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The thump of lazy feet’s, slow and steadily the climb up the gray flat tiled steps with a rhythm to the ears. A last ounce of energy drains to push through the crowd and reach the counter, a heavy breath of success released with a glint in the eyes. The better one gains the attention of the one behind the counter while the others are pushed around and left behind in a struggle. A ecstasy when one takes the first bite, without it being shoved up the nose by a elbow or spilled on the head of a companion or an enemy
My neighbour’s living room
Maybe it is the bean bag we can sink into and slouch on or maybe it is the mud pot that is always filled with breeze cool water, I just like it and grew fonder of it as every weekend I went there passed. After a hectic week of work for my dad and my neighbours, they gather here to play cards and to drink to an amazing life they lead. A game of cards is a remedy to the stress and relaxes their minds to go through another week. After I joined them I realized that they have a point and now this weekend game is what gets me through my week.
It was at the end of May before college starts on a Saturday night my father took me there after dinner. We sat there Soumya and Krishnaraj one couple; Prasanth and Anu another couple; Shibu uncle, married but Sumi aunty, his wife didn’t join and doesn’t come often; dad and me around the table playing a card game called ‘Donkey’. Before my dad took me he told me he wouldn’t take me there again after college begins. My thoughts were that I would find a group like the group in high school and enjoy the amazing college life that I have heard about so much from my mother, my cousins, and my dad. We played till late 1 the next morning. The rules of the game is that if you lose you get the first letter ‘D’ and then as you lose more and more you become a ‘DONKEY’ and you keep one more joker card on your ear as you go on losing. You lose if you are the last person who is left with cards. The lively jokes, teases that go around the table and the pranks pulled upon each other gives the atmosphere, which I got so attached to.
College started, one week passed and then another and then a month. I kept on hoping but nothing seemed to change, those people I found in my high school, I couldn’t find them here. College life that I have heard about so much came to a dead end in my life, I couldn’t find that happiness I was seeking. I turned into a machine that went to college and returned home. The only thing that was interesting was the course, everything else was good, but maybe because of too much attachment to my old high school friends, it was hard to accept the new people. After a month I pleaded my dad to take me back there on a Saturday and then it continued and I took a permanent membership that is I go there if my dad is there. If my dad leaves to the native place my mom won’t let me go and that is like a weekend spoiled. The only thing that kept me going and I looked forward to, become these weekends. It became a hole through which I could squeeze into the other path in my life that had reached a dead end. We would even play the next afternoon after lunch till dinner in the night.
But the weekends pass off too soon and at times one of the families would travel to Kerala on the weekends because of which I would sometimes have to wait for two weeks for another round the table gathering. But what annoyed me the most was that, my mom wouldn’t let me go if my dad is not there. The house is right opposite to us, but I being a girl should not go there because I will be returning so late and someone would kidnap me while I crossed an arm’s length road. Also the kidnapping that my mother foretells would happen while my neighbours are watching me when I cross the road, they only go inside after they have made sure that I have got inside and locked the door safely but apparently that’s not enough for my mother. Which actually makes me wish I am a guy, just for those few minutes, she might have let me go or she couldn’t keep me refrained to the house, because I am a guy. But I let those thoughts go and try to cheer up with the thought that I can go there again next week.
They way they make fun of me is actually what I love about the place. ‘What’s on your ear’ Prasanth would often ask me on Monday morning indicating the joker cards I would have collected the night before and most of the time I have a narrow escape from becoming a ‘DONKEY’, I would have reached up to ‘DONKE’ but somehow I don’t lose again. When he asks me that, right on track I fall for it every single time and bring my hand up to my ear.
