Soldier to King

After lunch I went and sat down on the parapet wall. From where I sat, I could see the paddy fields stretching as far as my eyes could see. There should have been paddy planted in the fields. It is late Nov, but most of the fields looked barren.
I heard footsteps and turned to see Ammachi walking towards me. I was shocked to see Ammachi holding the walls for support.
This woman, who once chased me all around the fields with a stick in her hand(because Suriani Kristiani girls are not supposed to climb trees!!), was now struggling to walk. I looked at her legs. I couldn’t see anything because she was wearing mundu(sarong)
“What happend to your legs Ammachi? Why are you walking like that?”
“my legs are hurting me Nina”
“Where? Why?” I asked
“How do I know? You are supposed to know that. You are a doctor”
I wanted to laugh, me doctor? only I know the truth.
“Show me your leg” I ordered like a real doctor
Ammachi sat down next to me on the parapet wall. she couldn’t even lift her legs and keep them on the parapet wall. I got up, lifted her legs and placed them on the parapet wall. I checked her knees. They looked deformed.
“Where does it hurt Ammachi?”
“Oh Nina, I can’t even get up from the bed in the morning . My knees hurt each time I move my leg”
I looked at her leg, I knew there is something wrong with her knee, but my medical knowledge was limitted to the names of the cranial nerves. I wanted to take the pain away from her knees. I desperately wanted to.
“Wait here. I will come now” I went to the kitchen. I know where Ammachi keeps all the thailam(herbal medicines). I picked up one bottle, opened it and smelled it. It smelled good. I have seen Chakki warming up the medicine before using it. I looked around, couldn’t find any pots, so I used Ammachi’s wok.
“What are you doing there Nina? Are you burning my house down?” I heard Ammachi shouting from the vernada, She must have smelled the smoke coming from the stove. I still haven’t learned the art of lighting a wood fire.
“What is your problem old woman? Can’t you trust me? I am not burning your house down. I am making something for you!”
Parumala thirumeni kakkane” (Patron of Jacobites, protect us) Ammachi prayed loud.
When the medicine was sufficinetly hot, I used some old news paper and carried the wok to the veranda.
“What is that?” Ammachi pointed to the wok
Chekuthaney(you imp!), My mother gave me that wok when I got married”
“So?” I asked her tying to figure out why is she so mad
“So? You are asking me so, after you destroyed it?” Ammachi was screaming
I looked at the wok. It looked fine to me. I looked at her again.
“What are you trying to say, How did I spoil your wok? Have you gone mad or what?”
“I will show you” I watched Ammachi struggling to get her legs off the parapet wall. I knew, if this happend 2 years ago, by now I would be running around the fields holding on to my dear life with her chasing me.
I started to laugh.
“hmm” She grunted and looked away.
“Thangamma, my darling Thangamma, why are you fighting with me?”
She didn’t even bother to look at me.
I kept the wok on the floor and walked towards her
I touched her forehead and she pushed my hands away
“Thangamma, you look really beautiful when you are angry”
I could see a tiny smile coming from the corner of her mouth.
“You look even more beautiful, when you try to hide the beautiful smile”
podi(get lost)” Ammachi was grinning. “Oh Nina, how could you heat the medicine in the wok, I use for cooking?”
“Why not?”
“Oh Nina, I can’t use that wok for cooking anymore, if I cook anything in that, the food will smell like medicine!”
“Oh! never mind,We will buy a new wok”
“ofcourse, go and bring the machine out”
“Which machine?”
“Shhh! Don’t shout. Others will hear! The machine.. you know the one that prints money, it is there under my bed” Ammachi spoke with such a straight face that for a second I really thought she has a money printing machine.
“Go Ammachi. I am not talking to you” I picked up the wok, sat on the parapet wall and started to massage Ammachi’s knees
Ammachi leaned on the pillar and I asked her
“Why there is no paddy in the field this time?”
“can’t what Ammachi?”
“It is not possible to grow paddy anymore Nina”
“Why Ammachi?”
“She turned her head and pointed to the field on the far right corner
“See the field there, they are making bricks, they are draining all the water from our fields, so paddy won’t grow”
“How can they do that Ammachi?”
“They can Nina, there are no laws preventing people from making bricks from the paddy fields. Chandy owns that plot, He earned some money working in Dubai and now trying to be the new janmi (land lord). The other day he came and offered money to buy our field. He said he will pay 50,000 Rs for the whole field.”
“How much is it worth?” 1 asked her
“When we had paddy, it was worth around 2 lakhs”
“And he wants to pay 50000 rs?”
“Hmm, He is slowly choking everyone around here Nina. What is the point of keeping a paddy field when you can’t grow any paddy? He has already bought Chakochan’s field”
“Are you going to sell it Ammachi?”
“No Nina, I didn’t struggle all these years to sell it to one neerkkoli(water snake)”
“So what are you going to do?”
“Nothing much. Believe me, it will still be there when you come back after you finish medicine”
“I don’t want to do medicine anymore Ammachi”
“Why is that?”
“I don’t want to do Ammachi. I want to stay here and help you in the farm”
“Why here?”
“Why not? This is my home”
“No Nina, this isn’t your home”
“huh?” I looked at her stunned
“This is your father’s home. When your grandfather died, his father wrote in the will that, your father is the owner of all these land and I am only allowed to take care of the property, as a caretaker. I don’t own a single cent of this land Nina”
“So, your father can give this land to anyone”
“But I am his daughter Ammachi”
“Ofcourse you are. But when you stay here, you will be a liability to him and he will throw you out. Where will you go then?”
“He won’t throw me out Ammachi. I am his flesh and blood”
“You are wrong Nina, he came from me. I know him. You have to go back and study. You need to be able to stand on your own feet Nina”
“I can’t Ammachi”
Ammachi looked at me.
“Nina, you know what my mother used to say?”
“When I was little I was afraid of storms. The howling sound of wind, the roaring of thunder, the non stop rain and the havoc it creats made me extremely fearful of storms. One day my mother told me, instead of waiting anxiously for the storm to come, why don’t you accept the fact that, you can’t stop the storm, but you can rebuild everything that the storm destroyed.”
“Some storms can destroy you Ammachi”
“Only if you allow it to”
“What do you mean?”
“Nina, A soldier in the army never wins the war, even if the side he fought won. The king wins the war, even when he doesn’t fight the actual war. Soldier faces the arrows in the battlefield, while the king stays in his palace. You need to learn to fight the war like a king, not like a soldier.”
“How do I do that?”
“Go back to your college, study, become a doctor. That is your destiny, stop running away like an injured soldier.”

