Kutten was digging the soil around the palm tree with a hoe. I was scared to go near the palm tree (yakshi lives on the palm tree). However I needed Kutten’s help. So I said a novena in malayalam and went to where Kutten was working.
“Chetta, will you help me?” I asked him
“What help do you need Kochumaharani?”
“I want to fish, will you make me a fishing rod?”
“You want to go to the river to fish now?”
“Does your grandmother know?”
“No”. I shook my head
“Then you can make the fishing rod yourself”
“Why Can’t I go fish now?”
“because, the river is overflowing and it is too dangerous to fish now.”
“I am bored, I hate coming here, I am always told, I can’t do this and I can’t do that”.
Kutten stopped digging and looked at me.
“Do you want to go for a treassure hunt?”
“Treassure hunt? Here?” I asked him
“Hmmm,”he nodded his head
‘What are we looking for?”
“Cashew nuts”
“But there are no cashew nuts on the tree now, they all finished last month.”
“ofcourse, there is no cashew nut on the tree, we are going to look on the floor”
“huh?” I looked at him.
“Come with me and I will show you.”
I followed Kutten and we headed towards the cashew trees. Kuttten was searching for something on the floor and then he found it. He pulled out a small plant from the ground. It has just sprouted and have just the seed leaves(cotyledon).
“Here, try this Kochumaharani”. he pulled the cotyledons and gave me.
“Are you sure I can eat this?”
I tried it and it was really crunchy and tasty, soon Kutten and I was busy looking for cashew cotyledons growing on the ground.
“Chetta, do you know how cashewnut got its name?”
“No, I don’t”.
“sit down and I will tell you the story”.
I collected few cotyledons and sat down on a small rock. I stretched my leg and while munching the cotyledons, I began my first official story telling session.
Kutten squatted on the floor waiting in anticipation for the story. I began my story
“Long ago, before the whites came to India, we used the old monetory system of Kash and Anna coins. When Vasco de Gama came to our port in Calicut(AD 1498), they saw a man pushing a cart full of funny shaped fruit and yelling
kashinettu, kashinettu”(8 for 1 Kash)
“The travellers were hungry and they came to inspect the cart,they didn’t know what fruit it was, so they asked the seller,pointing the cashew ‘what is this’ ?”
“The seller didn’t understand what the travellers were asking him and he kept repeating kashinettu (8 for 1 Kash). The travellers thought the name of the fruit is kashinettu. Eventually the travellers took some fruit from the cart and ate. They liked it very much and they called the fruit “Cashewnut” .
“How did you learn this story,Kochumaharani?”
“Appa told me. Did you like my story?”
“ofcourse, but now I have to go back to work”. Kutten got up and started walking.
I was pleased with my first story telling session and just as I got up, I spotted Chackochan. He is doing something he is not supposed to, and I showed Kutten
“Chetta look!”
“oh oh”. Kutten said
Together we ran all the way home to get Ammachi.

Vasco Da Gama

Chuchumulli Kala

I woke up in the morning hearing loud screams from the veranda. I quickly got up from my bed and rushed out. Suddenly I remembered I am still chatta clad and there is no way I can go out. I quietly tiptoed back to the bedroom and peeped through the transom above the window.
I could see Chackochan jumping up and down and shouting. He had his trade mark towel turban on his head and he really looked menancing especially with the sickle in his hand
“Come outside and face me, you old woman”. He yelled waving the sickle.
I saw Ammach quietly sneaking out from the side door and sitting on the side parapet wall, while Chakochan was concentrating on the main door.
He yelled again
“I dare you to come out side, you old woman”
‘I am right here, Chackocha”, Ammachi replied
Chackochan turned to look at Ammachi and for a moment he was disoriented and lost.
he did recover quickly, but not as good as he was a minute ago.
“How dare you cut my bund wall?”
“What bund wall?” Ammachi asked innocently
” As though you don’t know, you flooded my field last night”
“Chackocha, it must be the work of kuttichathan (an imp), even my bund wall was damaged last night. May be we should do a pooja to exorcise the ghost that haunt our fields”.
Kuttichachan(an imp) is your father in law. I know it is you who broke the bund wall.”
“Chackocha, why are you calling my father in law a kuttichathan(an imp)? Besides do you any proof that I broke your bund wall?”
“Your father in law and mother in law and your father and mother are all kuttichathans(imps). I will get you for this one day”
Chackochan huffed and walked away.
I could hear him muttering something but couldn’t figure out what he said.
Meanwhile Ammachi started to sing gently
“pandan nayude
pallinu shouryam
pande pole falikkunnilla” (the good ‘old dog’ has lost all his trade mark bark and bite!!)
Chackochan heard the song and stopped midway. He turned around and threatend Ammachi
“I will teach you a lesson, one of these days.”
“I will wait for that day!” Ammachi retorted.
I knew although Chackochan is leaving right now, this isn’t the end of the years of animosity the two of them had against each other.
I climbed down slowly from the window ledge. Then I remembered the bed sheet. before Ammachi could see it, I quickly removed the sheet from the bed and took it to the toilet to wash.

