Early june. Yet another rainy evening. Incessant rain. Flooded fields. The heat of imminent polls to go with the monsoon chill. The sweet cacophony of frogs croaking. An occasional snake peeping in from the new undergrowth.
I chose to remain indoors.
Like the shattered pearls of a beautiful necklace, the heavy downpour in the nadumittam. Little puddles of water everywhere. The servant’s kid playing with his new set of bow and arrow. As I waited for my cup of tea, the smell of fresh cholam steaming in the kitchen wafted me away in an air of nostalgia.
I sat down to write.
Of I know not what.
Of I know not what.
In the pursuit of my passion for writing I have penned down scores of verses. Yet, no verse comes into my mind now.
A strange emptiness in a familiarly unfamiliar place.
Yes. I ought to write about this place.
Stories of a time that hides away in the dusty corners of the thattinpuram. In the uncanny memories of our childhood.
I searched what is left in the memory satchel of an eight year old girl.
Memories. Of a dozen families in the nalukettu. Of games played over and again – with Jameela, Parukutty and Aishabi. Of freshly steamed cholam and crispy kondattam. Platters full of joy shared in the neighbourhood – of piranal sadhya and perunal pathiri. Happiness that knew no veils, no castes, no barriers.
When Amma and Pathumma Ithatha smiled for that only photograph, did they know that the inevitable doom was already at their doorstep? No.
Things changed forever – before an eight year old girl could even realize.
The escape to Madras in the darkness of the night.
To stay alive.
Pathumma Ithatha, Jameela and Aishabi were left behind.
Little did the eight year old girl know that she was witnessing history in live performance.
Stories and games were forgotten long before it could be remembered.
Of that painful experience of my childhood.
The Mappila Riots.
Of why we had to flee Malabar and why Pathumma Ithatha’s family was left behind.
Of the foreign cheat whose malice knew no bounds.
Of the foreign language of “Divide and Rule”.
Of the loss of pride, power and prestige.
Of lives torn apart in the name of spite.
Of paradise lost in the midst of nowhere!
Glossary of Malayalam terms used -
Nadumittam – courtyard in the middle of the house
Cholam – maize
Thattinpuram – a structure similar to an attic
Nalukettu – Traditional Kerala style of building houses
Kondattam – Rice crackers
Piranal sadhya – Birthday feast
Perunal pathiri – A type of food
Amma – Mother
Ithatha – A term of respect for Muslim women