It was getting dark, by the minute and it was raining. Lightining and thunder was providing the back ground music to a scary play. I am home with three sisters and a maid and there was no sign of my mother. If things weren’t bad enough, the electricity tripped and the darkness enveloped us from all around. “I am scared Nina”. Sally spoke
“Of what?, The power will come soon”
Akkachi was sitting on the floor and I asked her” Akkachi can you light the candle?”
“Will you come with me to the kitchen Nina? I am scared of the darkness” Akkachi spoke.
“I am not scared of anything. I am Methran Thambi’s grand daughter.” Said Maria
I was really surprised to hear that,because Maria wouldn’t even go to Chengannur because she is scared of everything.
I got up to go to the kitchen with Akkachi and just then accidentally dropped my metal pencil case. The resulting sound was too dramatic, especially when all the metal items inside the pencil case, and the few loose coins made individual sound as it hit the ground
ente Ammoo,screamed fearless Methran Thambi’s grand daughter, and she jumped out of her chair, tripped on Akkachi who was still sitting on the floor and when the lightning flashed again I saw heaps of legs and arms on the floor and eveyone was screaming.
“What is going on? Why are you all screaming?” Amma asked
We didn’t even hear her opening the gate and coming in.
“Akkachi, why didn’t you light the candle?” Amma was scolding Akkachi.
“I will light it now” She ran to the kitchen in the darkness.
By now I couldn’t contol my laughter.
“Why are you laughing Nina?” Amma asked me
“Oh, nothing Amma, it is just that Methran Thambi’s fearless grand daughter nearly chuchumully (peed)in her panties.”
” I did NOT chuchumully (peed) in my panties. I will get you for this one day Nina” said Maria
“Ofcourse you will, after all you are Methran Thambi’s grand daughter, who isn’t afraid of anything!”
“laugh now, one day I will make you pay for all this.”
I wanted to stick out my tongue at her, but I heard Amma speaking.
“Maria, I spoke to someone and he suggested that you should do engineering” Amma told Maria.
“Who did you speak to?” I asked her


I was exhausted after walking all the way from my home to the school where my sisters study to fetch them and then walking back home. Amma was home when I came back from my school and she and Maria were already fighting when I left to fetch my sisters.
As I opened the metal main gate, I could see Maria waiting for me sitting on the step and leaning on the door frame.
“Nina, I decided to do medicine.” She announced loudly.
“Why, what happend?”
I saw Amma’s shadow moving across the room and I knew exactly what happend.
My sister is a wrong candidate for studying medicine. She didn’t even go to the hospital to visit Amma, when she gave birth to Sally. She is scared of the sight of the blood and everything associated with hospitals. Amma is making a sacrificial lamb out of my sister and I am not going to let her do it.
Maria showed me signs to hush and approach her.
“Nina, help me, I don’t want to do medicine”. She whispered in my ears.
“I will” I told my sister and I had no idea how to help my sister.
I went to the kitchen to have my tea. Amma was sitting at the dining table and reading the paper. she hasn’t changed her work clothes. Appa was very particular that we change the outside clothes as soon as we come home. My mother was very much enjoying my father’s absence.
I wasn’t sure if it was the right time to approach her. But I had to do it. I have to stand up for my sister.
“Amma, why did you tell Maria to do medicine.”
My mother lifted her head up and adjusted her glasses and I knew instantly i woke the lion and now there is no turning back .
“Who are you to tell me, what I should or shouldn’t do?” She yelled.
“Amma, Chechy wants to do engineering and she should be allowed to do what she wants to do. You are the one who taught us to follow our heart!”
“Follow your hear!, yes you can, the day you step outside my door. Till then you will do exactly what I tell you.”
“Amma let chechy do engineering”
How dare you tell me what I should do? If she had listened in the first time, your father wouldn’t have gone, now she will do what I tell her”.
“No Amma, she won’t”
“How dare you”. she got up from the chair and in an instant she slapped me. It was the first time someone ever slapped me. I felt 1000 bees humming in my ear. I tried to shake my head to hush the bees. My face was stinging.
I thought, my god, this woman is more vicious than my father. ‘wait till my father comes back and I will make sure he will slap you the same way you slapped me’ I promised myself.
By now my sisters were crying.
“Amma, please don’t hit Nina”. Sally and Liza was howling and Amma was going after them.
I jumped infront of my sisters and raised my hands to protect my sisters from Amma’s blows.
“You have something against me, take it on me. Not my sisters”. I pushed Amma away from us.
I stood between the living room and the kitchen door. Amma on one side and my sisters and Akkachi on the other side.
“How dare you raise your hand on me, you deaf and dumb and blind daughter”. Amma was enraged. She hit me till her own hands hurt
When she was satisfied hitting me, she took her handbag that was lying on the dining table and walked out.
I ran after her
“Where are you going?”
“Who are you to ask me where I go? I will go where ever I want!”.
“Amma please don’t go” Liza and Sally ran after her. they held her hand and she pushed them away and Liza fell down.
“Go inside both of you”. I screamed at my sisters. I didn’t want them to get hurt.