When I went to the kitchen Chakki was already making breakfast.
“Has the lovers finished their morning action?”
“Who are the lovers, Chakki? Chackochan and Ammachi?”
“Ofcourse, they have been in love for ages, it is just that they can’t stand the sight of each other, but in their heart Chackochan is for Ammachi and Ammachi is for Chackochan, made for each other!!”
“Shall I go and tell Ammachi that you think Chackochan is in love with her?” I asked Chakki.
“sure, but make sure you choose where you want to be buried first.”Chakki replied.

I saw Ammachi going to the bedroom and coming out
“What happend to the bedsheet on your bed Nina?”
“I put it for wash”
“Why, I changed the sheet only yesterday, Did you chuchumulli yesterday on the bed?”

Yakshi in the bedroom!!!

I woke up hearing strange noises from the kitchen. I could hear foot steps that were coming closer and closer. I quickly searched under my pillow for the bibile and I couldn’t find it.
My heart was beating like the drum rolls at the Thrissur pooram. The footsteps now reached near our bedroom door and I quickly tried to say the Lord’s prayer. I started to say swargastanaya njangalude pithave and then I forgot the rest and I quickly continued the rest of the prayer in English. Then it occured to me, the yakshi at Chengannur house wouldn’t understand my english lord’s prayer. She is a Malayalee yakshi.
In the darkness of the night I saw something white moving towards Ammachi’s bed and I wanted to scream. I tried and I tried. My voice got stuck in my throat. I thought about my poor Ammachi, who is going to be eaten by the yakshi. I wanted to save my Ammachi, but I couldn’t find my bible. Suddenly the Yakshi lit the hurricane lamp.
“Ammachi, what in the world are you doing in the middle of the night?”
I screamed at her.
” Did I wake you up?. I didn’t want to scare you, that is why I quietly went to the kitchen to get the match box”.
I saw Ammachi taking the hurricane lamp and walking out.
“What are you doing? Where are you going?”
“I am going to the paddy field, I need to repair the bund wall”
“In the middle of the night? and how do you know the bund wall is damaged “. I asked her.
“Nina, Chackochan has broken our bund wall about 10 minutes ago, he is trying to steal the top soil from our paddy field.”
“Why does Chackochan wants to steal our top soil?”
“because he has krumikadi (pin worm infestation!!) in the night”
“Ammachi, how do you know that the wall is broken?”
“The sound of the water, Nina, I know when the flow is more, there is something wrong.”
I was too scared to sleep alone and I asked her.”Can I come with you?”
“Ok, but don’t make any sound”.
She kept the hurricane lamp on the parapet wall and started to walk towards the paddy field in the darkness.
“Are you not taking the lamp?”
“And let Chackochan know we are coming there?” She asked me in turn.
I couldn’t see a thing. It was that dark. I thought about all the snakes on the ground and the Yakshi’s on the tree. I didn’t want to follow Ammachi at the same time I didn’t want to stay alone inside the house. Ammachi walked as though it is something she does every time.
We hid near the jackfruit tree to see if Chackochan is waiting for us. He was not to be seen and slowly both of us walked on the bund wall that separates our paddy field from Chackochan’s. True enough the wall is broken in the middle and all the water from our field is draining in to Chackochan’s field, taking the top soil along.
Ammachi hitched up her mundu and proceeded to repair the bund wall. She used the rocks and filled the gap and then like a professional builder used the mud from the field to seal the rocks.
When it was finished Ammachi stood up and straightened her back and inspected her handy work. I was glad the ordeal is over and was waiting to go back and sleep, before the yakshi’s find us.
When we reached the corner where the fields meet the creek, Ammachi got down. I thought she was going to wash her hands and legs.
She started to remove the rocks from the bund wall that separates Chackochan’s field and the creek
“What are you doing?” I asked my grandmother?
“I am returning the favour, Nina”
“You are going to flood Chackochan’s field?”
I watched the sudden gush of water from the creek to Chackochan’s field and knew by morning his field would be flooded.