Krishnaraj and Prasanth love to pull these pranks on me; they think of me as this small sister who they can play around with, now it has became a sort of ritual for them to make me a fool every week and as the weeks go the ideas become more extreme level nonsense and better developed. The last one they pulled on me, included a street play were the whole colony realized I was fooled and that annoyed me so much. It began as such, I had gone to visit them and I shouldn’t forget to mention they come up with it on the spot and have very good eye coordination or probably can read each other’s mind, but they are good at it and really good actors. So I had gone to see them, they started off with asking whether I fell from his cycle, my dad had informed him about my fall, on getting a positive nod and a sheepish smile, he continued that the brake has come off, and the tires are going the other way round, he asked “Krishna (Krishnaraj), do you mind coming with me, let’s go fix it today evening”. I was holding my breath till then and after hearing it left a breath of relief, since I needed the cycle for the next day. Then since my mother had sent me to call dad for lunch and that was the reason for my visit, I jumped to the question I had in my mind and asked them a simple question “Where’s dad”, since he is at one or the other one’s house during the morning half. To which Prasanth replied “He’s gone off with Shibu to buy fish, they had a quarrel” even though he could have just told me the truth.
Krishnaraj continued “Today morning while we were helping the plumbers, we were pulling out the pipe and Shibu teased your father saying “Chetta (brother), if you put down the cards from your ears, that you collected yesterday, you might be able to help us a bit more nicely”.
I innocently asked “So what’s wrong with that”
Prasanth followed “Even though Shibu just meant it as a joke, your dad took it bit seriously and replied seriously “you just take care of your cards, mind your own business, I know how to take care of my work”.
Knowing my dad quite well, it was something that could have happened, he does have a habit of heating up for unnecessary reasons, later regretting it and being apologetic. Also the tone with which they made the presentation had taken half my belief; and the part that even they know my dad pretty well skipped my mind. But having experiences before, I wasn’t ready to believe them yet “So then what happened”
“Well Shibu didn’t say anything, but his face was dull the rest of the time, you could ask Jose uncle even he was there, or else why should your dad go with him to buy fish, he is trying to fix it and make up for it” said the truthful Mr Krishnaraj. Since we don’t eat fish during those months, he did have a point and ‘Ask Jose uncle’ which I now realize is a strong physiological move one must never fall for, first off they can rest assured I am not going to ask that person and second of all when a third person is mentioned the chances it is true are more according to our mindset but the fact it that it is not true at all.
“Don’t tell mom, we will try to fix it you go home for now” Prasanth requested, so we parted in two ways. I was pretty disappointed learning about the way the events turned out but I thought I will ask dad later in the evening. Also I immediately informed my mom and sister and they did believe it. Dad returned after a while and didn’t say anything to any of us about it. I later learned they had told him about it and asked him to play along. After lunch we were sitting and watching a movie when Prasanth called from outside, he’s the main plot-setter, me and dad went outside to know what has happened. My dad stood at the door while I ran to the gate where I can see the road.
Prasanth said “Suresh (my dad) chetta, please just come and talk to him, after all we are neighbours, and we should not fight over such petty issues”
“I tired, if he can’t accept it, I am not going to go and beg at his feet”, dad gusted out, went inside and sat on the sofa. I was look at the street where Krishnaraj is trying to convince Shibu uncle to calm down and the former just pushed the latter aside and walked off in the other direction. Their acting was amazing, and this is not just my point of view but the entire colony thought that something was wrong.
Prasanth asked me to come forward and speak to him, I walked towards him and very meekly called “Shibu uncle” he turned look at me like I am an annoying mosquito that had arrived at night to disturb his peace of sleep and then turned his head away. I who have an emotional level of a teaspoon couldn’t bear that response and with the last bit of strength was holding back my tears even though my face I am sure looked like that of a drowning man. Prasanth told me to go home. I somehow made it inside the gate and in front of the door before opening it I blinked letting the black thread of my eyelashes to let go of my tear they were holding back. I quickly wiped it off and went inside to the curious glances my mom and sister were giving. I had closed the door behind me and before I could explain to them I heard a commotion outside and shout of “Sunday fool” coming through the door. I, in front and dad behind me rushed to the door and opened it to find Shibu uncle and the rest of the party standing there with gleaming eyes and a heinous laughter passing around. At that moment I cannot explain how annoying relieved I was, relieved that it was a prank but annoyed that they took it along with them so long. They explained that they wouldn’t have revealed it if my face didn’t look like someone died. I defended myself from their accusations by repeating “I wasn’t going to cry”. I couldn’t find any better statements to rebut it other than continuously repeating it. Their shout of ‘Sunday fool’ was heard by the entire colony who laughed along with them, while I stood there sulking.