I followed quietly behind Amma all the way to the bus stop and watched her taking the bus to Kottayam town. I had no idea, where she went.
My sisters were waiting for me as I walked home.
“Where did Amma go?” They asked in unison
“She took the private bus to town”.
“Is she going to come back, Nina?” Sally asked me.
“yes, she will, she might have gone to town to buy something”. I consoled my sisters.
I knew, if she didn’t return, I will feed my sisters paraquat and end this nightmare once for all.

best bakery

“There is no point in living like this, we should all die”. Spoke Maria
First of all I was in a bad mood, especially after all the helium in my balloon was lost in an instant.
My wonderful father has not only vanished, but also wiped the bank account clean. My ignorant, ever trusting mother had signed a cheque and given it to him, so he could withdraw the money, in case anything ever happend to her.
My world was collapsing and the best suggestion my sister could come up with was to ‘die’.
“If you don’t shut up, I will personally kill you.” I told her. I know I should respect my oldest sister, but at that moment, if she said another word, I wouldn’t have so much worried about respect.
“Nina, What will happen if we don’t have any food to eat, would we die?” Liza finally spoke
I looked at her. She was leaning on the main door frame. She is doing what I always do. She is standing there close to the front yard, so she can bolt out and escape to the safety of the front yard, if I get angry.
“Who said, we have no food?”
“Didn’t Appa take all the money? How are we going to buy any food?”
“Come here” I told her
She didn’t budge.
“Liza, Come here, I won’t hit you. I promise.”
She walked slowly towards me. I held her hands and looked at her
I wasn’t sure what to tell her.
“Amma has a job, so we will have enough money to buy food. You don’t worry about all these things.”
“Who will drop us to school?”
“I will”. I told her
“have you fiinished all your homework?” I asked her
“Go to bed early, so we can leave early. I will drop you and Sally to your school before I go to my school.”
“Will you also fetch us?”
“hum” I nodded
“Will you buy us the cream bun from Best bakery like Appa used to buy?”
My mother never honored her promises and I always promised myself I would honour my promises. I desperately wanted to tell my precious younger sister,’yes I will’ and I knew there is no way I can do that.
“we will see, ok. May be not tomorrow. But one day I promise I will buy.”

I laid down on my father’s easy chair. I probably occupied 1/2 of the chair and full of the burden. I analysied all my options. Then it occured to me I didn’t have much options. When we came back from Malaysia, Ammachi made it clear that, we can’t stay in Chengannur house. Mother-in law and daughter-in law never really got along. Amma refused to help in the farm and Ammachi refused to let us stay there. She isn’t going to let us stay there now. Maria has to go to college. There was no one to turn to. May be dying was not a bad option.


