Koladu ( The Goat):
By Madhavi Kutty aka Kamala Das written in 1969.
When she was forty three years old, her mischievous elder son remarked : ‘Amma, you remind me of a goat.’
She joined his laughter.But on that day, when the rest of them went out, she took up a mirror and sadly examined her own face. She contemplated on the ways of fortifying her skinny cheeks to make them fuller; thinking that it might end up fortifying her life too. When she had her youthfulness and her lush body, she had never slept alone on a mat laid out on the floor….But she was disinclined to stare at the mirror for long, pondering on such matters. The milk was beginning to boil in her kitchen.
By toiling endlessly from dawn to dusk, she took care of her family. Her body was pale and slim, and seemed fragile in certain places. But she never complained and never collapsed with fatigue. Because of that, as she staggered from the bathroom to the kitchen and back -carrying buckets of water-neither her husband nor her grown up sons ever bothered to give a helping hand.
She was neither educated nor sophisticated.Occasionally, they would loudly praise her famed abilities in cleaning and mopping the house, in cooking their food and in washing and ironing their clothes. Whenever she heard their adulation, she would smile- exposing her deteriorating teeth.
Once her younger son got her a goose berry when he returned from school. That day, standing in her dark kitchen, she shed tears of joy. With the passage of time, she became a disgrace in his eyes too.
When she said that she would accompany him for the school drama, he said: ‘No need, Amma. I will be embarrassed.’
‘But why? I will wear my silk sari- my wedding sari…’
‘No…No need for you to come.’
Two thin legs moved around in that small house constantly; never resting. Finally that machine also became faulty. She caught a fever and her stomach started aching. Neither ginger nor rasam could assuage that pain. On the tenth day the doctor told her husband: ‘Please shift her to the hospital immediately. She has acute jaundice.’
The children who were reading their school books were horrified. When a helper wheeled her into the hospital room on a stretcher, she opened her eyes wide and cried: ‘Ayyo! I think the pulses are burning on the stove.’
Her husband’s eyes filled with tears.
Listen to this story in the original.