“What was the Kadamattathu Kathanaru famous for?” I asked Ammachi
“He was famous for a lot of things, he could exorcise ghosts and he could do magic as well.”
“What do you mean by exorcism Ammachi?”
“Kathanaru could control the ghost, especially Yakshi’s( female vampires). He had learned the tricks from the mountain people, who used the Yakshi’s(female vampires) to search for hidden treassures underground.
“Do you believe there are ghosts Ammachi?”
“Ofcourse I do.”
“have you seen any ghost?”
“No I haven’t.”
“Then how do you know there are ghosts?”
“have you seen Jesus Christ, Nina?”
“No”. I shook my head
“then how do you know he is your God?”
I knew Ammachi always knew the right answer to each of my queries. if she said she believed there are ghosts, then in all probability there would be.
I looked around the kitchen, trying to see if there is any Yakshi(female vampire) hiding anywhere listening to our stories. The shadows of all the pots and pans appeared longer under the hurricane lamp light. From the distance I could hear Upadeshi appachan has started his evening lecture and I was really scared.
“Do you know the Bhattathiri story Nina?”
“No” I shook my head and I really didn’t want to hear the ghost story, Unfortunately I was too shy to tell my grandmother that I am scared and don’t want to hear anymore stories.
“One day a Bhattathiri wanted to go to Thrissur to watch the pooram(festival). In those days there were no cars, so he and his friend Namboodiri, decided to walk all the way to Thrissur. It was a long walk and in the evening they were walking through a deserted place and suddenly two beautiful women came infront of them and asked
‘Oh learned men, where are you going in the middle of the night?’
‘We are going to Thrissur to watch the pooram’, they replied
‘Oh, learned men, don’t go at this time of the day, this place isn’t safe, there are Yakshis(female vampire) around here,’
“Hearing this, both men got scared, but they didn’t know what to do, they had no friends or families in that area.”
“Seeing the troubled faces of the 2 friends, the women offered to take them to their house and the friends happily agreed”
“Their house was the most beautiful house the friends have ever been to, there were good food and clean clothes, the men retired to the bedroom,each following a woman”
“Bhattathiri layed down on the bed and in an instant the beautiful woman turned in to a vampire and started to attack him”
“mean while the namboodiri went to sleep as well, but he kept his ‘upanishad'(holy book) under his pillow. Yakshi’s are powerless infront of the holy book. The beautiful woman tried her level best to make the Namboodiri to keep the book away. Namboodiri refused, meanwhile the namboodiri heard the sounds of bones being crushed from the next room and he called his friend’s name. There was no response, and he knew what happend. he started holding the holy book close to him and pray. In the morning the villagers found him sitting on top of a palm tree and the hair and nails of the Bhattathiri at the bottom of the tree.”
“How did he get on top of the palm tree?” I asked Ammachi
“The Yakshis(female vampires) live on palm trees, they used their magic and created the palace”
We have atleast 4 palm trees in Chengannur and that means there could be minimum 4 Yakshi’s in our house. I was even more scared.
“Can we go to bed now?, we will wash the dishes tomorrow!” I told Ammachi.
“Ok” She agreed
I took the bible from the table and kept it under my pillow, so the Yakshi(female vampire) won’t come near me and went to sleep.
Suddenly in the middle of the night, I heard sounds in the room and woke up to see what is all the noise about and that is when it happend.

Thrissur pooram

kadamatthu Kathanaru

“Appa”, I called him as sweetly as I can
“hmm”, he mumbled while gobbling up the kanji(porridge).
“Can I ask you something?”
“hmm” another mumble
My hopeful helium balloon was now in a limbo. Is it a good time to ask my father, if I can stay tonight?
Then I remembered what my friend Siti always said in malay
Belum cuba, belum tahu, if you haven’t tried you would never know. I said a silent novena and spoke
“Can I stay here tonight?”
“Why not?”
“Because I am not going to come again tomorrow to fetch you.”
“I can take a bus and come alone”
Aiyyedi, do you have any other bright ideas?”
“Appa, please let me stay with Ammachi tonight, please”
“Tell me one good reason, why I should let you stay here tonight and come again tomorrow all the way from Kottayam to fetch you and then I will decide.”
A thousand good reasons flashed through my mind, none good enough to convince. Then I saw the mango pickle and I knew just the reason
“I will get Ammachi to make pazhamanga moru(curry made from the pickle brine) for you.”
Ammachi was listening to our conversation and asked me
“And just how do you plan to make me cook that?.”
“Appa is your one and only son and won’t you make anything he likes for him my darling Ammachi?
“You are super panjara (butter) Nina”. Ammachi spoke and Appa nodded his head in agreement.
Appa relented finally and agreed to come and fetch me again tomorrow.