Later in the evening when I questioned them whether they went to repair the cycle or not they laughed again at my innocence or stupidity, and revealed how they held a wire with the help of which they were able to show that the wheels turned in the opposite direction and the brake came loose. That was two pranks in one day. I went home called my cousin and started plotting against them. Hence the day came to a conclusion with me just sulking in my bedroom, making plots and not meeting them therefore I did not give them a chance to make me a fool for the third time. I haven’t presented my plot yet, but that does not mean I am not going to, I will strike back when they least expect it, till then I am waiting with a very good trap set for them or so I wish.
Mermaid- part 2
The world as she knew it had changed after 600 years. It was upside down and the mutation that had taken over was extraordinary. It was not just she who had gone through changes; the rest of the world had changed with her. Not all were mermaids some had the head of a hippogriff with their faces imprinted upon the head and the lower limbs of a hen while others the body of an eagle while their head remained intact and many more such grotesque figures. The world was under the sea and it was too crowded without a space to move. Her house was shared by many unknown people. At a corner on a raised platform she saw the most horrifying sight of her parents stuffed into a box and doing a performance for the rest of the members. Her mom and dad had their faces but had deformation in the form of a body of a gorilla and a koala respectively.
That triggered her nerves; she closed her eyes and prayed for it all to be a dream. She felt herself rising and falling on something, she left a breath of relief; she was back in her bed. But she opened her eyes to find herself where she had been earlier but now a bit more nearer to the case that held her parents in a wide sofa. Sitting next to her was her biggest rival at school, Welda. Her face was imprinted upon that of rat and her body was that of an octopus. But worse than that was her attire similar to those of Emma’s in Jane Austen’s books. Her eight legs hanged loosely under the dress.
Are you enjoying the show dear? She laughed aloud, her evil laugh reverberation across the walls. “You better learn, they might not be there forever to hold it, they will grow tired, but they’ll still perform until they die”. Her face held anger and then suddenly she gave the girlish smile and continued in that girly accent like that of Umbridge’s in Harry Potter “then you can take their place, till then enjoy”.
Suddenly there was a commotion and her elder brother came running onto the dice,in diapers with legs of a ostrich and with a stone, he probably meant to out run his nemesis to his parents and break the glass. Something went past Naomi’s face and the next moment her brother was struggling inside Welda’s outstretched legs, Naomi realized that Welda can extend her arms as much as she wants, she saw her brother was being choked to death and she could see that he was in his last moments of struggle and she had to rescue him.
She realized what was happening; she was facing it at last, she couldn’t run away anymore, there was no book she could take and start reading. Her brother, an army officer and always a topper, one could guess the result of that, which is what led the distance she held from her parents. The world she knew was forcefully torn away from her after 10th, it was so quick that she couldn’t even say goodbye. This new world with many who would go on ignoring her, they will keep on looking at her like she’s weird but there were people as weird or actually who thought like her, she can never be a part of this world and can never forgive her parents for moving her to this, but it was time she accepted them and moved on, because this is no more a nightmare, it has become a reality.
She took as much might as she could and slapped Welda with her tail, this distracted her and she lost control of arms as some them grew while other shrunk and all these flew around wildly knocking out a few while others dived. Naomi outstretched her wings, for a moment every head turned to see her wings that was a mix of purple and blue while silver strands of lines passed in between, they stood there for a second gaping at her long, wide beautiful wings, then all were knocked off by the wild arms of Welda who was turning from pink to a dark green colour. Naomi closed her wings, dived toward her brother, picked him up, stretched her wings and flew towards the case and broke the glass with the stone in her brother’s arms. Her mother picked up her father and ran toward a road with a signboard that read exit. Just before she closed the door Welda had an outburst and black liquid came out of all the pores of her legs. Naomi saw the entire room choke to death a bit of the liquid entered the other room and she felt it, the burning sensation, everything around her was dimmed, with her last bit of energy she closed the doors to Welda and then she fainted.
