I hate walking in the hot sun. But I had no other go. The university campus has umpteen number of trees. But they won’t be of much help when you have to move from one section to another. The campus is spread across about 100 acres and the sections which you might want to go would be at the extreme ends.
This is the time when you curse the officials; for making you roam about in the hot summer sun. The heat from the tarred roads hits your face to make you feel drowsy. This would be the last place on earth which I would love to be at. Even the peon acts as if he is more powerful than the Vice Chancellor. The clerks religiously follow the schedule of ‘reaching office at 11-and then go for a tea- and then take rest-then it is lunch time-And then a nap-tea time again- and oh its time to leave’. They had enough and more time to relax. But I didn’t. I needed to finish off all the formalities for obtaining the degree certificate. I was left with only a few more days from being on my first job. Before that my mom wanted me to visit my ancestral home Paalakkal located at Kottayam. She wanted me to seek the blessings of the elders there. I did not to like the idea to spend the last days of my holidays away from my friends. But I didn’t want to pick up a quarrel and agreed to her wish.
An old lady and a girl were walking in front of me. The girl was holding an umbrella for the lady. She might be in her late sixties. She was dark and her hair was grey. She didn’t have a single black hair. When seen from a distance it looked as if she wore a white hat. She stopped every now and then, took deep breaths and then walked again. Suddenly she started leaning towards the girl. The lean girl was not a good support for the fat lady. Both of them almost fell down before which the girl spotted a bench in the sideway and dragged the lady onto it. By then I had reached near them. I took out my water bottle and without her permission handed it to her “Would you want some water? Are you Ok? ” She gave me a tired smile. “We had brought water but it had got over. We had started from home early in the morning.” A few seconds were more than enough for her to consume the last drop in my bottle. “Oh it got over! Sorry. I was very tired and thirsty”.
“Its Ok. I am going to that canteen over there for lunch. I’ll buy a bottle from there.”
The girl looked in the direction I had pointed and said “Ammamma, come we’ll also have something from there. I am very hungry”.
We sat around a table which was moderately clean. One can’t expect more during the noon time in the university canteen. People would be frantically hunting seats. It was almost like a musical chair competition.
The waiter came with a tiny notebook for taking orders. Even without asking he started reciting “Fish Fry, Chicken masala, Egg masala, Chicken Manchurian…”.
“Two ordinary meals”. The lady replied and looked at me. I added “Me too”. The disappointed waiter left us with the unpleasant orders .The lady started talking “This is my grand daughter Theresa. We came here for her degree certificate”.
I told her “Amma, you seem to be very weak .You could have stayed back and should have sent someone else for this.”
Her face suddenly grew darker. “There is no one to come with her and she is not used to travelling alone. She is staying here in the city with a distant relative of ours. They don’t have time for all these. Allowing her to stay with them itself is a great help for us. And she helps them in all their house hold works. Now as her course is over she will return with me to Kottayam. Don’t know what next!” Hearing the word Kottayam I became more attentive to her talk.
Our lunch had arrived. Theresa had started off with her lunch without caring about the conversation.
“We belong to a great aristocratic orthodox Christian family. Once we were great land lords. The biggest rubber estates were ours. We had paddy fields, coconut orchards and what not. After my wedding I was taken upon an elephant to their house. That village had never seen such a grant procession till then.” I could see her pride in her eyes. “Everything went on well until my husband’s dad started a business along with his friend George from Paalakkal. Initially they both were great friends. Later the money divided them; they became rivals and competed with each other. The Paalakkal people were so powerful. They destroyed us like hell.
We lost everything we owned and my son had to go work in the farms of others. Once he fell down and broke his spine. We had to limit the treatment to the Government hospital nearby. If we had money like earlier times we would have taken him to any place on earth for treatment. Initially his wife nursed him carefully. Later years went on and she lost hope and grew frustrated. Once she ran away with a man in the nearby village.
Now my Theresa is the only one left and her fate is to wash the dishes in some one’s kitchen. But I still believe in God. I know he is seeing my sorrows. I know he will teach them all a lesson. I am sure that my curse will not go in vain and they all will get what they deserve. A day would come when they would beg for a meal in front of my family. A day would come when they won’t have money to treat their sons. Their daughters will have to be servants in someone’s kitchen. I am sure that it would happen once. I wish I could live till then.”
The food was pathetic. But Theresa and her grandma relished it as if it was a splendid one. My hunger had disappeared.
We all got up to leave. I paid their bill before allowing her to say “No”.
“Amma, shall I leave?”
“Thanks for being with us. Thanks for the generosity. May god bless you my child.”
I walked away from them. But I was unsure if I could walk away from the curse that had traversed through the generations to reach me.
*image credit: www.sinoorigin.com