In the evening, Ammachi and I stood on the veranda and watched Appa walking on the bund towards the junction. Sun was setting and the birds were chirping probably wishing each other goodnight and I was happy to be home.
Then I remembered
Aiyya Ammachi, I didn’t bring any clothes with me, Now what will I wear?
“Come, let us look inside the cupboard and see, if there is anything suitable”. Together we went to her bedroom to check. There was nothing, except ammachi’s chatta and mundu.
“You can wear my chatta”.
“I am not going to wear your old chatta, I will look funny.”
“oh, your husband is coming to visit you today or what ? so that you want to look pretty?”
“Go ammachi, I am not married, I am only 10 years old.”
“Well, your choice is to wear the old chatta or nothing, wear the chatta after your bath and wash the skirt you are wearing now, so it will be dry by tomorrow morning.”
Grudgingly I took the chatta and went to have my shower.
I wore the chatta after my bath. It reached just below my hip, and the sleeves reached my elbow. I knew I looked funny in a chatta, unfortunately i had already soaked my clothes in the soap water. So now I either have to wear the chatta or my wet skirt. I knew Ammachi would say something witty when she sees me in her chatta.
Ammachi was busy making the dinner. I tugged the end of the chatta so it won’t ride up as I walked. Ammachi turned to look at me and spoke
eso mashihakku stuthi ayirikkate, When did the Kathanaru arrive?
eppozhum eppozhum stuthi ayirikkatte. Who is Kathananru?” I asked
“Our Kadamattathu Kathanaru, the one who outwitted the devil, you remind me of him, in your flowing white robe”.
“How did the Kadamattathu kathanaru outwit the devil?”
“That is a long story, Come and eat your dinner and I will tell you.”
Ammachi placed a bowl of normal kanji for me on the table. She is having karkkidaka kanji( bitter herbal medicinal porridge, eaten during the monsoon) and i warned her in the afternoon itself, I have no intention of eating that. So Ammachi made extra normal porridge for me.
I waited for her story about Kadamattathu Kathanaru.
“This story happend in the Kollam Era.(825AD).During the time Rajashekhara Varman was ruling the land. A little boy was kidnapped by the mountain people”
“Who are the mountain people and why did they kidnap the boy?”
“The mountain people were different from us, they never had any contact with other people, they kidnapped the boy to do a human sacrifice to appease their god.”
“Then what happend, Did they sacrifice the boy?”
” No, they didn’t, the chief of the mountain people asked the boy some questions and the boy answered. He was astonished to see how intelligent the boy was when he spoke to him and decided to adopt him. He told the boy, ‘you will never be able to leave the mountains’ and taught him all the magic and witch craft, so the boy could succeed him and rule the mountain people one day. But the boy, he missed his mother and wanted to leave the mountain. One day he escaped and ran all the way, the mountain people started to chase him and the boy ran and ran with the mountain people close to his pursuit. From the distance he spotted the Kadamattom church and quickly ran inside and closed the door. Mountain people couldn’t enter the church, so they created a storm and used metal chains to break the door. The door was too strong. The metal chain marks are still on the door, even to this day.”
“Really Ammachi, the church is still there?”
“Yes Nina, it is still there and you can see the markings on the door.”