Naomi woke up and saw that she was back in the world she despised, used to despise, now she had embraced the fact that this world is going to remain horrible how much ever she sulks about it, so it’s better to enjoy those tiny moments where it’s not so horrible and eventually it will turn out durable.
On the day that she woke for the first time in 600 years she discovered that she had a mermaid’s tail instead of legs and wings instead of hands and then she went 600 years back in head to see what happened.
Naomi was a voracious reader; she would actually sit in the toilet and read for hours which made her parents wonder if there’s anything wrong with her stomach; she would pull the blanket over her head and read the whole night with a torch in her mouth; she would walk on the road and has even once crossed the road reading. She avoided contact with her parents and was constantly bullied at school. After 10 she had changed to a new school, in a new city for her further studies. She despised every moment here, she felt suffocated, different from the rest of the crowd and below all of them. They way the majority of the crowd ignored her presence and few bullied her on the bus ride back home, she couldn’t be blamed, she craved deeper for her books. There was one pretty unique girl like herself, but her clouded eyes couldn’t trust her.
So one of the main reasons she read was because she had a total dislike to the world she lived in and just loved the world in her books, she fantasized day and night about living in a socialized world like that of Jane Austen’s or in a magical world like that of J.K Rowling. She had a few selected books and stuck to those books until she knew each and every word. What she didn’t realize was that, while she read during the nights she had slowly started to disappear from the real world, she became lesser and lesser, until one night she completely vanished. Where did she go?
Naomi entered the worlds that she loved. For the first time she entered Netherfield park, walked with Elizabeth, met the charming Darcy, heard her complaining about him and saw her falling in love with him. No one asked her who she was nor did she know who she was in that world. But she was part of it from the beginning till the end. Felt lovely to live in such a civilized society.
She took the Hogwarts train, stood beside Harry, Hermione, and Ron through all the up’s and down, felt alive and knew for the first time the value of friendship; took a silent revolution against Umbridge and fought the battle of Hogwarts.
She walked down the brick laid paths of Baker Street, discovered things even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself failed to notice, found the truth even before Sherlock Holmes and stood awake all night with Dr. Watson to help him complete his book, so that he would not miss even a single note.
Naomi was beyond happy, she had to just somehow cross through her daily walk through hell, her everyday routine; go to school, despise everyone, curse them, get bullied, do your homework, eat your food and then she sleep or live. Life is not just breathing, it’s enjoying every moment you breathe and the only moment Naomi felt a joy while she took a breath was when she read through the pages lying on her bed. Realizing her power she stepped out of her selected few books and took a chance of reading the rest. She started reading history, science, the bible and so on. Unaware she was changing the time, place and the events of history by interfering. Also her worlds were getting mixed up. Reading so much her world started to turn into nightmares rather than the lucid dreaming she had experienced before.
While she was reading the sleeping beauty, she entered the room full of lost treasures and memories which she recognized as the room of requirement. From deep inside a voice called out to her and the whispers pulled her closer until she reached the skull cave of phantom. The voice became stronger and more powerful. It hissed “Prick the needle” she found the source, it was Kaa, the long yellowish python from jungle book. But the evil spirit called to her and she walked on to the middle of the treasure and from between those treasures she pricked her finger on that golden needle and fell into a deep slumber from which she has woken up now after long period of 600 years. But having read and changed the course of history, what is she going to find now?
The object of my affection
Vanchi, a long, slender boat is used to cross the backwaters and reach the banks of a place once I called home, but now only the ruins of the house remains.
