“ Babu mone, come and have your lunch” Ammachi called out from the kitchen. Appa folded the newspaper and placed it on the parapet wall and told me,
“I can smell your Ammachi made your favourite payaruthoran”
I nodded my head and we walked to the well to wash our hands. I sat with Appa on the bench and ate rice with yoghurt curry, payaru thoran and pappadam. Ammachi’s chicken curry is very spicy and I don’t like to eat it. After we ate, Amma and Ammachi sat down to have their lunch.
While they were eating I saw Chakki placing a pot of water on fire. She asked me
“You want to come with me and look for nice leaves?”
I know Chakki is looking for leaves to make a scoop for her and for husband. She uses a leaf scoop to eat her porridge.
I followed Chakki. We walked to the jackfruit tree near the brook. Chakki and I searched among the leaves on the floor for a clean unblemished leaf. Soon Chakki found two leaves. She folded each leaf in to a cone and held it in place with a small twig. I found a leaf for myself and Chakki helped me to make a scoop as well.
Chakki took 2 aluminium bowls from the bottom shelf and placed the rice in it. She then poured the hot water from the pot in to the bowl and made porridge. It looked yummy and although my stomach was full, I still wanted to try eating porridge with the leaf scoop.
I asked Chakki “ Can I eat with you?”
My mother was still in the kitchen
She screamed,“ Nina how many times do I have to tell you that you can’t eat with the servant?”
“You are an orthodox Syrian christian girl and you will not sit with a chovathi (lower caste)”
I didn’t want to say anything. Once my mother starts shouting, it is safer to keep quiet. Besides once she leaves for the wedding I can spend time with Chakki. may be i will ask Chakki to make porridge for me and I can eat it with my leaf scoop.
Chakki didn’t say anything either, she went out and called Kutten to come and have his lunch.
Kutten came to work in Ammachi’s farm when he was 14 years old. He is now the official rubber tapper and is in charge of all the other manual labourers. He thinks he looks like a film star Jayan. In fact he would buy me poppins if I call him ‘film star Jayan’.
Kutten came wiping his hand on the end of his sarong. Chakki and Kutten sat on the floor of the kitchen and ate in silence. After they ate, there was still some more payaruthoran left in the bowl. I took a small steel saucer from the cupboard, scooped up the remaining payaru thoran and placed in the saucer. I walked to the veranda and sat on the parapet wall. Sitting down there I ate the rest of the payaru thoran. From where I sat, I couldn’t see the brook, it is at least 80 feet away. However I could see stretches of paddy fields and occasional coconut trees in between. It looked like a giant chequered saree. The colour changes according to the season, light green when the shoots of the paddy are growing, to dark green, when the paddy is flowering. It is almost golden yellow, when the paddy is ready for harvest, and brown when the harvest is done.
Appa and Amma got ready to leave for the wedding. Before they left Amma told me
“Nina don’t play with the water” I nodded my head.
Ammachi sat with me on the parapet wall and watched Appa and Amma walking on the bund, till they disappeared from our view.
I noticed Manikutty playing in the field. I asked Ammachi,” Can I play with Manikutty?”
“Yes, you can, but be careful, Don’t go near the mother cow and trouble her.”
Manikutty was the newest addition to the cattle herd at Chengannur house. She was white in colour and its mother was black. I never understood how a black cow could give birth to a white calf. I wanted to ask Amma, how that is possible. But then again I knew what Amma’s response would be. She would often complain that I ask too much unnecessary questions. She would tell me,
” it is more useful that you study what is there in your text book and score better marks for the exam than worry about such irrelevant matters”.
I untied the rope from the tree and led the calf around the fields, and me being small and the calf being playful, it was soon obvious that the calf was leading me. Soon the calf proceeded to the area where Ammachi grew yam and started to chew on the tender leaves. I knew if I didn’t get the calf out of that area fast Ammachi is going to be angry with me for damaging the yam. I started to tug the rope around Manikutty’s neck hard and the more I tugged the more the calf resisted.
Then all of a sudden the sky became dark. It happened so suddenly that I had just enough time to shout and tell….