15 thoughts on “Soldier to King

  1. I wish I had someone like your ammachi to boost my morale and give me encouragement..

    So nice to know that you did become a doctor afterall all the hardship.

  2. wow!how does your Ammachi always knows just the right thing to say, at just the right time? 🙂
    i dropped in to this blog througha link another blog, n ve been hooked since. been reading up all your previous posts, starting from when u began ur story, n i finally managed to bring myself upto date yesterday!:)
    must say, its addictive, ur story. u write well, n it’s genuine, that u dont ve a choice, but to get hooked.

  3. Shhh! Don’t shout. Others will hear! The machine.. you know the one that prints money, it is there under my bed” Ammachi spoke with such a straight face that for a second I really thought she has a money printing machine.

    LOL… Love your Ammachi’s sense of humour. And your ability to remember and share these memories.

    Thanks Sara !


  4. Madhavankutty:!

    Sujit: Yeah.. She knew how to support me

    mjey: U know I never had a chance to tell her, how much she meant to me.. that I am what I am because of her!..

    Suma” Nina fought..very well

    Alex: It did..

    techno: She was the anchor..that saved me from each and every storm

    Perspective: Thank you

    moontalk: thank you for visitig my blog

    Vidya: She was suffering.. and I didn’t do anything

    Sumitha: And I wasn’t there for her, when she needed me the most

    Chandu: The wisdom of our elders!!!

    Hillgrandmom: She was.. the most incredible person I have ever known..

    Rajesh: I try that same dialogue with my children when they ask me for something..(Albiet in english) and it has no effect.. they shake their head and say “yeah right.. whatever”

  5. there is so much truth.we all need to learn from people like ammachi.just wish there were more wiser people around for such knowledge.

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