As the sun set I reached the banks of the river. The sun reflected its beauty on the waves of the backwaters by showering it with its golden rays. I could see a few boats with fishermen returning to the banks to go back home with the catch for the day. Some were still halfway across the river, a few still hooking the bait to their fishing rods, few pulling back the fishing nets they had spread in the morning. As I waited by the banks of the backwaters, I heard the delighted voice of a fisherman “ammu”. I smiled upon seeing a similar face.
Keshavan was the ferryman who used to row us across the river when we were young. Now his hair had turned grey; he no more had any teeth; his green veins prominently marked his old age. But yet even now he could row that heavy, wooden boat across the waters. I couldn’t believe he recognised me. It had been almost fifteen years since I have stood at these banks. I could see the happiness etched upon his face. He bowed before me and when he asked me the next question he sounded worried. “Why are you here?” he enquired in our native tongue. I gave him an assuring smile and told him I had just come to visit my old home and enquired whether he could row me to the other side in as much Malayalam as I could manage.
He said “Your family had brought the house down years ago and now it’s just filled with tall weed, it’s too late and there are poisonous snakes in those ruins dear”.
I knew that but yet I wanted to go back there, even if it was just ruins, the memories that were buried in those ruins was the reason I returned to these grounds. I insisted on and on. That’s when with the folded nets laid upon his bare shoulders came a face that I had once known so well but had forgotten as the years passed. It was the face that once was a child’s but now belonged to a man. It was the face of my childhood friend Manikuttan.
He occupied a major part of my childhood. Even though he was a year younger to me, he looked older and more mature than me. When I was four years old a huge fight broke out between my mother and my aunt, partition took place and we all went our separate ways. Our horde, consisting of my brothers and sisters, was forcefully broken apart. My family was the last to leave Kerala, and in the end Mani was like the only brother I had.
I could see that he recognised me. But when his father asked him whether he remembers me, he nodded slowly.
Then he turned to uncle and said “I will take ammu there, she’ll be safe with me. I have a torch with me and we will be back by the time dinner’s ready”.
He then looked at me and asked “You are coming for dinner at home” in English. I murmured a yes. But he didn’t wait for an answer, he had started to move towards the boat and I tagged along behind him giving a quick smile of apology at keshavan uncle.
He helped me onto the boat and then started rowing it to the ground of ruins. He had grown to be a strong, independent man from the sweet kid who I remembered. There was awkwardness between us. He silently rowed the boat towards the banks where my home rested in peace and I sat there, my hands in the water, making them tingle through my fingers, lost in memories.
“We used to do that when we were kids” he said suddenly, breaking the silence. I gave an ear splitting smile which brought a smile on his lips and the silence broke.
By the time we had reached the grounds of the ruins the sun had set. He switched on the torch and led the way. In the distance I could hear the sound of the wickets. Even now they sound scary. I held Mani’s hand and followed him and soon reached the ruins.
My house was no longer the beautiful, magnificent, place that I remember growing up in. Now it was just a few reddish brown bricks and roof tiles that were scattered in various places and tangled by the lushly green tendrils. I walked on and suddenly, the things that were scattered and shattered, broke through the grips of the tendrils and flew towards where it belongs. As I walked I once again become a child. I ran towards the house, with ‘manjadikuru’, a small red seeds of a tree; Mani had collected these for me. Then I saw them, once again on the porch sat my dad, with mom besides him holding an empty glass. Then I saw my uncle in the living hall. As I ran I almost collided into my aunt who was coming with a glass of tea in her hands. She rebuked at me but I didn’t wait to listen, I ran and passed the nadumuttom, an open ground in the centre of the house; my cousins were chattering beside it. I didn’t stop I ran into my room and opened my small metal box where I hid my treasures.
“Ammu, it’s getting late, we should return”. His voice brought me back to reality. The moon was right above us and its light brightly shone upon us. We made our way back to the banks where his boat waited patiently for our return. As we made our way back he let me drown in my misery as he slowly and steadily glided the boat back, back to reality
My mother told me an incident that happened in her life. I put myself in my mother’s shoes and felt the helplessness she went through. It begins with a death. An unlikely suicide, even before the bud could blossom, it’s petals burned to ashes. It happened in the summer of her 12th.
