April 22, 2005

ahh, grandma’s tales…


that’s what i think about the people of kerala. the women especially are intense and have so many secrets (to share)…be it gossip about a neighbour or someone in their own family, stories are fanned over the flames in the kalladuppus (stone/mud stoves) in the kitchens, until the perfect recipe is concocted. and yet like kaangoshtee or chinese whispers, there will be no final version.

i have been to my achchamma’s house only occasionally. but everytime she has a story for me to take back. just like it is for most grandchildren whose grandparents live far away. for me, evenings in kerala meant frequent powercuts and lots of creepy and tiny fluttery insects around the oil-lamps and candles. if i was lucky it would rain; i could stretch my hand out to catch the drops sliding down from the rooftops, and somehow manage to drench myself to the bone. then she would narrate stories of children who didn’t listen to their parents and what happened to them. if it was daytime, she would warn us of gandharvas catching our souls.

don’t go out in the hot sun, once a gandharva catches you he won’t want to leave…

and then she would go on to explain how gandharvas look for innocent young girls who wander about, trapping them into falling in love and not leaving their minds for a long long time. when they did, eventually, she would go on, the girl would have no memory of what had happened. while i looked on wide-eyed, imagining fine young gandharva princes roaming around unseen, she would add threateningly…

and they can take any form, mind you!

things had not changed much when we visited achchamma this vishu. there were the powercuts all evening accompanied by thunder and heavy rainfall. i had been waiting for a phonecall from praveen and, afraid that there would be a problem with the phone line (cell phones don’t work in the region either), picked up the receiver to check.

don’t use the phone kutti she cried out suddenly. assuming she wanted to tell me there was no ISD connection, i said i would use the booth down the road then.

it’s raining and there’s thunder and lightning in the sky too, don’t use any phone now. don’t you know what happened to old rehman’s wife? most of us laughed but she went on, punctuating her story with meaningful sighs…

rehman’s wife was talking to her son in dubai…he had been gone for long and she was missing him. (sighh)
just then there was lightning and it struck her through the receiver, killing her instantly. these things cannot be trusted you know…

the rest of the family was out in the verandah now catching some words from the story…my father (who was visiting her after two years) came in last and asked who the family was and what happened.

old rehman’s wife, the poor lady had been missing her son. (sigh)
one evening he called from dubai and she was just telling him to come back, when the lighting struck…
the old rehman remarried however, as soon as he could, to a girl half his age (long sigh…)

i guess i would have believed most of the story had she not concluded with…

nature has strange ways that cannot be laughed at. do you know? the poor woman’s words just when her son called were: “when will you come to see me son? after i am dead?” and that was when she fell.

i think my father got the clever message that evening. but now my mother does not allow me to use the phone when she hears a noisy sky! :-))


  • PR said:

    I remember reading soemwhere on your blog that you have some connection to Shoranur which is where my achchamma lived.

    From kalladuppus to the Internet, yes over the wire, just like the lightning.

    Remember, achchammas are always right, years and years of wisdom.

  • Colors said:

    🙂 You write so well…i simply love reading ur posts. I want to visit Kerala so much..have heard so much about it… reminds me of my place in some ways.

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