Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chembakam,Pala and Parukutty

It was just another night without anything special about it. The old stars and constellations, partially hidden by floating misty clouds, were neither bright nor sparkly. A sad crescent of the waning moon hung in the background looking thoroughly bored by the endless cycle of waxing and waning.

 Parukutty too looked forlorn, her right hand playing with the kuzhiminni * that rested against her soft shapely throat and her left hand loosely lying on her lap. She sat on the veranda of her home or rather whatever was left out of it, (the last monsoon was harsh on her modest shelter) her head resting against the decaying wood pillar, and watched the shifting shadows from the eerumadam across paddy fields in front of her house. Even in the dim light she could see the swaying paddy their heads dropping in the weight of the golden bounty they carried. She knew there were people in the eerumadam, it was time for harvest and stray cattle are a major threat to small farmers. Well, as long as those long shadows stayed where they were and did not trouble her, Parukutty would not trouble them as well. 

Courtesy :
 This was the house she was born in and before her, her mother was born in and before her mother, her grandmother was born in. This land was her birth right; from mothers to daughters till the end of time. It would've been so if she had not chosen to marry him; braving her people and society. And what did he do to her? Would any man who loved his woman have done that? May be her people and the society were indeed right in foreboding her in the first place! But then what did the society do or for that matter her people do when they found out about the injustice done to her? Nothing! He left with all her money and later died a horrendous death with his jugular vein snapped by a beast, life force ebbing away with each drop of blood. He got away the easy way. A sarcastic curve flitted above her upper lip.

After all she was a woman. A woman is supposed to give birth without screaming in pain, enter the world as a daughter with only a whimper and live in the shadows rest of her life whilst serving others. And the whole world turns its back on the plight of women; as though her life and death was a matter of no consequence. No one cared if a woman lived, died or was murdered. And she was unfortunate to be born a woman. An angry crimson hue colored her cheeks and her hands clenched at the shameful memory. Parukutty closed her eyes and waited patiently for the anger to subside. Back then it made her wild, violent and mad at the world. She shook the world around her. She would not heed to any pleas .She took her own time to calm down. Now it is much simple. Time had healed her wounds. All she had to do was close her eyes and sit still.

If anyone passed by they would've been rooted to the spot by the spectacle that was Parukutty. With Parukutty, time simply stopped wrecking damage when she turned thirty. Even after all these years she looked as beautiful as she was at thirty. Her thick long curls still the color of night sky, her skin like the pale moon, her brows like the bows of cupid and her lips..Oh! Those lips! Lips juicy red from betel juices. Well, this was her kingdom, this home and the yard around it, the chembaka tree on the west corner of her yard and the pala tree in the south. And she the reigning queen. Trespassers, she did not entertain. Visitors, she never received. Ah! then there were strangers, travelers on the highway, who didn't know this was her realm. But then that was a long time ago she remembers with hunger. Now nobody bothered her. Not even the stray dogs of the village. She was left out in relative peace.

She did not mind the solitude. She walked around her chembaka and pala trees, stringing those fragrant flowers and humming lost lullabies. She loved the full moon nights when both the trees bloomed like a girl at the cusp of her womanhood. The branches drooped with heavy blossoms and the air is filled with its redolence. Some days she imagined them as two lover boys who vied for her attention. While the pala tree showered her with the pearly white flowers as she passed under it, the chambaka tree spread a bed of the fragrant flowers for her to rest on. On cloudy dark new moon’s they were the resting place of stars. The white flowers on them looked like soft stars from afar.

The night would end soon. Parukutty would have to go back to her shadows. The road in front of her home would soon hear footfalls. The people in “eerumadam” would heave a sigh of relief and thank heavens for a peaceful night. After all she was no longer Parukutty. Parukutty died with her unfaithful husband choking her unsuspicious self on a moon lit night. He had then hung her limp body from the pala tree.