Numbness filled my heart when my eyes fell upon the picture on the front page. I was in shock and started shivering. Every moment I spent time with her flashed through my eyes in an instant. I couldn’t move for a while. Then I slowly strode towards the kitchen and between the sobs found my voice to tell my sister about her death.
I had come to my house for the summer holidays and was waiting for my results which was a week due. Her last words kept ringing in my ear. She hugged me and with a smile that showed her dimples she said “we will meet again, on the day of the results, love”
The actress, in the movie ‘A’ is there in my class. Like a butterfly, she flutters around the classroom, talking to everyone on the first day itself.
At a point she reached my bench. Her face smiled down upon me. Small round face, eyes of big brown copper coins, dimples as deep as a well, long black rooted hair; she is what you might say is the beauty of Kerala. She had a face that cheated her by showing too much innocence for a child in 11th, especially an actress.
“Hi V” said she and stretched out her hands. “R” I replied and shook it. We talked for a while; a lot of energy was piled up in her, down to earth and talked the entire while with a smile. We were free the entire day. Few girls including V were sitting in a circle behind the class and big fits of laughter could be heard from the group. V looked at the other students who longingly gazed in that direction, she called out to us to join them and asked the ones present there to widen the circle. I felt like I belong somewhere.
The past week, I have been going around with them, she gives back such witty answers to the teacher. Once they made her stand on the bench with her face between her legs. She comes into the class her arms wide open and a big ghostly laugh. She is such a drama queen, she calls me her darling and the other day proposed to me sitting on her knee. I didn’t want to come here, but now I don’t want to go from here
I took a pile of water in a cup and poured it down on me, it was not cold but yet it froze the blood in my veins. I couldn’t accept it. She was a bubble of joy, I cannot recall a day she has cried, and she filled people’s life with excitement, adventure and laughter. Her presence made the class alive and in her presence everyone felt accepted. She could easily cheer up anyone and never have I seen her angry. I pondered over the thought for long, what could have happened that bought this fate upon her.
I wrapped the towel around me and stepped out. I quickly dressed into something white but with an absent mind, I was not able to be that fast. I should go but I didn’t want to. If I go, then I will have no other choice but to accept it that she’s dead. If I didn’t, my last thoughts wouldn’t be of her body still and cold, covered in a white cloth and a face without a smile that showed dimples as deep as a well.
A bad incident happened a few days back, I will write it down to you word by word
“Hey V, your mom ran away with that guy to Chennai, so what does that make you, let me see, oh yes, you are a daughter of a b***h” a girl shouted from the back of the class.
The whole class hissed at them to shut up. But V didn’t seem hurt, she just laughed along with that girl’s cronies. She jumped up, on the top of the table and started narrating the incident about the divorce and the way her mom ran away right on that day when the court declared the result in such an amusing way. In the end people were teary eyed of laughing.
But I on the other hand am really happy, V has moved to the hostel. She moved after onam vacation and will be here till the end of 12th. Her mischief has brought upon herself days without dinner. One of us would try to sneak food for her and would end up sitting next to her, outside the head nun’s office, on our knees holding our ears. V’s arrival changed the time of darkness into sleepless nights. We would sit up nights and nights playing; cards under the bed sheet in torchlight, antashari (singing songs), pillow fights, chasing each other on corridors with screeches of different animals. Once we even threw a bucket of water through the window onto the head nun’s head. She’s not that close to me, so I cannot ask her to come home, also all of you will behave like a bunch of misfits. But I am part of her gang alright.
I came back when the bus shook because of a hump. We had reached her stop. My sister and I got down. Every step I took forward I felt like I am dragging a sack of bricks with my feet. I climbed the steps to her house and entered it.