As I sat in the bus on the way home from Chengannur, few things that didn’t make any sense to me. Why did my father leave just because my sister wanted to do engineering? Where did he go? How does he expect us to survive? But the most difficult question was why did Ammachi change all of a sudden? She was very hostile to myself and Amma, when she heard that Appa vanished. She didn’t even offer us that we could stay in Chengannur house, which is rightfully our house anyway.
My mother was silent all through the journey. When I opened the house door, the scene at home was pathetic. It felt as though someone died.Maria’s face looked swollen. Appa must have hit her on the face.
“Nina, what are we going to do?” She howled the moment she saw me.
“It is all my fault, I should have joined medicine”. She was still crying
I was 11 yrs old and Maria was nearly 18. All of a sudden I felt I am 18 and Maria is 10.
“No, it isn’t your fault. You will do what you want to do in your life.” I told her.
“How are we going to survive?” She asked again
“We will live no matter what.”
“I don’t know?”
“Amma, how much money did Appa take with him?” .
“You mean he took the money that was meant to buy a house as well?. My parents sold our house in Malaysia and Appa didn’t want to put that money in the bank, because he had to pay some tax.
“Yes Nina, he took the money meant to buy a house too. He said he won’t spend his money on his family, if they don’t do what he says.”
“But it is Amma’s money too.” I spoke and then I noticed Amma is getting more upset.
“Never mind, forget the house and the money. We can still stay in this rented house, anyway this house belongs to Chacha appachan.”
The house we are staying now belonged to my mother’s uncle. He lives in US with the rest of his family. He only rented the house to us, because my mother is his niece.
“Maria, when do you have to join the engineering college?”
“Two weeks from now, but it takes 4 days to reach the college!”
“What?, which college are you going to study?
“IIT, Kharagpur”
“Where is Kharagpur?”
“In west Bengal!”
“Which college did you get admission to do medicine?”
“Kottayam medical college.”
At that moment I didn’t know, if I was smart to have told my big sister, she should do what she wants. She got admission to do medicine in a college that is 20 mints away from our house, and she wants to do engineering in a college that is 4 days away.
I sat down on my father’s easy chair, with a huge burden on my shoulder. I have three sisters and a mother to take care of. I need to send my sister to engineering college and I have no money. Then I remembered, the State Bank Account.
“Amma, we have some money in the state bank, right?”
“It is joint account Nina.”
“What is a joint account?”
“Your stupid father and I have to sign, to withdraw the money.”
“Then we have to find a way to get Appa’s signature.”
“Don’t be stupid Nina, We don’t even know where he is.” Amma was nearly mocking my intelligent idea.
I looked at Liza. she has helped me all the time to put my father’s signature on my test answersheets. she forges his signature very well.
“Liza can sign Appa’s signature Amma”.
I saw the stunned look on Amma’s face.
“Don’t worry, she has been doing that for a while.” I consoled Amma.

Gone with the wind

“Nina, wake up”. Ammachi was shaking me.
I got up irritated and then I remembered my dad.
“What is it Ammachi?” I sat down on the bed trying to read her face.
“Get ready and go to the junction and buy the newspaper. If Mathaichettan is there ask him, if he heard anything about your father and go to Kutten’s house and tell him to rent a bicycle and come fast”.
I got ready quickly and ran all the way to the junction. Shankaran Chettan was just opening his corner shop shutters.
“Chetta do you have today’s newspaper?”
“What is it Nina, Why do you want the paper?”
“Appa didn’t come home last night.”
He gave me Malayala Manorama newspaper and I read the headline
Kairaleeye kandu. Pidikkan kazhinjilla.(saw the ship Kairalee, but couldn’t catch)
Shankaran Chettan was laughing and I looked at him trying to find out why is he laughing. All those who came to the shop to buy the morning beedi and pan also started to laugh.
“Nina, it isn’t kairaleeye kandu. Pidikkan kazhinjilla.
It is kairaleeye kandu-pidikkan kazhinjilla.” (we searched but we couldn’t find the ship)I felt myself shrinking and I wanted to disappear from the face of earth. I slowly retracted back. Now the news of my malayalam reading is spreading across to all the citizens of Chengannur town. I could see people waiting for the bus is looking at me and laughing. One of the school boys waiting for the bus shouted
kairalee, ente thene”(kairalee my honey!!).
The bus came at that moment and I saw my mother getting down.
I rushed to her and asked
“Where is Appa? Is he ok? Why didn’t he come yesterday?”
My mother looked tired and upset
“He is gone Nina”
“Gone? Where?”
“Don’t know”
“What do you mean, don’t know?”
“He packed his bags and left”
“Why and when?”
“Nina, I don’t know”
My mother was about to cry and people were still watching us. I pulled her hand and started to walk towards Chengannur house.
“Amma tell me what happend?”
“Maria got admission to do Engineering and Medicine. Your father wanted her to do medicine and she wanted to do engineering. They fought and then it became a big fight and he went inside the room, took the money and his passport and left.”
“Where could he go Amma?”
“Anywhere Nina, he is a Malaysian citizen, he can go anywhere”
My mother was crying and I felt I had to grow up and take responsibility.
I squeezed her palm and told her
“Don’t cry Amma, you have ME. We will survive.”
“How Nina?, How can I raise four daughters on my own?”
“We will Amma, we will survive”.

