I sat up in the bed and leaned against the head board.
'Ammomma,' I asked, ' Was Vishnu Namboodri a bad man?'
Ammomma was silent for sometime. I thought she had not heard me.
'No kutti,' she answered, still looking at the full moon that shined silver through the silhouette of the coconut trees; ' Vishnu Naboodri was the result of those days. He was loved in this village for many of his qualities. He was a generous man. He was also feared for his temper but he acted much like any other father would have done.'
She lapsed into her silence. The only sound being the chewing of her paan.
' You think Achan will let me marry Athu?' I asked apprehensively
Ammomma turned to me; her lips curved into a smile , she took me in her arms. I snuggled into her vast bosom.
She released me to spit into the copper spitoon which was kept under the bed.
' I promise not to kick Athu in the chest' Ammommma said, laughing, which shook her big pendulous breasts, as she lay down beside me.
I curled closer to her, taking in her spicy smell.
' If the Namboodri was bad, then all of us were bad, kutti' She whispered almost to herself.
I kept silent. Waiting for her to continue. She didn't.
I heard her breathing growing heavy after sometime. I lay awake listening to her soft snores.
' I saw Maya Anthurjanam today' I said softly.
Ammomma snored on. I waited for some kind of response. Anything.
At the near drowsiness in the advent of sleep, I thought I heard Ammomma.
In the months that followed , my visits to Madan Tharavadu became a routine. I never mentioned those trips to anybody. It was to remain my little secret.
I sighted Maya Anthurjanam more often in these trip. I found out that she seemed to have a routine. She spend most of her time in the vicinity of the thravad temple beneath the large banyan tree. She apparently always ate the food she got from the temple in the remnants of her room.That seemed to be the only meal she took.I always saw the fresh banana leaf on top of the decaying pile of previously used leaves. She also slept in the same room , the same place, on top of the pathayam. She bathed everyday evening at the pond. She wore the same tattered mundu.
If she saw me, she never gave any signs. In the beginning I started attributing it to blindness. I tested my assumption by moving her clothes from the steps and placing it on the parapet while she was taking a bath, one evening,at the pond
I watched the result of my experiment through the gap in the enclosure door. I saw her step naked onto the steps and climb the stairs to reach her cloths. Water dripped from her grey locks of hair. She seemed oblivious to her nakedness.
She could see.
But there was no emotion in that sight. No annoyance. No recognition. Just an acceptance of everything.
That evening I stood by the door while she dressed and walked out , passing me.
She just walked past.
So that's how it remained.
I always kept a distance from Maya Anthurjanam. Since I knew her whereabouts, I always seek ed her out when I visited the tharavad. I found her proximity comforting . I did try to leave things for her , like food and clothes; but always found it remaining in the same place, untouched, the next day. Eventually I stopped trying to befriend her. I just let her be and she never did acknowledge me.
It seemed inevitable that soon I was spending more of my free time in the silent company of Maya Anthurjanam than with my friends. To avoid their suspicious queries, I started spending a token period with them and then excusing myself in the pretext of going back home. The boys didn't seem to mind my absence, even though I did note a wary look in Athu's eyes. I avoided looking at him when I went away.
It was October. Thula varsham had started. The time of torrential rains , fearful thunder and lightening. I was not to know then but my clandestine tryst with Maya Anthurjanam and her cursed tharavad was soon coming to an end.
Kutti : child