Amma came back around 7pm, carrying a brown paper bag.
“You want to see what I bought for you?”
The packet looked small and it certainly wasn’t the usual news paper bag you get at the grocery store. But somehow I still hoped that she bought all the ingredients for the ona sadya.
“What did you buy Amma?” Liza was jumping up and down.
Amma slowly opened the brown paper bag and pulled out 2 bags of banana chips.
“See, I bought onam chips for all of you. Even if your father isn’t here, I still make sure my children get to eat the chips!”
I wanted to tell my mother, chips doesn’t equal an ona sadya. I couldn’t tell her that, because at that moment, my mother was revelling in the thought that she is providing the best for her children, even with the absence of my father.
In the night I over heard Akkachi asking Amma
“Chechy, can I go to the temple in the morning?”
“ofcourse you can”
I ran all the way to the kitchen
“May I go with Akkachi to the temple?”
I regretted the moment the words came out of my mouth. Now I am to hear the thing about us being suriani kristiani and how we shouldn’t accompany the servant to a temple. I looked at my mother expecting to hear the insults.
But she didn’t. She just grunted” hmm”
I continued looking at her, waiting for her outburst.
I saw Amma taking some chips from the packet and going out of the kitchen.
I turned around and looked at Akkachi
“Did you see that? Amma told me I could go to the temple with you. Which temple are you going to tomorrow Akkachi?”
“Nina, are you sure you want to get up early in the morning and walk all the way to the temple with me?”
“Ofcourse I do. Are you going to the Thirunakkara temple?”
“Akkachi,don’t forget to wake me up in the morning”
“Ok, I will, Now go and sleep. You have to get up early in the morning”
“Nina wake up” Akkachi was trying to shake me and wake me up.
I got up, sleepily but excited, because today is Thiruvonam(first day of Onam) and I can go to the temple with Akkachi.
“Here, something for you”
Akkachi placed something in my hand and in the darkness I couldn’t really see what it was. I felt around the thing in my hand. It was a coin.
“What is this for Akkachi?”
“It is kaineettam for you Nina”
“Really? Can I use this money?”
“Ofcourse you can”
“Will I be able to buy a coconut with this money?”
“Oh Nina” Akkachi hugged me. “Nina, I know you want to celebrate onam with a sadya. But we won’t get a coconut for 25 paise. This is all the money I have”
“Never mind Akkachi”
“Go and take your shower, there is hot water in the bucket”
“Shower in the morning? Why?”
“aiyyedi you thought you can go to the temple without having your shower ah?
“How will the bhagavan know if I took my shower or not?” I asked her
“Bhagavan may not know, But I know and you are not following me, without taking your shower”
“You know something Akkachi, it is really difficult to live with you. I pity the guy who will have to live with you for the rest of his life.”
“You don’t have to worry about him, That is my job to worry about him, now go and have your shower, or I am going without you”
“Ok, ok. Don’t go without me, I will have my shower”
The water was warm and it really felt good to have my shower in the early morning. I wore my green long skirt with golden border and the matching blouse. The skirt was atleast 2 inches above my ankle. I was relieved that, my classmates won’t see me now. If they did, they would surely ask”Why Nina, is there a flood? Is that why you tie your skirt so high”
Akkachi knocked at the bathroom door and spoke “Kochumaharani, have you finished your neerattam(royal bath)?”
“I am just wearing my dress, Akkachi, I will come out in a minute”
Akkachi was waiting by the door with a comb in her hand.
“Hurry Nina, we have to go now”. She quickly combed my hair. We closed the door gently behind us. Amma and my sisters were still sleeping.
It was still dark, the sky was turning grey to blue slowly. Children were busy singing and decorating Athapoo in the courtyards of the houses. There was joy and happiness everywhere. Everyone was ready to invite King Mahabeli for his annual visit.
Akkachi and I walked past the bus stand and the row of shops near the stand. We reached a huge stone monolith and Akkachi looked at the stone and said
“athmavinu shanthi undavatte”(may your soul find peace)
“Why did you say that to the stone Akkachi?”
“Nina, this stone was actually a woman many years ago. She was cursed and she became a stone”
“Who is she? and Who cursed her?”
“I don’t know”
“Then why do you wish her peace ?”
“I don’t lose anything by wishing her, Nina. Every woman deserve peace Nina.”
We walked up the steps to the temple sanctum. I removed my slippers and went inside with Akkachi. There was a huge oil lamp and the diety looked beautiful under the light.People were walking around slowly muttering their prayers. I walked behind Akkachi, as she walked around the outer temple three times. I remembered Upadeshi Appachan and how he scolded Ammachi and me for going to the temple to watch Kathakali. I wondered what he would say, now that I am already inside the temple. I stood with Akkachi again in the main sanctum and the poojari came out with a lamp and and everyone touched the top of the flame and brought their hands to their eyes. I did too, but I wasn’t sure what I was doing that for. Then the Pujari brought some water and I extended my hand and he poured some water in to my hand. I drank that. Pujari gave everyone some flowers that were placed in the brass plate. With the flowers in her hand, Akkachi closed her eyes again and prayed. I realized then that I haven’t prayed. I was only watching till now.
I remembered the 10 commandments. ‘Worship no other god but me’. I looked at the diety again. He still looked beautiful and peaceful. I didn’t have a huge lists of wants. I only wanted one thing. I wanted my father back. I felt I am a suriani Kristiani in a Brahmin’s body. All I wanted was a simple request. I just couldn’t pray. I walked out of the temple with Akkachi. I stood outside to wear my slippers and I could still see the diety and the brass lamp. I was outside the temple and now I felt I am not breaking the commandments. I slowly prayed
“Please bring me back my father” I walked quickly away from the temple, hoping that Jesus won’t punish me for praying to a diety.
I found this link for the Thirunakkara temple.
To those of you, who hasn’t heard about the onam festival, more can be read here.
Does anyone know if that huge rock is still there infront of the Thirunakkara temple?