He cried beating his chest,” She was mad! My poor Parukutty! She could never become a mother. She simply couldn’t accept it. Now look at her folly! Oh!Paru!! How am I supposed to live now?”

All this for the benefit of the villagers who very well knew Parukutty had not committed suicide. Nevertheless who would want to pick up a row with the deshom adhikari’s nephew?

“That was the poor child’s destiny!” the old hags croaked.

It was not destiny. It was one man’s malice. One human’s selfish act that ended not one life but two; a mother and an unborn child. Parukutty wouldn’t leave him in peace. He was her first, in life and after life. This time she watched him writhe in agony in as her canines found the jugular veins on the familiar territory of his neck. She was now Yakshi* Paru, the demon who quenched her thirst with the warm blood of young men. The vengeful spirit who could shake earth and command the lighting and thunder

Her hatred of men waned, her revenge accomplished, she roams the earth without salvation. As each morning dawns Parukutty recedes to the dark recesses of her home only to come out at night once again, night after night.

The sunlight prickled Parukutty out of her thoughts; she let out a cry filled with pain and anguish not at the hurting sun but at her plight, for her restless wronged soul, for the peace that eluded her even in death and at the thought of injustices that go unpunished.


Kuzhiminni: A traditional necklace worn by women  in Kerala
Deshom Adhikari : The title given to a person who was granted a territory of land
Yakshi:In Kerala, they are reputed to waylay men with their beauty and drink their blood.
Eerumadam:The tree house or raised platform.
Chembakam: Magnolia Champaka,a tropical flowering plant
Pala: Alstonia scholaris

Monday, January 14, 2013

Winds Of Mischief
Suman has a love-hate relationship with the 
house they had recently moved into. "They" included Suman, her husband Sanjay and their 5 year old boy Rohit. Well, she loved the house for its bright sun soaked interiors and spacious kitchen. She hated it utterly for its stuffiness and the constant need to leave all the windows, doors and even the bathroom ventilators wide open to aerate the house. The constant banging of doors by the wind startled her invoking an unpleasant stream of mental expletives. The balance of the love-hate relationship tipped alarmingly after the fiasco on Saturday afternoon.


Suman folded the creamy flour and sugar muttering, “Trust is something that is very special. And somehow I cannot say it goes well with my son!"

She brimmed with irritation at the thought of Rohit’s tantrum after lunch.
He wanted to go out to play cricket with the neighborhood boys in the hot son. For few minutes Suman wondered if her child was simply stupid, who else would want to get fried in the hot summer sun. With each “Howzzzat!” from the play ground below his stomping the floor grew louder. A furious Suman banished the whimpering boy to his room.

He is only a child who wants to play. Suman understood that. But she did not agree that he would want to play in hot sun.

She mixed a few drops of vanilla essence and her secret ingredient the ice cream essence and put the mix for baking.

"Done!" She said triumphantly to herself. It was then that it struck Suman that Rohit has been silent for a very long time. Tantrum or no tantrum, Rohit was not one of the quiet boys.

“Up to some mischief for sure!” Suman shook her head opening the door to Rohit’s room. It was silent but for the thumping of the cupboard door.

”Rohit is stuck inside!” Suman panicked.

“Rohit, sweetie, Mommy is here honey. Don’t worry!”Suman shouted trying to keep fear from creeping into her voice. A million bad thoughts bounced across her mind.

“What if he is hurt?”

“What if he chokes?”

Why is he not speaking or crying now?

Pushing aside these thoughts Suman pulled at the door. Summer had made the door tight and Sanjay had procrastinated oiling the hinges. Her terror struck mind noted the procrastination point and subconsciously added it to the list of things to confront Sanjay with when things return to normalcy. She tugged harder and but the door stayed firm.

“Security! I should call the security to break open the cupboard” Suman ran to the balcony as the thumping continued in Rohit’s room.