July 16, 1979 was a monday.
The ship Kairalee has been missing since 1979

Spice trail

It was raining heavy and I was really worried about my father. We heard the last bus stopping at the junction. Ammachi and I stood on the vernada and desperately tried to see if we could see the light from the pantham(home made torch) coming towards our side of the bund. There was none. The lightning flashed across the sky and at one time it lit the whole area and I could nearly see the main road junction. There was no sign of my father.
“He isn’t going to come today.” I could feel that her voice was quivering.
“Come let us go inside”. Normally Ammachi would take the hurricane lamp inside. She didn’t take it inside this time.
I regretted asking my father to come and fetch me today. I shouldn’t have stayed back in Chengannur. If anything happend to my father, I would be solely responsible, because I am the one who wanted to spend more time with Ammachi.
Ammachi and I went to her bedroom. Instead of the normal frog and cricket orchestra, tonight it is the thunder and lightining orchestra. At times the sound of the thunder was so close, I felt we would be dead soon.
“Can I lay down with you Ammachi?”
“ok, but make sure you stay still and don’t put your legs on top of me”
“ok, I won’t”
I went to lay down with my grandmother. This is the first time she ever let me sleep with her. I felt uncomfortable, trying to lay down and not move. I gently placed my hands on Ammachi and she shrieked
“Nina, don’t. I am not used to sleep with anyone next to me” and she pushed my hands away.
I was even more upset with her and I turned towards the wall and tried to sleep
“are you upset Kochumaharani?”
I didn’t respond.
“You are just like your father”
I didn’t respond.
“Those of you, who wish to hear the story of the greatest warrior of Kerala can put up their hand”. She spoke as though we have many people in our bedroom.
I couldn’t sleep and I also wanted to hear the story. My hand slowly lifted up.
Ammachi got up and fluffed her pillow, so she could lean on it.
“Why do you think whites came to India?” She asked me
“You mean British people?”
“No, white people”
“British people are white people” I argued
“Child, do you know anything about spice trail?”
I thought hard, what is spice trail? I had no idea. I shook my head and said a sad, pathetic ‘no’.
“What do they teach you in your history lesson”
I wanted to tell her, that is another joke. I have to learn everything from Malay to Malayalam and I have no idea what they are teaching me and what I am learning.
“Our land is very fertile and we have spices like pepper and cardomom, growing very well. Emperor Augustus loved pepper and cardomom. He used to send ships to our ports to get the spices.
I wanted to aske who is Emperor Augustus, but knew we would have another series of admonishing. So opted not to ask.
“How do you think the merchants came to India?”
“In their ships”. I knew that was one smart answer and I was proud of myself.
“Oh! you sit in a ship and it brings you all the way from Europe to India?
“You need a good captain” My second smart answer
“Oh Nina, those times the ships used wind force.For about four months the wind will flow from the south west to south east across the Indian ocean, this helped the merchants to travel from Europe and Middle east to Gujarat in India. From there they would travel south to Cochin and Kozhikode. Three to four months later the wind direction would reverse, that would give the merchants sufficient time to load their ship and go back to their country.”
“The traders came from all over the world, Arabs, Chinese,Portugese, and the Dutch.”
“oh” I understood
The foreigners traded mainly with the rulers of Malabar and the rulers of Cochin. Both sides were always fighting with each other. There were also in fight between the chieftains of the same side. In 1757, Zamorin of Kozhikodu invaded Palakkadu. King of Palakkadu asked help from Mysore maharaja(Hyder Ali). Hyder Ali helped the King of Palakkadu and defeated the Zamorin of Kozhikkodu. Unfortunately, Hyder Ali not only helped the king of Palakkadu, he also annexed the land of Palakkadu to his kingdom. He offered his help and took the land that he helped to free.
“But who is our famous warrior?”
“patience Kochumaharani.. why do you want to stretch your legs even before you sit?
“Sorry, now tell the story” I pleaded
“After Hyder Ali, his son Tipu Sultan became the ruler and he signed a treaty with the British East india Company (Srirangapatana truce) and all the land that belonged to Tipu Sultan now belonged to the British, including Palakkadu.”
“then what happend?”
“British did what they are best at, they started to plunder our land and even imposed tax on our pepper.”
“But the pepper is grown in our land, why should we pay tax to British?” I asked Ammachi
“Excatly, but the queen of England declared that everything in India belongs to her. So the pepper we grew suddenly belonged to the British”
“So what happend?”
“Pazhassi Raja (Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja/Lion of Kerala) was a ruler of part of Malabar and refused to collect tax on pepper. The british got angry with him and threatend him and he told them
‘if you act too much, I will tell my people to cut off all the black pepper plants’.
“Nina, imagine. What will happen if the people cut off all the pepper plants?”
“There won’t be anymore pepper for trade! “
” the british understood that. So they decided to kill the Pazhassi Raja”.
“Did they kill him?”
“Not at first. Pazhassi raja and his men attacked the british out post and killed all the men. he was the first king to revolt against the British and they knew, if they didn’t get rid of him, they would lose their control. So one of the British leader, ordered a proclamation that anyone who helps Pazhassi Raja is a rebel and will be killed.”
“Then what happend?”
“We have idiots in our land, who thought it is best to support the white man, they helped the British to attack the Pazhassi Raja’s palace. But the king escaped to the jungle with his wife. The hill people helped the king and he waged many guerilla war against the British.”
“then what happend?”
“Nobody knows exactly how the British killed him, but he died fighting for our independence, the warrior who stood up against the mighty British empire”.
“Nina, you now enjoy the freedom, because many people fought for us, but you will only know the value of your freedom when you lose it. But remember, it is not worth learning that value by losing your independence again. Never ever let the white man rule our country”

