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