Monday, September 16, 2013

A STRANGER ...... - 7

Srimate ramanujaya nama:

Priya arangan adiyar,

Click for previous parts of 
 "A Stranger"

Summons for lunch arrived from beneath and the few children in my vicinity got up and moved, each of them disappearing slowly from my sight. I asked kutti payyan why he hadn’t got up for lunch. He was still absorbed in the Namazhwar portrait and was adding some green colour to the tree behind him. On my prompting he still sat undecided whether to desert the drawing and pay heed to my words or continue, ignoring my words. Good sense prevailed and he delicately placed the drawing in one of his divyaprabanda books and turned his eyes on me with a mischievous twinkle. Satisfied with its safety, we got down.

All the children had settled with their plates and tumblers. A big banana leaf was spread out for me and I was directed to occupy it. Kutti payyan somehow maneuvered through the plates and tumblers and settled beside me. I was very glad to see the shy boy take a liking for me. The children chanted some shlokas with great dedication and began the supper.My poor experience with the banana leaf showed up when I tried to chase the running liquids and stop their progress into the floor. I built fortresses out of the rice, pulled out soldiers from the vegetables and stew and stationed them at strategic positions so that the liquids didn’t escape from the leaf. The children laughed heartily at my antics and I too joined them. Kutti payyan seemed to take the laughs to his heart and sneered at his fellow comrades. My laughs at my self softened his attitude.

Post lunch, I was determined to go out and search book shops and do some shopping of traditional utensils and utilities. But the sleep deficit at night and the energy bouts of the morning played spoilsport with my plans. I wished to sleep and sleep. The children quickly sensed my condition and instantly diagnosed me with utter tiredness. The red eyes, worn out face, drooping eyelids were a few symptoms they noticed. I was led to the first floor by none other than kutti payyan and promptly given two paracetamols namely a sleeping-mat and a pillow. I instantly appreciated the quickness of the treatment and fell into a long slumber only broken by my own musical snoring.

I woke up to the sound of Veda mantras and saw a tutor and the children sitting at a corner and practicing the vedic chants. My tongue longed for something liquid and hot and I went down with the intention to seek something from the kitchen. The very amicable person in the kitchen sensed my need and poured me a cup of hot milk. I was ok with anything so long as it was hot. My tastes are narrow at mornings and mellow down by evenings and turn accommodative to anything offered. I asked him what the children had for the evening and he said “ Sundal and Kanji”. I was offered some sundal and I readily sent them down the throat.

The Vedic chants ceased and I saw the figure of the tutor descend the stairs and out of the gate. Quickly following his footsteps was the kutti payyan’s. He anxiously looked out for me and having found me standing outside the first room, relaxed and passed me without a word but brushed his angavastram against my body. He rushed to the bathroom and brought out a bucket half filled with clothes. From this he took out one garment after the other and smashed them on the washing stone till the very life in them was squeezed out. He then filled another bucket with clean water and dumped the battered dresses in it. Pulling out one by one, he mustered energy and made another squeeze with his hands. Satisfied with the pale colour it assumed, he hung them in a row on the nylon rope that stuck to the walls. All my advances to help in this work were refused with severe head shakes. He was determined not to share these personal works. Once done, he asked me to follow him. We were again in the first floor and he drew me close to his shelf. He pulled out a plain white sheet and handing it to me asked me to draw something for him. I could not swallow. He was a far superior artist than me. 
When my drawing for my child in his 2nd grade fetched for him nothing in the competition but scoldings from teachers and ridicule from students, I was determined never to put pencil to paper again. My boy too vowed never to ask my help in drawing. But Kutti Payyans expectant eyes and anticipation could now be crushed. I decided to draw. But what could I draw? I decided to draw what I saw. I drew him.


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