Drizzling. Roads are wet, marshy. With a handbag on shoulder, I went to buy vegetable from the Friday market in the Sai temple complex, close to our house. My steps were unsteady, but not my mind. What will happen if my children happen to see me now, I thought. They never allowed me to go alone, even for an evening stroll inside our colony.
Olavakkode Padathu elementary school.
Walking to school through the narrow marshy path dividing two paddy fields. The school itself is in the midst of paddy fields. Rainy season is fully enjoyable. We jump into the fields, splash muddy water on each other, get scolding from HM Pankunni Menon and from Appa too, when back home.
Back to Habsiguda
Forgot my age and wanted to flash rain water stagnated , on the face of a lady fashionably dressed, going to the adjacent Sai Baba Temple. Try to lift my right leg. It pains. Realize that is the problematic leg and I should not play with it. I lift my left leg. The lady looks at my raised leg and stares at me.
Not safe. I should be careful with fashionable ladies.
I withdraw, honorably.
Going to High school by walk, through the old bridge near the Olavakkode Commonwealth Tile works, as the Kalpathy river is flowing in full force. Venu and another boy is with me. The ottucompany or Tile Works manager’s daughter is going to school in a kuthira vandi, or horse -drawn cart and we are following the cart. We are happy to follow the cart. She looks at us. I thin she is looking at me. Venu thinks she is looking at him. We both are happy for our own reason. The third guy is a manukku, a dull fellow. She won’t look at him. We are happy again.
Back to Habsiguda
Due to rain, the vendors come late to the market and are just unloading the vegetables from their carts. Have to wait in the rains or go back home and ask someone to get vegetables, later. Going back without finishing the job is not in my practice. I wait. Rain increases . I go inside the Sai baba temple.
The fashion lady comes out, after finishing her worship.
‘Kaal noppi ettila undhi, thatha?’, she enquires – Thatha, how is your leg pain? I woke up to the situation. I’m a thatha, old man and not an elementary or high school student. Very bad. I stare at Sai baba. No expression on his face. ‘Baba, I’m a thatha, you are a thatha’, I tell Him. He deserves it for keeping mum.
I see only old people everywhere. All the vegetable sellers are old, buyers are old, the temple visitors are all old, the poojai is old.
The fashion lady has spoiled my mood by calling me thatha. Is she taking revenge on me for my attempt to splash muddy water on her sari?
‘I can drop you at your home’, she offers a lift in her car.
Politely, I reject. I start walking back home. My dreams have totally ebbed away.. I’m an old man, limping back home and not the enthusiasm overflowing elementary school student or a high school student running behind a kuthiravandi carrying a girl wearing pavada, davani.
I enter home. Vicha in a chair, near the entrance, placing his bandaged leg on a stool.
He doesn’t bother to enquire how I managed to negotiate the rains as well as the marshy roads with an unhelpful leg and carrying a bag-full of vegetable. My children in USA would have come running to me anxiously and bombarded me with affectionate, hearty enquirers about my travail and also mildly admonished me for venturing to go out alone, disobeying their instructions.
Vicha, looks at me. He wanted to say something. I wait. He says, ‘ nalla mazhai! Chudukkanae oru kappi kedachal jorai irukkum’ – excellent rains. Will appreciate if I can get a cup of hot coffee’
I look at him. He is not an old man nearing 80, but a child of eight years or even less. I didn’t come all the way from USA , at the cost of their displeasure to shout at this eight year old child, who is worried only about his kappi and not about my discomforts.
I look at Vicha again. I see only the innocence of a child and not the apathy of an old man at my discomforts, which I’m undergoing solely for his sake.
I’m no more an old man. That fashion lady has no idea about my age. If my younger brother is 8 years old, I’m just 10 years.
I look around. There are no old and disabled men or women anywhere in my neighborhood. And at my central hall, wah ! My children and my sister’s children all are playing. My sisters, their husbands, other relatives all smart and young, enthusiasm bubbling and overflowing all around are moving around. Anantha Jyothy is ever young.
Vicha anxiously gaze at my face wondering what happened to his kappi request. Why am I standing like a statue.
‘Anna, kappi!’. He repeats his request.
I wake up from my dream state. The hall is empty, but not my heart, which is full of compassion for my disabled sibling.
‘Give me five minutes, Vicha’. I tell him and move towards the kitchen
In the file picture, my siblings Vicha and Meena
when Megh visited Anantha
Jyothy a couple of years before.A