'I think the whole of the village heard your screams last night' I laughingly told Athu. We were on the way to the Government School where we studied.
Athu looked up at me and then continued looking at his feet as we walked through the dusty path to the school. He was sulking. He blamed me for his beatings.
'How many did you get?' I asked.
'Ten.' He answered, barely audible.
'With the stick?' I tried to show interest. Athu's mother normally beats him with whatever comes in her hand. Off late she has started keeping a cane specifically dedicated to beat Athu. The cane was long and yellow and was kept tucked into the tatch of the roof inside.
'Where?' I asked.
'On my bum' He replied, his left hand stroked it in memory.
'I got beaten too' I lied. I thought that would make him cheer up a little bit.
Athu looked at me , interested.
'I got hit on the hand. Achan never hits me anywhere else.' I knew that if I had said that I got hit on my behind, Athu would have asked me to show the marks. He knew that I have on occasions stretched the truth a little bit.
Athu just nodded.
'Hey Athu, Mashi chedi!' I said excitedly.
'Where?' Athu asked.
There was a clump of mashi chedi growing on the side of the path. We plucked the succulent stems out. Next to a water soaked handkerchief, mashi chedi stems were the best thing to wipe our slates clean.
We picked up our slates and slate pencils , which we had thrown aside. With a pocket full of Mashi chedi stems, we continued towards the school.
'I hope Kellu gets bitten by a snake.' Athu said.
'I hope he gets bitten by a cobra' I countered.
Athu laughed. We heard the distant ringing of the school bell and saw Basheer, Bala and others running to the school.
'Come on' I cried and started running to join the others.
In the evening, we all walked back to our homes through Madhavan's parambu which was filled with cashew trees. The pungent, rich smell of over ripe cashew apples filled the air. We picked up red cashew apple that had fallen on the ground. Basheer was busy plucking out the nuts from the fruits, which we planned to roast. Athu was on top of one tree reliving himself . A yellow arc of his piss splashed on the dry cashew leaves. Bala was throwing the cashew apples at Athu.
I sat on a low branch , munching on a cashew apple. The juice had spilled onto the front of my white shirt creating a yellow stain for which Iam sure of getting a shouting from Amma.
My thoughts were about Maya Aanthurjanam. I was sure of having seen her. I did not tell anyone about it. Not even to Athu.
Maya Aanthurjanam was old. She would have been younger than Ammomma but was old never the less. She had seemed like a shadow. Very frail. What I had noticed was how she was watching us. There was nothing behind that look ,apart from watching.
A shadow. I wondered if that was what madness was about. Seeing but not registering. Being but aloof. Alive but dead within.
In the distance I saw Madhavan coming towards us at a fast pace. I whistled the warning ,jumped down from the branch, picked up the pile of slates and pencils and ran towards the boys, who were already running out of the estate.
Parambu : property/estate/field