Helium balloon

Appa was already asleep on the easy chair, when we went back home. I stood in front of him, trying to figure out, how best to get him to agree something I know he wouldn’t.
I wanted to stay in Chengannur today and there is no way he is going to let me do that, because he has to come and fetch me again tomorrow.
I went to the kitchen and found Chakki
“Will you make me a nice cup of your special coffee, Chakki?”
“What is going on Kochumaharani?, Why do you need coffee at this time of the day?”
“shhh Chakki, I will tell you later. I also need some tapioca chips and slivers of coconut.”
“You better tell me now, if you want me to make it for you”.
“Oh Chakki, why don’t you trust me, I want Coffee and chips to panjaraadi (butter) Appa, so he will let me stay here tonight”.
“Oh, and your father will fall for it eh?”
“We won’t know till we try it right, Chakki?
“But Nina, we haven’t eaten lunch yet and your father would want to eat lunch first.”
Aiyya Chakki, Now what will I do?”
“You can panjaraadi (butter) him, when you are having lunch.
Suddenly I felt like a helium balloon that lost all the helium. One minute I was full of hope and the next minute, nothing.
“What are we having for lunch Chakki?”
“Your father’s favourite, we are having kanji (porridge), pazhamanga achar(mango pickle) and Moru(butter milk ).
In the summer I helped Ammachi to make mango pickle.
The mangoes without any bruises on them were used for making the Pazhamanga achar( mango pickle). Ammachi made a solution of salt and chilli powder in a big Chinese claypot meant for making pickles and carefully placed the mangoes inside. She then poured some gingelly oil on top and covered with a cloth and tied it tightly with a small rope. The claypot was kept inside the granary for storage.
In the peak of monsoon, when it is even impossible to light a fire, Ammachi would have a feast, eating pazhamnaga achar(mango pickle) with kanji (porridge). The gravy comes from the brine, which after months in storage would become a delicious mix of mango sap and salt and chilli powder. Complete flavour of sweetness, sourness and spiciness.
While the rain out side is doing the dance of destruction. damaging the crops and flooding the fields, Ammachi would enjoy the fruit of her labour, till the next summer and harvest.
I went with Chakki to the granary to get the pickle. Chakki opened the cloth cover of the claypot slowly. She placed the cloth cover in a clean plate.
“Why are you putting the cover in a plate, Chakki?”
“Nina, this pickle will last a long time, if we take care of it. But we have to be careful, and keep everything clean.”
Chakki used a special wooden scoop and scooped up 5 mangoes, one for each of us and placed them in a bowl. The nshe scooped the brine and poured over the mangoes.It smelled heavenly.
“Nina, go and wake up your father and tell him lunch is ready”, Chakki ordered
“Where is Ammachi?”
“Must be in the fields taking to her plants”
“Ammachi, Ammachi” I called her, trying to see where she was and in the end woke my dad from his slumber.
“Oh, Nina, why are you screaming like this” He asked me annoyed
“Because, it is time for lunch and there is pazhamanga achar(mango pickle).”
Suddenly my annoyed father got up and was heading towards the well to wash his hands. My helium balloon was back in action..with hope.

To make Kanji( porridge)

Intelligent fish

To catch fish with the towel, you need 2 people. The trick is to hold the towel on either side and place it all the way to the bottom of the creek. When the unsuspecting fish swim over the top of the towel, lift the towel quickly and the fish get trapped in the middle and the waater drains out from the towel.
Ammachi and I walked to the shallow end of the creek. Ammachi hitched up her mundu , so it won’t get wet. It was the first time I saw her legs. Her veins were all bulging out.
“Why does all the veins stick out like that on your leg Ammachi?”
“Are you here to catch the fish or to see my legs?”
“Tell me Ammachi, please.”I begged
“It is varicose veins Nina”
“What is varicose vein Ammachi”.
“He is the older brother of Pathrose vein”
“Go Ammachi, stop teasing me and tell me what is varicose vein.”
“I don’t know what is it Nina, one day when you become a Dr, you will learn what it is and then you will come and tell me”.
“I am not going to become a Dr.” I told her
“Then what are you going to do?”
“I am going to have my own chayakada (corner tea shop)!”.
“Oh really, why?”
“So I can eat all the parippuvada and bonda (fritters)”.
“Very good idea Nina, so we will have our own chayakada (tea shop) and we will be the owner and the customer right?.”
“Correct Ammachi, you know something, you make all the parippuvada and I will manage the cash counter” I told her.
“Very good idea Nina.”

Ammachi and I slowly waded in to the water. we looked for a shallow spot. The water was swift flowing and I removed my Hawai chappal and kept in on the bank. I didn’t want to lose my precious chappal in the swift current.

“Now keep quiet and hold the end of the towel. And stand still” She instructed.

