'Don't you ever go there. Next time I see you there or hear that you been near that place, I will tie you to the mango tree and give you such a trashing that you will never forget it' He roared.
I squirmed in his grip trying my best to get away. I knew that my father will never beat me. His bark has always been worse than his bite but his loud voice had the desired effect. I cried.
Amma , who was watching the whole scene from behind the door , came running and tore me away from Achan and held me. She turned to my father, standing there, suddenly looking very awkward and looked at him accusingly.
' I don't want her anywhere near that Illum' He muttered, 'Ammukutti , you know what people say about that place. Its not safe.'
' Shes just a child ' Amma countered,' what does she know about all this?'
I sobbed a little harder for effect. Inwardly I cursed Kellu for snitching about my visit to Madan Tharavadu to Chellammma, our cook, who in turn whispered it to Amma with great drama and extra spices and Amma dutifully mentioned it to Achan. All hell broke loose after that.
Madan Tharavadu was just a furlong away from our tharavadu. It was a derelict place. The illum itself has been abandoned and seen many rainy seasons. All that remained now of a once prosperous household was a few walls and the beams of the roofs with very few terracotta tiles remaining. The courtyard was over run with Communist Pacha and was supposedly teeming with cobras. Creepers with big leaves covered the walls . It was very dark there, even during summer afternoons. The surrounding trees blocked all sunlight. To my nine year old self, this was heaven.
Donned in my white petticoat , I used to play with my neighbourhood kids. Athu was my favourite of the lot.He was a skinny kid, younger than me, with a unruly hat of hair, which used to stand in tufts defying his mother's attempt to tame it by applying vast quantity of oil on it.As a result, he used to be dripping in oil, streaking down his face, which mingled with his sweat when we played - his hair still stood in tufts.
Madan thravadu was more attractive to me because it was a restricted place to be in. Stories were galore in our village about its history. Some said that the Illum was haunted and that it carried a curse. Ever since I was four, Ammommma , my grandmother, used to tell me stories about Madan Tharavadu, as she patted me to sleep.
I used to drift off to sleep with the wonderful spicy rich smell of her paan breath engulfing me, my hands stroking the papery skin of her hands while she told me stories about Madan Tharavadu and Maya Anthurjanam.