Govindan and Nachimuthu were my classmates in the fifth standard in Olavakkode Padathu elementary school. Govindan was hotelier Krishnan Nair’s son and Nachimuthu’s father was a scavenger in the railway station of our town. They were best friends. Govindan was tall and fair skinned and Nachi equally tall but dark complexioned. Nachi used to come to school extremely well dressed and with neatly combed hair, every day. None of others bothered about hair or wear, excluding a few girls. Nachi’s parents, probably, in their anxiety that their son should not feel social inferiority, spent extra money and time to dress him up well.

The school was in the middle of lush green paddy fields and hence the name ‘Padathu’. From the main road, there was a foot path to approach the school, crisscrossed by farmers their animals and at times even snakes . It gave us immense joy to cross the paddy fields especially during the seasons of seed sowing to harvesting when groups of men and women would be working on the fields, to our right and left. Watching life evolving from the stage of seedlings to fully grown plants, carrying heavy loads of yield, ready to be harvested was a unique experience.

During one lunch interval, Govindan made a comment deridingly about his friend’s dress, in a casual manner, which Nachi could not take sportively. He gave his friend a strong punch pushing Govindan flat on the ground.

We all laughed. Govindan got offended.

‘Eda, panni – you, pig,’ yelled Govi, regaining his standing position and thrashed his friend.

‘Eda, madaya, you, fool,’ screamed Nachi and kicked Govi.

Both the boys rolled and rolled on the ground till the bell for reassembling rang. Then, they both stopped fighting and got up, shirking off the mud from their clothes.

Govindan walked ahead a few yards towards the classroom, then returned. He looked at Nachi’s dress sympathetically and noticed some mud still sticking to the shirt. He removed that, by his little hands, looked down and cleared the dust on the nicker too. When he extended his hands to clear some grass blades hanging from Nachi’s head, he said, ‘jnaan nearae akkikkolam-nee nadanno- I will make it alright, you don’t worry’

( Picture from the net )image

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