We slowly lowered the towel to the bottom of the creek and waited. At first the fish were suspicious. They came near the towel and swam of. Then they become confident and started swimming over the towel and quickly Ammachi and I lifted the towel together.
There were more that 20 small tiny fish stuck in the towel. They were jumping up and down. The sliver colour on their body was glittering. It was the most beautiful sight. Ammachi placed the towel back in the water and all the fish I caught swam of
“Why did you do that?” I was upset with her
“Nina, they will die.”
“You don’t kill unnecessarily”.
“But we make fish curry,we kill the fish in the kitchen” I argued
“Ofcourse, we do. That is our necessity. We need food. But this small fish, they are not our food. They haven’t even had a chance to live yet.”
At that moment I didn’t understand what my grandmother was trying to tell me. Why is it ok to kill the big fish and make curry and not ok to kill the small fish. Either way it is going to die.
I suddenly lost my interest in fishing. There was no joy in catching and then releasing the fish and I told Ammachi
“Let us go back.”
Ammachi must have known I was upset.
“Do you know the story of three fish?” She asked me
“Which story?”
“The one about intelligent, fate and wise?”
“No I don’t”
“Come let us sit here”, Both of us sat on the rocks.
Ammachi began telling me the story
“Once there were three fish that lived in the lake, one was intelligent, he used his brains every time, the other was wise, he did everything after thinking and analysing about it, the third one believed in fate and thought what ever has to happen will happen.”
“One day the wise fish overheard the fisherman discussing with his son and telling”this lake is full of fish, we will cast our net tomorrow here.”
“The wise fish quickly went to his friends and told them
“I think we should leave the lake immediately, for the fisherman will cast the net tomorrow”
The intelligent one told
“I was born here and I am smart, I will find a way out, if I am caught in the nets tomorrow”
The fate fish told
“If I am to die, I will and I am not running away from my fate”
“The wise fish swam away that day to the canal. Ther next morning the fisher man returned and cast his nets. Both the intelligent and fate fish were caught in the net”
“What do you think happend next Nina?” Ammachi asked me
“don’t know, you tell me quick”
“The intelligent one quickly pretended he is dead and the fisher man thought he caught a dead fish and threw it out of his net back in to the lake”
“What happend to the fate fish?”I asked her
“He just jumped up and down and died”.
“What are you Nina, intelligent, wise or fate fish?”
I looked at her, trying to think of a smart answer.
Ammachi must have felt that the answer is tricky.
“Nina, if you are wise, you wouldn’t fish for small fish in the creek, if you are intelligent, you will release the little fish and if you believe in fate, you will spend many years without food, as you would have killed all the little fish, that would have grown big and suitable for making curry”.
At that moment I understood that each of my activity will affect me in the long term. I wanted to be an intelligent fish

Fishing with a towel

I ran all the way home on the small bund that connects our house to the main bund road. The creek infront of our house was overflowing with water. I could see thousands of tiny fish in the water. Sometimes they all swim in one direction, then they take an about turn and swim in the other direction, almost knocking on to the unsuspecting ones in the end. I would have stood there and watched the fish,if it wasn’t for my grandmother who shouted again
“Chakki, Kochumaharani is here”
I looked up to see her grinning and knew that instant she was waiting for me all these days. I ran to her and hugged her. The familiar sight of her white chatta and mundu and the smell of the coconut oil on her hair was very comforting.
“Why didn’t you come all these days?” She asked me
“Why don’t you ask your wonderful son that question?, He never brings me here.” I spoke
“You know something Ammachi, I can’t wait to grow up, then I will take the bus come here myself, I don’t need Appa to bring me here.”
Appa has reached home by now and he saw us talking
“What is Thangamma and Kochumaharani talking about? ” He asked her
Eda thonnyavasi, How dare you call me Thangamma?” Ammachi asked Appa.
“Aha, my 10 year old daughter can call you by your name and I, your one and only son cannot do that?” Appa asked Ammachi
Ammachi was laughing and I was happy to be home.
I could see Chakki waiting for me in the kitchen and I walked towards her.
“Come here Nina” Ammachi yelled.
I was taken aback by the tone of her voice. She was mad at me and I was wondering why?
“How many times do I have to tell you to wash your legs before you enter the house?”
“Sorry Ammachi, I forgot”
I quickly took the brass pot and washed my legs. In the summer the cold water from the pot was soothing and right now, it was too cold and I quickly washed my legs.
My father was looking at me and I could see in his eyes he was happy that I got scolded. Just as I was about to hand the brass pot to Appa so he could wash his legs, I poured the rest of the cold water on his unsuspecting legs and ran. I could see my father jumping in shock and screaming
“Come here you little imp”.
By now I reached the safety of the kitchen and I stuck my tongue at him. I knew Appa won’t dare to hit me infront of Chakki and Ammachi.
“I feel sorry for the guy who is going to marry this child”. He muttered
Chakki was laughing seeing all the fun and she hugged me and told
“We missed you Kochumaharani.”
“Me too, Chakki. I like staying here with Ammachi and you”.
Chakki made coffee for Appa and Ammachi and she gave some for me as well.
“It is too hot Chakki”
“Give it to me, I will cool it for you” Chakki spoke
She took the glass from my hand using another glass, she proceeded to cool my hot coffee, by pouring the coffee from one glass to the other.
I sat on the kitchen bench and watched her.
After I finished drinking my coffee, I went back to the veranda. Appa and Ammachi were discussing something.
“Ammachi I want to catch the fish”
“Go and catch”
“I want you to come with me” I told her
“Nina, Ask Chakki to come with you”
“No, I want you to come with me”
“Oh Nina.”
“I don’t want you to ‘oh Nina’ me, I want you to come with me and catch the fish” I told her
“Ammachi, please please please”.I begged
Ammachi finally relented and asked me to get the towel. I went to her room and took the towel that was hanging on the clothesline.
Ammachi saw the towel and asked me
“Where did you take the towel from?”
“Clothesline in your room” I told her
aiyyedi, you want to catch the fish with the towel that I use to dry my hair?”
“You are the one who told me to bring the towel”I told her
“Yeah, but I didn’t tell you to bring the new one. Go and look for the old one inside the cupboard”
I went back and searched for the old towel and finally found one.
Appa was sitting on the easy chair
“Are you coming to catch the fish?” I asked him
“Oh no, I am going to enjoy a few moments of solitude, Ammachi and Kochumaharani can enjoy spending time together”
I wanted to tell him ‘loser’. But didn’t want to push my luck that far.
Ammachi and I walked to the creek to catch the fish with a towel


