My wife trusted me but not my words. My teachers trusted neither me nor my words. My employer spent most of his time watching through the glass partition to see whether I was in my seat or not. Nothing abnormal in any of their behavior. But, my daughter, my only daughter, to whom I used to buy kadalai mittai, peanut toffees, for ten paisa everyday, disbelieving me?
While driving to her work, every early morning she talks to me on FaceTime and today, she enquired whether I had followed her instructions on the treatment for my feet-itching.
For the past one week, she has been asking me to apply coconut oil and then liquid moisturizers and then use socks, during day times.
I ignored. I tried to turn her attention.
‘How bad is the early morning fog, over there?’
‘Don’t change the topic, please. Have you applied the oil and lotion I suggested and covered your feet or not? Say ‘yes’, say ‘no’.
She didn’t give me time to think of an excuse and I had to instantly tell her a lie.
‘Yes, Konthai, I have.’
‘Show me your feet’
That was an unexpected blow!
‘You drive carefully’, I tried to escape .
‘Appa, I asked you to show me your feet’
No escape. I showed her my feet. I could dodge my wife, my teacher my employer, but not my daughter.
Lo and behold! My feet were covered with socks.
But how? I never wore. Is some MalayAlam mantravAdam roaming here without my knowledge?
My face turned blue with fear but my daughter was pleased .
‘Good dad. Have you bought the medicine which I asked you to buy?’
I didn’t. But I said ‘yes’ instantly, expecting the MalayAla mantravAdam to work.
‘Show me please’, she ordered.
I searched the entire medicine chest. It was not there.
‘What do you say now? Why did you lie to me?’
‘Me, lying to you, my only daughter for whom I used to buy peanut toffees ( intentionally I didn’t use the old fashioned name ‘kadalaimittai’)
‘Ok, dad! Pack off from there. You have a serious memory problem and it is not safe to leave you there ‘
‘Memory problem? Are you kidding Aparna?’
‘I’m not. You forgot that you wore socks. You forgot that you did not buy the medicine. These lapses, despite my telling you everyday, for the past one week’
‘Shall I tell you the selected words with which your mom used to scold me, to convince you that my memory is as fresh as MuttaikAri’s mittais?’
‘MuttaikAri? Who is she?’
‘She was a Rajasthani woman from whom Appa bought our house some seventy years ago. There was rumor, a strong one, that she killed her husband who was a Brahmin, came to Olavakkode and started a mittai or sweetmeat shop. As a kid of eight, I used to enjoy the charm of her face, always glittering with a concealed smile and the folds on her long and fair hands falling generously’
‘Dad, you are talking to your daughter!’
‘So what? She was eighty then and me eight’
‘And what else?’ ‘
Who won’t be captivated by my story telling skill! I continued:
‘She had a caged parrot, which used to talk often. ‘Rukmini, pAl konduva! Get me milk, Rukmini- was the parrot’s favorite usage, imitating her mistress.
‘Who was Rukmini? Another old woman, Mittai’s cattle shed caretaker. Rukmini used to sit in a corner of the back yard and smoke churuttu, country cigarette, spreading her long hairs, after completing her chores and a fresh bath every night. Banian Venkataraman, from Perinkulam, who halted for a night at our house, got up at midnight for easing his bladder and seeing smoke and fire emanating from her mouth, mistook her for a yakshi and screamed in fear. Shall I tell you about the skin folds which hanged on her dark hands?’
‘No need. Your memory is strong. You can continue to stay there. But, keep an your MalayAlam mantravAdi.’
‘Thank you konthai!
‘And don’t forget to buy the medicine I suggested’
‘Yes, konthai. Drive safe’
PS. Imagination has negligible role in the Olavakkode story. In fact, I have narrated those incidents earlier in one of my blogs