She peered over the balcony and shouted, “Security!” Her voice was drowned by the screams and war cries of sweat soaked dust coated Lilliputian cricketers.

For a guilt ridden moment Suman felt she should’ve let Rohit out to play and all this wouldn’t have happened! Tears clouded her eyes and she paused to regain her poise.

“Rohit!” Suman shouted her voice trembling in relief. There he was, her little prankster, red as a tomato, running around the hot sun.”He must have sneaked out when my back was turned!”

“Get back here this minute!” Suman yelled and realizing the futility of her act decided to get down and drag the little Tendulkar back home by his ears.

“It was the blasted wind all the time! Rattling doors and cupboards! It gave me such a scare!” Suman thought as she secured the windows and ventilators.

Suman paused at the front door before going down to bring Rohit back home ”Not a sound. Wind it was!”


The click of lock falling into place filled the house.


Then the thumping started again. Only this time it was louder, more violent, accompanied by the mock whimpering of a little boy and followed by a wicked cheeky chuckle!!


P: S: Now let me confess, our new home has the same issues. On an evening back from work the cupboards in a closed room started rattling scaring me. The scary part is that there was no one in the apartments on my floor. The husband wouldn't pick up my calls as his phone was resting in the dark dungeons of a gym locker. I made panic calls to my friends. All this because the bathroom ventilator was wide open and the wind was playing the prank. Don’t ask, all of them had a nice laugh at my cost !

Sunday, January 6, 2013

An Year That Was

Too many things happen in a day let alone a year. In 2012 too many unexpected things happened. Things that made me look back and analyze. Situations that made me weak and question myself. Experiences that made me stronger and may be a lot less of a cry baby. I was losing myself yet discovering a new person. A person I somehow did not know existed.

It all started on Jan 1st 2012 when I jumped off a cliff in Oludeniz in Turkey. People call it paragliding and for the first five minutes of the gliding I called it 'the-biggest-mistake-of-my-life'. I found out I could flash my brilliant smile with my legs dangling in the air a few thousand metres above sea level. I conquered my fear of heights.

Then came the shift to Perth. I packed our bags, my two and a half years and his six years of existence in Singapore into cartons and suitcases. I said good bye to a city I had come to love. I said farewell to the pubs which made me drinks at happy hour rates even if I shimmered in past the hour. With much sorrow I said bye to my friends. I taught myself to deal with separation.

Perth, Sydney and friends. I realized how much certain people know me. People who go way back to the days of pinafores and pig tails. Friends without whom school life would've been a bland memory. Friends I met after a decade. Friends with whom conversations simply don't end. I discovered that school friendships are like wine. They mature over the years. Rich and fluid, warming you up from deep inside.

Loss. A personal loss. Ammoomma. The woman who stood by my through thick and thin, through illness and good health, through my failures and small victories.I don't know if I would ever be able to love someone like she loved me. Unconditionally. Sans conditions. Loved me for who I am and not for who I became. She was in a lot of pain and when she was finally at peace I wanted to console myself that death was a relief for her. With her life she taught me to love, to care and to respect. With her death she taught me to cope with bereavement.

As for reading, it was an awesome year. I devoured 107 books in 2012. Here's my reading list.
I concentrated on Christie's Poirot and completed all the novels featuring him. I was heartbroken when he died of old age in "The Curtain".That is the magic every author should aspire to concoct. Binding the readers in the magic weave of your words. Spell binding them to your characters, making them feel the pains and joys of the characters. Once again I realized there is no smell better than the smell of paper and no joy greater than losing yourself in the pages of a book.

We celebrated this new year in Srilanka along with our family. We spend an excellent week in Kandy eating, shopping, sightseeing and chit chatting. I picked up a few English books by Srilankan authors and they have not disappointed me.

I hope this year would involve a lot of time with family and friends, good books, good wines and a whole lot of love.

Wishing all readers a very Happy New Year! May all your dreams come true and this year mine too!!