There she lay, lifeless, soulless, without the twitch of a muscle in a deep sleep from which she can never be awaken. No more was she called by her name, she was mentioned as a dead body. Her mother sat there beside her dead body crying out loud, I could not hold it in any longer. I broke down and cried hanging on the iron bars of the wooden window. My sister stood behind me and rubbed my back trying to soothe me. There was a sudden burst of sound on the grounds. I could only see the blurred images, I wiped my tears, and then I saw her father on the ground on top of someone.
“You b*****d, you killed my daughter” he screamed. Lying under his grip, spitting blood from his mouth was her stepfather.
V has not been the same after Christmas. She had been to Chennai for the holidays; I hope she didn’t have a fight with her mom. She has lost her bounce to her walk. She smiles and laughs, but it does not reach her eyes. I hope she’s fine. I walked in on her conversation with her friend the other day. She was stammering and it seemed like she was choking back the tears. I could only catch a few phrases like ‘I hate it’, ‘looks so greedily’, ‘and tried to hurt me’, ‘scared’. It hurts me to see her in this state, hope god shows her a way out of her misery. Her academic performance has also gone down. She was supposed to be acting in ‘I’ but her mother forcefully took her from the set. She is an actress and now she is just acting in reality, keeping her life aside, she has become a fool in the court of our classroom. Around the clock she dances to bring us joy.
Later, when my mother went to get the results, she heard from her friends, the way V was mistreated. God took her out of her misery; he took her away from the pain and tears that is meant in this world. Just to see her, I tried to find her on the internet, but even the movie she has acted in is not present in those pages. Her memories have been erased from the history of the world, but her sufferings flow through the life of every girl in this world. Being born a women is a sin, or is it that born a men, an uncontrollable greedy beast a sin. A folktale once said to keep men away is the story about vagina dentate, teeth in the vagina. It has been said to discourage men from sexual intercourse. For years women have suffered, under their physical strength. The only strength we have is the power of tears and hope of sympathy. It’s long past for an evolution to occur in the body. Time has come for the teeth to be formed with the strength to rip their penis off. For the years of humiliation we have suffered, women should be in the power of strength, something equal to men. They must be afraid of the teeth.
Anna tharra- elephant’s corridor
Have you ever heard about this ‘the elephant’s corridor’? Well something of that sort does exist and this is a strip of land through the entire forest that the wild elephants use to travel and they will not go through other than this path. May there be an ocean or may there be a desert, they will not budge. This is probably also needed because this track is like the way of the jungle and is even the path used by other animals. These mammals will destroy anything that comes in their path. So years back it did happen so that they were left with no choice but to cause complete chaos.
Years and years back…
My uncle used to work in the forest department. His first appointment was in the Annakkayam reserved forest which comes in between the route of Chalakudy and Pollachi. In that first year something incredibly frightening happened; which in later years became a thrilling and exciting story for uncle to recall and to tattle on. Even after what happened to uncle, it happened again, not very serious the next year, but still it happened and the reason for its repeated occurrences was the stubbornness of the men.
Unknown about this forbidden path the forest department built official quarters; independent, small houses in that area. One of the houses came in the way of these substantive creatures and unfortunately my uncle was the resident of this house.
One evening while he was taking a nap wearing something I would call the Kerala pyjamas for men which consists of nothing covering the top half and only a long piece of cloth which covers the entire bottom half called mundu, for free circulation of air or what I don’t know, anyways that’s the day when the elephant’s decided to pay him a visit. So while he was dozing all of a instant he was woken up to the reverberations of the ground and a sound louder than his snore. If it had been few years since he had taken up this job he would have recognized it as a stampede, but since it was his first time and he had been living in an environment where normally humans live, basically I mean in a city or a village, in his case village and definitely not in a forest, so his thought obviously wandered off to that of an earthquake. He did the practical thing of dropping to the ground, getting under the cot and holding on to its legs.