To cool my burning mouth I drank the milk only to realize my mistake in a short span of 1 second. The milk was hot and I got hiccups. I landed up doing sit ups every few seconds. I was so angry with the waiter for giving me hot milk, with my dad for laughing at me and at myself for thinking that I can eat spicy food.
Eventually I had no choice but to give up the soft fluffy appam. My father lovingly took the remaining appam from my leaf and enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast.
As we waited at the counter to pay, I noticed a line of glass jars filled with colourful candies.
“Appa will you please buy me a candy?” I pleaded
“What candy you want?” he asked me
“Poppins” I didn’t want to lose an opportunity to buy the most expensive candy in that shop.
I was expecting Appa to give a long lecture about dowry and how we should save money. But he didn’t
He bought me a poppins. When he handed me the poppins, a long tube of rainbow coloured candies wrapped in a silver foil.I was so happy. I hugged him.
As we walked to the bus bay, I slowly opened the silver foil. I prayed that the top candy is red. I liked eating the red candy. It colours my tongue red.
I was so delighted to see that the top candy is red and immediately put it in my mouth. It felt heaven. The sweet candy melting in my mouth was a delightful feeling and my hiccups vanished. After I finished eating, I wanted to see my red colour tongue.
I tried to stick my tongue out to see.
“Don’t blame me, if strangers hit you for sticking your tongue at them, Nina? Appa spoke
My father must have been watching me all the while
“I am not sticking my tongue at anyone. I just wanted to see my red coloured tongue”
“Are you not going to share your poppins with your old man, he asked me?”
“If the old man wants, then he can buy a new one, besides you know candies are not good for you” I spoke, trying to hide the candies as far as possible away from my father.
“Look, it is Shankaran”, My father pointed to someone behind me and I turned to look. In a second Appa snatched the poppins from my hand
“Give me back my poppins”
“try and get it” Appa held the candy above his head
“don’t forget, Candies aren’t good for you”. He spoke.
I tried to jump and get the candies from my father’s hand. Unfortunately he was way too tall and I gave up trying like the wolf in Aesop’s story.
I sat on the bench with a pouted lips and a small tiny tear in the corner of one eye. I knew Appa’s heart will break if I cry.
aiyeee How can my Kochumaharani cry for silly things like this”
Appa lifted me up and gave me a kiss. He lowered me down and still took a candy from the poppins tube before giving the remaining poppins back to me. He got the green colour one and I didn’t mind. I don’t like the green candy that much.I ate the rest of the candies while waiting for the bus.
Finally after a long wait the fast passenger KSRTC bus to Trivandrum arrived. Everyone stoved and pushed and crowded near the door. Appa lifted me up and carried me up to the bus window.
“Nina, climb inside the bus and save the spot for me” he commanded.
I did as he told me and climbed inside the bus. I was so worried, what if Appa didn’t get to enter the bus and the bus leave without him. Where will I go?
People were trying to sit on the seat next to mine
“This seat is taken” I kept telling them, while at the same time looking for my father.
I was so relieved when I saw Appa getting in to the bus. Somehow he pushed and came near where I was sitting. He sat down next to me. The KSRTC buses didn’t have any window glass. Each window has a black canvas that passengers tie to the corner. if you didn’t tie well, the flap will swing and the rain water will enter the bus making the passengers wet. I enjoy seeing people struggling and holding the canvas sheet, so that it won’t open while the bus is moving. Appa tied the canvas tightly. Only a little bit of the corner was open and I could still see the fields rushing past as the bus travelled.We got of near the Junction. I looked for the thatched roof and I couldn’t spot it. The fields were flooded.And the bund was not there in most places. The strong current in the creek has washed away most of the bund.Appa held my hand and we walked carefully over rocks and stones and as we reached our paddy field I cupped my hand and shouted
“Thangammoo, Methran Thambi’s Thangammoo”
My father looked at me stunned
“What did you call your grandmother?”
“Thangamma. Didn’t you know her name is Thangamma?” I asked him cheekily
“Wait till she gets you for that, then you will know the pain of her beatings. even I have never (dared to) called my mother by her name”
“We will see” and I could see my grandmother standing on the verandha and trying to see who the visitors are.

parle poppins

Methran thambi’s grand daughter!

