“Akkachi do you hate your mother?”
“No Nina, why do you ask that?”
I tried to think why I asked her that question
“Aren’t you upset that, you are working in my house as a maid,when you should be living in a palace as a true princess?”
“That is my destiny Nina.” She bend down and pointed the hair partition on her head. “See this line, God draws a line on your head when you are born and your destiny is fixed. You can’t do anything to change that!”
” Do I have a line on my head Akkachi?” I bend down and showed her my head.
“Of course you do!”
“What does my line say Akkachi”. She ran her fingers on my head lovingly
“hmm let me think.” Akkachi closed her eyes as though she is meditating.
I waited for her answer patiently, hoping that my destiny is going to be good
“Your destiny is going to be..”
“Going to be what?”
“Aiyyo Nina, See you disturbed my trance. Now I lost my concentration. I can’t do it again.”
“Sorry Akkachi, Will you please try again and see what my destiny is?”
“Not today, may be someother day”
“Will I get married to a handsome guy?”
“Aiyyeda you are only 11 and you are thinking of marriage already? Why Kochumaharani? Have you found someone already?”
“Go Akkachi, I didn’t find anyone. I am not that bad”.
“Hmm we will see”
Akkachi got up to switch on the iron. I helped her to hang the clothes in the hanger. I thought about Akkachi’s father
“Akkachi, have you ever seen your father?”
“When I was little, I did. He came to see us every few weeks. He loved my mother and me so much. He would bring clothes for me. Sometimes he would bring uniappam and payasam!. I still remember how one day he brought the palace teacher with him.”
“Why did he bring the palace teacher?”
“To start my vidyarambham* The teacher is supposed to make me sit on his lap and then do the ceremony. He refused to do that”.
“Because I am untouchable”
“Then what happend?”
“My father offered him a gold coin as payment. He agreed to do the ceremony. But he still refused to enter our house. So my father had to make me sit on his lap and sit on the door step. The teacher told me to open my mouth and stick my tongue out. He warned me not to close my mouth till he finished writing. He wrote on my tongue using the gold coin “hari sree ganapatheya nama” without touching the sides of my mouth. Then my father held my hand and made me write the hari sree ganapatheya nama on a plate of rice.
“Did the teacher take the gold coin?”
“Ofcourse he did. He washed it and placed it in his pouch”
I tried to understand the concept of clean and unclean. The teacher didn’t want to touch Akkachi, because Akkachi is born to a low caste woman, but the gold coin that touched Akkachi’s tongue is clean after washing it.
“Then what happend?”
” My father got married to a princess from another royal family.”
“How could he Akkachi? If he loved your mother, how could he get married to another person? Why did your mother not object?”
“Nina, my mother loved him knowing that she could never marry him. Love is like that.”
“One day you will understand Nina.”
I didn’t understand. Why would you love someone, if you know you can never marry him? That was a silly thing to do.
“Then what happend Akkachi?”
“Don’t know Nina, he never came to visit us after that.”
“Did your mother ever go and find him? Is he alive still? Don’t you want to see him Akkachi?”
” No Nina. He belongs to another family.”
“But he is still your father”
I saw tears welling up in Akkachi’s eyes.
“I am sorry Akkachi, I didn’t want to make you cry. Please forgive me. You have me Akkachi. I love you more than anything else. Please don’t cry Akkachi”. I pleaded and begged.
I gave her a tight hug.
Akkachi wiped the tears off from her face using her blouse sleeves.
“You know something Nina, I haven’t had payasam for a long time, Come let us make some payasam.”
“What are you going to tell Amma, when she asks you why you made payasam?”
“Hmm, that is going to be a problem”. Akkachi responded
I desperately wanted Akkachi to have some payasam. I thought of all the possible excuses. We make payasam to celebrate festivals, weddings and birthdays. I knew suddenly how I can help Akkachi
“Birthday Akkachi, tell Amma today is your birthday”
“But my birthday is in November!”
“Does Amma know that?”
“Then I, Methran Thampi’s grand daughter decalre that today is your birthday.” I stretched my hand across and proclaimed like a queen.” Now don’t just stand there, come along, let us make some palpayasam“.
I dragged Akkachi’s hand and went to the kitchen.
*vidyarambham: Traditionally children between the age of 3 and 7 are introduced to formal learning on an auspicious day, where the priest/learned scholar will write on the tongue of the child”hari sree ganapatheya nama”, followed by the child writing the same on a plate of rice.