The vibrations kept coming closer and closer and suddenly there was a noise, ‘thud’ something was belabouring the side of the building to which his head stood pointed and the house shook. Mind can be really misleading at times and my uncle thought a tree had fallen on the structure. But then there was a clash again and the structure’s vibration didn’t even start from the bottom which is usually what he had heard about a earthquake but it started to thrum from the side and vibrate of to the other side’s including the bottom of the building. But uncle being really smart laid still. Again there was a commotion and he could hear the bricks from the side falling off and this time what I think he thought was probably that there are 10-20 trees falling on it, after all it’s a forest. He didn’t bother to explain it to us but from his action I have come to the conclusion that he is lazy and a coward.
He held on tightly to the underside of the cot and hoped this will pass soon. He started praying to all the gods and sang the hymns and whatever phrases he had caught from the prayers his mother and sisters usually prayed. In Kerala, men don’t have to sit and sing prayers every evening, only women have to, I have no idea what is the reason behind this tradition, but that’s just how it is. On one side out of fright and on the other side because of his dedication to follow the tradition he couldn’t remember the prayers and couldn’t keep his mind off the continuous pounding on one end of the quarters. But he was too scared to peak out, he felt safe under his cot. He wanted to scratch his back but was too frightened to move. After a continuous ringing of two minutes on the side of the building all the bricks had fallen off. There was a last thud and then it stopped. He turned his head to the side; a shadow slowly appeared on the tile followed by the tiles besides his cot cracking. He closed his eyes because of the pain that went through his ears and when he opened it there it was, the giant limbs of an elephant covered with loosely hanging but tough grey skin.
He was perfectly still for a moment with an inclination towards staying in his sanctum very strong. Then his instincts changed when he heard the same sound of a tile breaking right above his head. He knew, the next stride, would be on his chest. He rolled to the side of the door from the safe haven under his cot. He looked back to the sound of breaking wood, one second late and he himself would have been in the same fate of that of his very less used bed. He wouldn’t have been alive to tell the tale. But he didn’t have time to ponder over his narrow escape. He quickly went for the door which was unlocked by luck; he has had a lot of luck that day, as he was almost going to leap out he felt something scratch his bottoms and a sharp pain and then he jumped.
Next minute he was lying flat on his stomach in a puddle with mud splattered all over his face, some of it even inside his mouth and there was a burning sensation on his buttocks. He was suddenly picked up by unknown arms and taken to one of his fellow officer’s quarters. He was naked other than for a half a piece of underwear. The last sharp pain he experienced was that of the elephants tusks that probably had plans to pierce it’s tusks through his body but instead was left disappointed in attaining only his garments, mundu and a small piece of his underwear, while uncle sprung from there for dear life.
While he was treated, clothed and was put to a peaceful slumber, the wild tuskers were trying to break down the other wall. From the stories he gathered the next day he got to know the happenings outside. They were trying to call him the whole time but were too scared to come inside. They were sure he was going to die and seeing him dive out of there felt like a miracle. Those who stood there after he was carried inside saw a piece of cloth hanging on the tusk of one of those beasts.
Uncle was packed and sent home after a day and he couldn’t sit on his rear for almost two months. In his later years of service he was once again appointed there and heard how they foolishly rebuild it for almost five to six years and how every year they came and destroyed it. They did it until a researcher came and informed them the theory of the elephant’s corridor; they couldn’t just use their common sense and stop the construction. Two cases either they are imprudent or they had dung in their brains. But after what happened to uncle no one was ready to risk staying there again after it was rebuild, so thankfully no one else had near death experiences and get their butts scratched by an elephant’s tusk because it was itching. Also by God’s grace the elephants didn’t take it as their annual task to destroy a house and didn’t follow suit by destroying the house near it when they saw the house they have been usually destroying has not been reconstructed that year.
This is what actually happened which he had written to my dad the next day and my dad had showed me the letter. But if one hears it directly from uncle there will be few extra details such as how he tackled the elephants, broke their tusks and left them to shame. If you sit long enough you might also hear him bragging about how he did the kaliyamardhanam upon the head of the herd of elephants. Anyways uncle is now retired and safely at home, but now when the ground rumbles he expects a herd of elephants to pop out instead of an earthquake!