Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Oonjal Kattil





The half-awake instant-response-to-stimuli-mother in me tensed and jolted the other sleepy half of the mother in me. Together we checked the time. 2:13 AM. Blink blink.

“By God! What are the kids doing at this time of the night in the family room?”
The strict disciplinarian in me bristles while the lets-have-some-fun person in me tells me to turn over and sleep. Being a mother is not easy. You simply cannot take the easy way out, ever!





That creaky sound has been part of my existence since infancy. It comes from the Oonjal kattil which hangs in the family room. This swinging bed fashioned out of a single Burmese teak hangs from brass chains from the roof. My mother inherited it from her mother and I would hopefully pass this to future generations (Disclaimer: If and only if the two monkeys I bore reach adulthood without swinging it to pieces!). This Oonjal kattil is the centre of all the fun, laughter and fights in our family. And if it’s creaking at 2 AM; it can only be the kids!

I tiptoed to the family room. I have to catch them red handed. Little monkeys, here I come.

The room was pitch dark and unusually silent. Did I imagine all this? Ha, may be they are hiding in the shadows hoping to get away from wrath.

Trapped monster, that’s what you are!

Amma of this home, that’s who I am!

CLICK! I switched on the lights to reveal an empty room! Everything in its place, 
just the way I left it before I retired for the night. Cushions in place, remotes on the shelf, magazines and newspapers on the rack, the heavy layered curtains drawn and Mini kutty’s grinning rag doll propped proprietarily on the Oonjal Kattil.

Sigh! I dragged myself to bed disappointed with my late night adventure and fell in to a deep slumber.

Even in the depths of my sleep something disturbed me .Something obscure, something sinister; something vaguely familiar yet totally strange. Like the misplaced grin on the face of that doll. Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, I’ll throw that stupid piece of rag in the dumpster. Tomorrow.


A sliver of pale moonlight steals in through the curtains lighting up the cheeky grin on the doll’s face.

From the dark shadows emerge a pair of silhouettes. Their shadows unnaturally long as they silently climb over the Oonjal Kattil and sit with the rag doll between them.
A grey cloud passes over the bright moon drowning the family room in inky black darkness.





Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Warrior Princess Of Thiru Kochi


I opened my eyes to smile at her beaming face. She smiled back, her large black eyes reflecting my dimpled face. Isn’t it easy to love waking up in the mornings? I simply love waking up to her smiles.
Suddenly her face clouded. At first blood drained from her face, then it turned pink with anguish and then a bright red with an uncontrollable fury of a wounded she-wolf.

“They’ve attacked again, in the dark of the night, against all our defences .They’ve hurt my child again! I will kill them all. One by one!” She hissed as he squeezed my ankles where the wound had reddened into a terrible rash.
Little did I know that I would have to wait the entire morning and afternoon to watch my mother execute her brutal attack!

Every evening I sit, washed, powdered, clothed and fed, snuggling contently against my great-granny (GG). GG’s lips move in a silent prayer whilst her wrinkly leathery bony fingers drum a lost rhythm on my plump thighs. Our eyes meet every now and then. I smile at her baring my toothless gums; she flashes her squirrelly-two-toothed smile at me. I giggle and snuggle closer to her burying myself in the familiar smells of clean starched cotton and cuticura talc. We both sit content, watching the sky turn from a golden yellow to deep orange to a brilliant red and in the end into a star spangled midnight blue blanket.

This is what we do, the old matriarch and the little me, every evening, day after day. Today we are watching a different show. My mother’s battle against my tormentors! Let the show begin!

Ma stands in the middle of our garden armed with her orange rimmed electric bat (akin to Goddess Shakti’s Trishul but has an uncanny resemblance to a tennis racquet with electricity pulsing through the cords). It looks harmless but can deliver fatal blows. Sparks fly each time one of them falls. Ma is running up and down the garden paths like a crazed all-court tennis player swinging her weapon in precise backhand and applaud-worthy forehand strokes. I have to give her the credit for changing her tactics every now and then.
She sweeps over the evergreen boxwood hedges ambushing a few guerrillas. She engages our faithful canine, Rosie, as a bait to lure the enemy soldiers into the line of fire err line of bat. No offence meant Rosie, you are pretty crazy yourself.
Wooshie woowie wwoooshh shooww
(Stop fighting with Ma over the sparky-thingy Rosie! Ma would send you off to your room!)

Ma did exactly what I told Rosie. After getting royally shouted at for her indiscipline and stupidity, Rosie, now sits by our side complaining in whimpers about the injustice meted out to her.
“Wooshie woo wyu wooo!”
(I told you so Rosie! GG stop sshh-sshing me!)
In spite of her failure-of-a-partner (read Rosie), a content Ma is about to retreat to the safety of our heavily netted home. Just then a lone enemy courses by her, humming a taunting tune in her ear. Ma stiffens forehead crinkled in intense concentration. She shifts her weight positioning her feet in a defensive stance each fibre in body alive and alert.

The lone attacker flies past her, high above her head. Ma jumps off the ground, her right arm swinging a beautiful arc. Craaackkleee! The blood sucker is down. Ma does a beautiful swirl in mid air, her oiled long plaits snaking around her and lands gracefully on her feet with her lips curved into the most beautiful crooked smile I’ve ever seen.
(Ma says I have a lot more to see and learn. For me Ma remains the best thing that happened to me)

She looks resplendent in the last lights of the day.
My mother, my protector, my warrior princess!

I clap hands happily and coo energetically.
Just then Ammamma comes along, “Di, thrisandhyakku Wimbledon match kalikandu poyi erunnu namam chellan nokku! Naatukare kondu oronnu parayippikan muttathu odi kalikka pennu!”
(Girl, Stop playing Wimbledon matches and go pray for a while. Running around the garden to give people a chance to pass opinions on her !)

P:S: I am on vacation in Kochi . I accept with much grace the overcrowding of my home town, traffic blocks and power cuts (timely and untimely). Mosquitoes – Good Lord. God Save Kochi and her suburbs.
It so happened that after much mosquito hunting on an evening, Amma and I retired for the night. I got up at around 3 AM in the morning half asleep announcing the attack of mosquitoes on me and promptly fell back to an itchy-scratchy sleep. Amma woke up. Battled the mosquitoes and couldn’t sleep any more. This one is for you Amma, my warrior princess!