Susan send me this link about Pazhassi raja. Thanks Susan.

Note: Pazhassi Raja belonged to the Padinjare Kovilakom royal family and the Kottayam that he ruled is in Kannur(Canannore)

Hippalus(monsoon wind)

More abt the European Voyage to Asia

kandathum Kettathum

“Ammachi shall I cook kanji (porridge) before I leave?” Chakki asked.
“Hmm, make some thoran(dry fried veg with coconut) as well. He (my father)likes thoran. Ammachi replied
I wanted to ask Ammachi ‘why is my father late, but then we will have another discussion about fate and I didn’t want to hear any more.
Evening time is different in Chengannur house. Unlike my parents home, where the house gets livelier in the evening when everyone returns, in Chengannur you feel more lonely in the evening. You feel like the tortoise, pulling the head inside and hiding.
In the evening everything has to be returned. The cows has to be brought back to the cattle shed. Hens to their coop. The rubber sheets have to be removed from the clothes line outside and hung in the kitchen window slats and Chakki goes home with Kutten.
I sat on the veranda and watched Chakki walking on the bund with Kutten. As her shadow became smaller, my heart felt heavier. I felt a sense of doom and loneliness.I was all alone in Chengannur house with Ammachi.
The air stood still and there was pin drop silence. I know it won’t last long. The frogs in the paddy field and the cricekts in the ground will start their orchestra soon.
“Nina, come we have work to do.” Ammachi called me
“What work, I thought we did everything, before Chakki left?”
“Not yet, kandathum kettathum will start at 8 PM”
“but your radio doesn’t work!”
“Ofcourse it works”
“Then why didn’t you ever use it?”
“I use it every sunday to listen to kandathum Kettathum (a small skit full of jokes)when you are not around”
“What? Why?”
“Firstly I don’t want to switch on the radio all the time and waste electricity, secondly I don’t want you to play it all day long and give me a headache”
“Ammachi how could you not tell me your radio was working?”
“You never asked me, if it is working, Nina!”
I was so mad at her, for not telling me all these times that her radio was working, and I was even more mad at me for assuming that it doesn’t work. We had a colour television when we were in Malaysia. In Kerala, there was no television and my only consolation was the radio. I liked to listen to the cinema songs. The station plays cinema songs every afternoon at 1 pm. Because I am at school at that time I miss it except during the weekend.