It has been raining continuously since the school reopened. Inside our house is a maze, there were atleast 10 clothes line criscrossing across the rooms and the clothes were hung inside to dry. When ever you go from one room to another, you have to navigate in such way that you don’t touch the clothes. The house was damp and smelly and dark.
Outside too was not better in anyway. The trees that longed for the rain, now looked like they are weeping. The rain water dripping down the leaves looked like tears. Every now and then the rain takes a moment of rest and my hopes to see the sun gets high, only to have them dashed in the next downpour.
There was nothing to do, outside or inside the house. To me it felt like a forced hibernation.
I woke up early on saturday morning. Appa was getting ready.
“Where are you going?” I asked him
“Why?” I asked him
“To see my mother”.
I ran to my room to change my clothes and get ready. I didn’t even waste my time to brush my teeth. I put a bit of paste in my tongue, swirled it around in my mouth, rinsed with water. I went to Appa, as he was just about to leave the house.
“Where are you going young lady” he asked me
“Why” he asked me
“To see my grandmother” I replied
He laughed. “Did you brush your teeth?”
“Yes” I nodded my head
“Open your mouth” He commanded
I did, and he did a sniff test. Fresh smell of Binaca toothpaste emanated from my freshly cleaned teeth!
Everyone except Akkachi was still asleep
Akkachi called me to approach her, and told me “Nina, ask Appa, if he wants to eat break fast.”
I hoped Appa would say no. I wanted to eat Appam and egg curry at the bus station canteen.
Appa shook his head and said”No”
I was so happy.
We walked slowly, holding the umbrella and trying to keep our body dry. As I walked on the road, my hawain slipper was painting the back of my legs and dress with mud. There were puddles of water everywhere and we had to walk carefully as we didn’t know which one is a pothole and which one is a puddle. In some of those major potholes, strangers( most likely the ones who had fallen in it) have planted banana plant as to warn the others of the danger.
By the time we reached the bus station, my legs were dirty, my dress was dirty and I hated the rain.I tried to command the clouds to take rain back to spain. At that moment a lightning flashed across the sky, kind of mocking me and asking’ did you say something?’
I was angry and hungry and looked at my father. He too looked at me and without saying much he walked to the bus station canteen.
We sat on the bench and the waiter placed the banana leaf infront of us
then he rattled
“Dosa, uppuma,idli chammanthi,appam, pazham pori, puri, paratha…”
“Stop”, my father raised his hands like a police man.
“4 appam and 2egg curry, 1 coffee and 1 milk”
“Why can’t I have some coffee?” I asked my father
“Because you are too young to have coffee”
I was just about to tell him, Ammachi gives me coffee with ghee, then I remembered my promise ‘not to tell anyone’ about it. I kept quiet
The waiter placed 2 glasses of water infront of us.
“Don’t drink that water Nina”. Appa ordered me
“Why not”
“Because it is ‘finger’ water, look at the way he carries the glasses”.
I looked and that is when I saw, the waiter holding 5 glasses, dipping each of his finger in a glass. It looked yucky and I understood why my father forbade me from drinking the water.
I looked at all the people sitting around me and having their breakfast. Everyone looked weary, it was obvious that the much awaited monsoon has begun the destruction.
Our waiter came again, this time holding a big aluminium bowl. he scooped a boiled egg from the bowl with a spoon and placed it on appa’s leaf, then he scooped another egg for me. he then placed the gravy on top of the egg for appa and walked away.
I asked Appa”Why no gravy for me?”
“You want some?” he asked me
I nodded my head and said “yes”
Appa called the waiter and asked for gravy for me
“Sir, it is spicy”.
‘what spicy, I wanted to tell him, I am Nina Thomas, grand daughter of Methran Thambi and I eat spicy food, just like my grandfather and my father’
“I want gravy” I told the waiter
he grudgingly gave me some gravy.
When I got my appam I was eager to show the silly waiter that I can eat spicy food. I took a big mouth of gravy with the appam and placed in my mouth.
Sudenly everything stood standstill. I felt smoke was coming out of my nose and my mouth and my ears. My tongue burned and I desperately wanted a glass of cold water. The food in my mouth was stuck in the middle of my tongue, as though my throat refused to accept and my lips refused to reject.
My father was watching me all the while and with a grin on his face, he advised
“You can spit it out”.