(Neypayasam: A traditional sweet dish of Kerala made of jaggery, clarified butter, rice, raisins, cashew et al)
We shall call that man ‘ Acchan’ ( *Father): the one who has somehow organised the funeral rites at minimal costs and has shown deferential gratitude to his work- colleagues, before wearily starting for his home at night. The reason behind that nomenclature is because, in that town, only three children recognise his true worth. And they call him, ‘ Acchan.’
Seated amongst strangers in the bus, he started segregating every single moment of that singular day.
He had woken up on hearing her voice.
‘ It is Monday! Unni, get up now! Do not burrow under the sheets!’ She was waking up their eldest son. Dressed in her white sari- that had seen better days-she had then started working in the kitchen. She had come to him with a huge tumbler full of coffee. Then, then…what had happened then? Had she mentioned something memorable to him? Even after he pondered for long, he could not recollect a single word of what she had spoken afterwards. ‘ It is Monday! Do not burrow under the sheets!’ That lone sentence reverberated in his memory. He murmured the words, as if they were part of the Lord’s name. He felt that his loss would become irreparable if he forgot that sentence.
She had packed aluminium tiffin boxes with snacks, for the children’s school recess. He had noticed the stain of turmeric on her right hand then. The children had joined him in the morning as he started for office-they had gone to town together.
He had not thought about her- not even once- at his office. They had married after a year long love affair. Their families had not cooperated at all. Yet, they both had never regretted their decision. Of course, there had been hardships that had often exhausted them :the frequent bouts of illness which haunted their young children, and the precarious finances… She had slowly lost interest in dressing up. He had lost his capacity for bursting into a hearty laugh.
But they had loved each other. They also loved their three children. Three sons. They were aged ten, seven and five; and their faces were never clean. They were ordinary kids with nothing outstanding about them- either in beauty or intelligence.
Yet their parents often boasted about them:
‘ Unni is all set to be an engineer. He is always creating something or the other…’
‘ Balan- we should make him a doctor! Look at that intelligent forehead!’
‘Rajah is not even scared of the dark! He is very smart! He might join the army…’
Their residence was in that part of the town where the middle class lived. A flat with three rooms on the first floor of a building. A small verandah- where two people could just about stand together- abutted one room. A rose plant grew in a small flower pot in that space; Amma taking care of it meticulously. However, it had not bloomed till date.
On the kitchen wall hung various implements- spoons and their ilk. Near the stove was a worn out block of wood which Amma had used as a seat. She would be typically making chappatis, seated on the block, when Acchan returned from work.
He disembarked when the bus stopped. He felt a sudden flare of pain at one of his knees. Would it be the starting of rheumatism? If he were to fall sick, who would take care of the children? His eyes welled up suddenly. Wiping his tears with a rather soiled handkerchief, he quickly made his way home.
Would the children be sleeping? Have they eaten something? ( TO BE CONTINUED)