Ammachi removed the stripped cloth cover and switched on her radio and it cackled. She adjusted the silver knobs and we heard the station announcer announcing
akashavani, thiruvananthapuram,thrissur Alappuzha. Kandathum kettathum”. (Radio announcement)
Ammachi was laughing listening to the jokes in the 10 minutes skit. The moment it is finished, she got up switched off the radio.
“Why are you switching off the radio?” I asked her
“My radio and I can do what I want with it”
“I am not going to talk to you anymore”. I sulked
“too bad. I was going to tell you a story of a warrior”.

our family treassure


After lunch Ammachi and I went to sit on the veranda and wait for Appa.
“Do you think Appa is ok?” I asked Ammachi
“I don’t know”.
“I am scared Ammachi.”
“For what?”
“What will I do if anything happens to Appa?”
“Nina, there is one lesson you must learn in your life”, and she sang for me
Sambavichathellam nallathinu
Samabavikkathirunnathum nallathinu
Sambavikkanirikkunnathum nallathinu”
Whatever happend is for the good
Whatever didn’t happen is also for the good
Whatever will happen is also for the good.
“You can’t change the destiny, though many will tell you that destiny is in your hand. If your father has to die today, he will. You can’t change it.”
“But I don’t want Appa to die”
“You can’t do anything about that Nina.”
“But I can pray”
“Ofcourse you can”
I said a silent prayer to Parumala Thirumeni( jacobite saint) and to mother mary to keep my father safe.
“Nina, Do you know who is Vararuchi?”
I shook my head and said “No”
“Vararuchi was Naranathu branthan’s father.”
“Was he mad too?” I asked her
“No, He wasn’t mad. He was one of the nine wise men of King Vikramadityan’s court(300AD) along with Kalidasan. He was very intelligent. He could even understand the language of birds and animals. One day while he was resting under a tree in the forest, he overheard two birds speaking to each other and telling
‘Oh! here lies the great scholor and brahmin, who is fated to marry a low caste woman.’
“The birds then discribed where exactly the low caste woman is born and the time of birth. Vararuchi went back to the King Vikramaditya and told him,
‘A low caste baby girl is born at this time in this place. You have to get rid off her or she will bring misfortune to your kingdom.’
“The king knows Vararuchi is the most learned man in his kingdom. He didn’t want a low caste baby girl to bring misfortune to his kingdom.He immediately send his soldiers to the girl’s house with the order to kill the baby”
“How can they kill an innocent child Ammachi?”
“Well, even in the bible, they have killed babies. remember the story of moses?” She asked me.
I nodded my head and said “yes”. I know the story of Moses and how he was send down the river in a basket.
“The soldiers didn’t want to murder the child, so they decided to hit her head with a stick, so she will be knocked out, placed her in a boat carved out of banana tree stem and placed a cloth torch as a guiding light and placed her in the river”
“What happend to the baby”.
“Well, if it is your fate to marry a learned brahmin, you will marry”.
“Many years later, Vararuchi was visiting a new place and he went to an illam(brahmin’s house). There was a beautiful and intelligent woman there and Vararuchi fell in love with her and asked if she would marry him. They were married. After the marriage, Vararuchi noticed a scar on the girl’s head and he asked her ‘How did you get this?’
“The girl replied,’I was hit on the head by the king’s soldiers and send down the river, my mother(adoptive) was bathing in the river and saw me floating down the river in a boat carved out of banana tree stem, and she adopted me and raised me’.
“So the learned brahmin couldn’t change his destiny, so do you think you can?”

note: the girl answered on the behalf of her adoptive father many of Varuruchi’s twisted questions and that is how Vararuchi was convinced she is intelligent.. does any of you know what were the questions and the answers?

Naranathu branthan

My father normally comes in the morning and it was already way past lunch time. We don’t have a clock in Chengannur house and so I asked Ammachi
“Ammachi, What time is it?”
She looked outside and told me
“must be about 1 pm.”
“How can you tell the time without a clock Ammachi?
“Experience Nina”
“Will you teach me how to tell the time without a clock?”
“For what?, When you are older you get a watch and you can check the time on your watch”.
I was not in a mood to argue with her. I was worried that my father hasn’t come home yet. I was worried that something terrible has happend at home.

