa bought some jewels for him and wearing the neck- chain and rings, he was majestically sitting in the cash collection counter one day, when an elderly woman, well dressed , entered the hotel . She was none other than his wife. He was excited, confused and became speechless.
She leaped across the cash counter and catching hold of her husband’s hand went to my father and shouted, ”Anantha, why are you treating my husband like a caged parrot? “
Her verbal attack stunned everyone there.
“What nonsense are you talking?”, admonished the old man.
”Vayai moodikkindu irunkol-shut your mouth”, she retorted. ‘This shrewd relative is exploiting your venerability and extracting work from you”
Appa didn’t answer instantly. After serving the woman some snacks and coffee, he replied, in a firm but polite tone. ” Chithy, you threw him on the street and I gave him protection. I have been paying him for his services an amount more than I would have paid to an outsider. Right now you are free to take your husband back home. I don’t want to keep him for one day more.”
Kunjappa initially, refused to go with her. ”Anantha, she has some unfair motives to pull me away from here. Don’t succumb to her pressure”, he pleaded, “allow me to continue to be here”.
‘Kunjappa, she is your wife and has every right to take you back home,” Appa advised, ” go with her now. You can come back whenever you want to. The manager’s seat will be always vacant for you.”
Then he called Kunjappa aside and whispered in his ears, ” if she goes and spread the canard that I was treating you like a slave and refused to relieve you, don’t you think that would be a scar on our family’s reputation ?”
At last, he agreed to go with his wife. My parents prostrated before the elderly couple and gifted some new clothes and money. Kunjappa didn’t accept the cash. “You have given me plenty of money. What I need now is the ‘kaidthudatcha kasu’ with my Manni’s blessings. Appa gave him a mutilated coin. ( While setting fire to the body of the elders, a few coins are kept in their palm and the burnt coins are reclaimed along with the ashes, collected the next day. Those are preserved as the parting gift of the departed souls).
The old man walked reluctantly behind his wife.
“Kunjappa, come back soon”, exhorted my parents, while he was boarding our horse-cart.
“Sami, vegam varoo; jnangal kathirikkum- come back soon, we will wait for you”, the hotel servants pleaded .
Kunjappa slowly turned his head towards the crowd and replied calmly, an usual smile painting his face, ” I will. I will be back soon to die in Manni’s bed room, in the same cot where she breathed her last.” He came back running to hug my parents , when his swollen eyes dripped a few drops on my father’s shoulder. Before leaving, finally he whispered into my father’s ear,” you should lit fire to my body”.
After a couple of months a messenger came to inform his death. Appa went immediately and performed his last rites, as he had no children and he was a daayadi, blood-relative for my father.