The dawn broke over the hills auspiciously on the day I left for US.  Ammalu’s   prayer before  hitting her bed  the previous night, was not in vain. ‘Nalekku kannai thorkkarathe nallatu kananame, Krishna!” –“Only auspicious things should I see when I open my eyes, tomorrow”.

When I opened the front door to welcome the heavenly glory slowly emerging from behind the eastern hill,  Ammini amma, my former colleague and wife of my friend Gopalan Nair,  staying in the opposite house, was waiting at the front gate with a bucket- full of water and a broomstick.  With wide-opened eyes I looked at her wondering  why she should  clean our frontage and before I could ask for the clarification, she started sweeping and cleaning turning her back at  me. Instantly,  from nowhere, Saniyan (that was the name given by Ammalu to my neighbor’s pet dog; actual name Sawny), came running wagging its tail, made a right turn, rested its huge body on the gate, lifted a leg and standing authoritatively  showing its  back towards me, emptied its bowl  exactly on the black granite slab laid for the purpose of drawing the kolam.

Ammalu, wiping her eyes came out of the bed room and was shocked at the awry sight in front of the house.

‘Krishna!’ she lamented to her  God, “did you wake me up to see the back of Ammani and saniayan, early in the morning?”

“What is there for you to see?” she directed her anger towards me,” Why don’t you get inside and attend to your routine?”

Gopalan Nair retired as a professor. The movies showing  American professors entering the campus with an umbrella in their hand prompted Nair to carry one with him, even while going for a morning walk. The stick is  a necessity for him as a support but his entry into our house, holding an umbrella and stick, early morning, annoyed Ammalu.

“Kodai, vadi, choolu-ini ethavathu bakki irukko-umbrella, stick, broomstick( all inauspicious objects) anything  left?”  Ammalu’s  anger was  understandable.

“Ammiarea, kappi ready ayo-is coffee ready?’” I could hear Nair’s  inquiry and Ammalu also would have heard it. Otherwise she would not have replied in a low voice, ” Kappi on mottai thalele kottaren- I want to pour coffee on your bald head”

“‘Ammalu, one cup for me too” demanded Ammini who joined us, with another bucket of water and broom stick, as the dog’s menace could not be wiped off with one bucket of water .

“Nee enthikkidi Ammini. Chumma chumma choolem morathem thookikindu kalam karthale ullevarai?”

So early in the morning why do you come so often with inauspicious broomstick ? “ Enquired Ammalu, in a pathetic voice .

“‘So what Ammalu?” ‘ I admonished her, ‘you still believe in such stupid things? As a good neighbor and friend she wants to help you as the maid servant has taken off today”

‘Mannan katta-rubbish” her husband came out with the truth. ‘Ammini wants to give you some materials to be handed over to her daughters in US. She is preparing the ground for that”

‘She has already done so” I interjected  pointing my finger to the corner where baggage was arranged, “that black suit case is full of her things”

Nair wanted to say something but paused as the panthalu from the temple was entering with a broken coconut and some flowers. ‘Meeru America veluthunaru katha, prasadam theeskkondi” . I requested him to keep the prasadam in the pooja room .

“Oru ottappattarum vandaya?’ -And you, a single Brahmin too  arrived to complete the list of  inauspicious things?).

Panthalu would not have understood a word of Ammalu’s contempt.

But I understood clearly that Ammalu had a point when Nair explained why Ammini was showing unusual interest in the cleanliness of our frontage.

“Sami, this woman is mad!” That is OK. All husbands say that. But what he said subsequently was not  OK.

“She wants to send through you, three  portable granite grinders with pestles to be delivered to our daughters in America. Those are for powdering chukku, dried ginger, for preparing chukka vellam, medicated hot water for drinking”

Sakunam (signs and signals)  is showing its teeth well in advance!

Ammalu is always right.

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