Ammachi made chakkapuzhukku (boiled jackfruit with coconut and chilli). I helped her to transfer the chakkapuzhukku to a serving bowl. We heard the sound of bus stopping at the junction and we went to the veranda to see if Appa is coming.
The monsoon has given us a temporary respite. It was a bright day.
I saw people walking on the bund road. Most of them coming home after the sunday church service. Women were walking fast, so they could start cooking the lunch.Little kids were still wearing their white scarf on their head. Some of the men used the black umbrella and the others used the bible as a shield to preotect their face from the sun. My father wasn’t in the group that disembarked from the bus.
“Nina, come, let us go and eat our lunch”. Ammachi told me
“No Ammachi, I will wait for Appa”
“He hasn’t come home yet, and there has to be a reason why he is late. But there is no reason why you should stay hungry” She told me
I looked at her trying to figure out what exactly she meant. My mother waits for my father everyday, even when she had a fight with him. She never eats before Appa eats. So are all my aunties and cousins.
Ammachi walked to the kitchen and told me, “come and eat and I will tell you the story of Naranthu Branthan(lunatic from Naranam)”.
“Who is Naranathu branthan?” I asked her
“He is Chackochan’s older brother!”
“What?, you really mean Chackochan’s older brother is mad?”
“No, Nina I was just kidding. But Chackochan and Naranathu branthan have one thing in common, both were mad as mad can be”
Chakki was laughing hearing Ammachi speak about Chackochan.
“Why are you laughing Chakki?” Ammachi asked her
“Just like that Ammachi.”
“Hmmm, another sign of madness, laughing without a reason”. Ammachi told her.
Chakki winked at me, and I knew she was laughing because she knows Ammachi and Chackochan are in love.
I follwed her to the kitchen. Chakki had already set the table. Three steel plates, 2 glass tumblers and 1 steel tumbler filled with water taken from the earthen pot. When I saw the three plates on the table, I felt guilty. I didn’t want to eat without my father. It just wasn’t right.
Ammachi started to eat the chakkapuzhukku (boiled jackfruit with coconut) and it smelled good. I was tempted and hungry. Finally I decided to eat as well. I mixed my chakkapuzhukku with buttermilk curry and ate. It was really tasty. I took a second serve. Ammachi took some chakkapuzhukku and placed it in Appa’s plate. She took some for herself, gave me some more and passed the rest to Chakki
“Call your husband and eat, when it is hot.”
Chakki went out to call Kutten.
Ammachi started her story.
“Naranathu branthan(lunatic from Naranam) was mad. He didn’t have the normal madness. he didn’t stand at the bus stop to scare people. He didn’t steal food. He cooked his own food, whereever and whenever he felt.”
“How did her get the food?”
“He begs for the food and because he belonged to the high class, people often gave him food”.
“But that wasn’t the only thing he did. Every morning he would push a huge rock up a steep hill. The rock was really big and heavy. But he wasn’t worried. he would struggle and struggle pushing the heavy rock up the hill. Most of the time, the rock fell down and rolled over Naranathu branthan. But he never gave up. He pushed and pushed and by sunset he would reach the top of the hill.”
“Tell me, what do you think Naraanathu branthan did with the rock?” Ammachi asked me.
“He built something?”
“No, he didn’t, he would bring the rock that he struggled to push up the hill, to the edge of the steep hill and drop the rock. He would laugh watching the rock rolling and tumbling down the hill”
“Why did he do that Ammachi?”
“Because he was mad”
I stared at her, trying to grasp the deeper meaning of why exactly Naranathu branthan did that.
“Nina, he was trying to teach us something. We do everything for nothing. You wait for your father without eating your lunch. Probably the bus tire would have had a puncture and while waiting for the repair, your father would have eaten something. Even if he didn’t, you by staying hungry, wouldn’t diminish his hunger. So you are staying hungry for nothing”
“Then why do women wait for their husband to come home before they eat?”
“Because they are mad like Naranathu branthan”.
“No, Ammachi, they do it because they love their husband.”
Ammachi shook her head.”No, Nina, just because you waited for your husband to eat your lunch even when he is very late, you don’t love him. You love your husband because you want to love him.”

naranathu branthan


“Ammachi, Ammachi”.. We were shouting and yelling and running towards our house.
Ammachi was in the kitchen cooking lunch and she came out wiping her hands on the side of her mundu (sarong)

“What is it Kuttan?, Why are you screaming like this? Did your tail catch fire?”

Both of us were panting and gasping for breath. between the two of us, we managed to convey the message to Ammachi
“Chakochan has climbed our jackfruit tree and is stealing our jackfruit. “
“From which tree?” Ammachi asked Kutten
“The tree near the fence.” Kutten pointed again
“How dare he, I will teach that old man a lesson today”.
Ammachi took the sickle and walked towards the jackfruit tree near the fence. Kutten and I followed right behind.
“Kuttetta, don’t get in to any trouble”. Chakki reminded him.
When we reached the tree near the fence, Chackochan has already tied a rope on the fruit stem and is slowly cutting the fruit from the tree. The rope would prevent the heavy fruit from dropping to the ground.
“What are you doing on top of our jackfruit tree?” Ammachi asked Chackochan.
“Your tree, how can it be?”. Chackochan spoke
“You old man, Are you blind or what? Don’t you remember this tree was planted as a boundary mark? Can’t you see where the tree trunk is?” ammachi pointed the tree trunk and asked
“You old woman, can’t you see where the branches are?, The tree trunk must be in your land, but the branches are certainly on my side of the land. The leaves get sunshine from my side of the land and it is me who cleans all the dried leaves that falls from this tree every day. So the fruit is mine.”
aiyyeda, what kind of a logic is that? No court will agree to that logic. It is my fruit, from my tree. I am the one who waters it every summer.” Spoke Ammachi.
Meanwhile Chackochan slowly lowered the jackfruit from the tree using the rope.
“Give me back my jackfruit” Ammachi ordered.
We watched Chackochan climbing down to the lowest branch and then jumping down. He picked the fruit from the floor and removed the rope.
“I have no intention. I am going to cook this beauty today”. he gently massaged the spiny jackfruit skin with affection and tenderness.
Ammachi called me to approach her and whispered in my ears.
“Nina, run to the kitchen and ask Chakki for some rice.”
“Why Ammachi?”
“Listen to me, child and do what I tell you to”. Ammachi was getting annoyed with me.
I ran to the kitchen Chakki was standing on the door step, trying to see what exactly is going on.
“What are the lovers up to now?” She asked me
“Chackochan is trying to steal our jackfruit and now Ammachi wants me to bring some rice”
“What is she going to do with the rice? Chakki asked me
“I don’t know”.
ente parashinmekkal Bhagavathy(oh my god) when would these two people act their age?” Chakki mumbled.
She gave me rice, I made a pouch with my blouse and placed the rice inside and ran all the way to where Ammachi was standing.
“So Chackocha, anything that is in your land is yours and anything in my land is mine. Right”
“Right, Chackochan grinned like a victor and nodded his head.
Ammachi sprinkled the rice close to the fence and started saying

kozhi ba ba ba, kozhi ba ba

Soon all of Chackochan’s hens and roosters were approaching the barbed wire fence. Ammachi took another handful of rice and sprinkled it again, which acted like a cue and the hens and the roosters were jostling, trying to fly in to our side of the fence to eat the rice.
Chackochan dropped the jackfruit on the ground and started to chase the hens away from the fence.
Ammachi continued to sprinkle the rice and call the hens. Finally one managed to enter our land.
“Catch the hen, Kuttan, if he is eating jackfruit for lunch, I am having chicken curry.”
Kutten and I started to chase the hen, trying to catch it.
“old woman, tell Kuttan not to chase that hen, that one is an egg laying hen, if you scare her, she wouldn’t lay any more eggs”
“Don’t worry about the eggs Chackocha, I am eating her this afternoon”
Kutten managed to catch the hen and gave it to Ammachi. Ammachi held the cackling and panting hen close to her body and started to walk towards the house. Kutten and I followed right behind the leader.
We heard a thud sound and turned to look
“Here, take your jackfruit and give me back my hen”. Chackochan spoke kindly to Ammachi.
“What is in my land is mine, and now the jackfruit is also mine”
“Kuttan go get the jackfruit.” Ammachi ordered and she continued to walk.
Chackochan looked at the jackfruit now on our side of the fence. There is no way he could jump over the barbed wire and get it back. the look on his face was unforgettable. I felt sorry for him.
“Ammachi, give him back the hen”. I pleaded
“Why should I?, He is the one who told me, “what is in my land is mine”

“Ammachi, please forgive him, he gave the jackfruit back anyway.”
“ok” She finally relented and gave the hen to me and told
“Go and give”
When I went to return the hen, Chackochan told me
“Your grandmother is a kanthari ( spicier than a jalapeno pepper).
“Ammachi, Chackochan is calling you..” Before I could Complete Chackochan pleaded
Aiyo Kochumaharani, don’t. Your grandmother would cut me up in to a million pieces, then even the doctors won’t be able to stitch back”.

jackfruit tree