MALABAR AFLAME : Lesson 3 – (Karoor Soman)


Amazon Best Selling Novel  “Malabar A Flame” in Lima World Library


3. A Paradise

Alighting from the horse-cart, Antony glanced around,
amazed. What place is this? Fathom of mind swirling up like
sea waves. Bank entrusted the house key to Antony. He went
back to bring Ali family. Ali also has a house like this. The
horse-cart rolled off.
Antony opened the door. Switched on the light. All
bulbs in the room flashed like a rainbow. Through the open
window wind roamed inside. Those who had lived in the
faint oil lamp were aghast at the brightly lit rooms. Are all
these ours?
Sara stood close to her mother. Everything is unbelievable.
This is the first time she sees a flood-lit monumental house.
With astonishment they walked through the whole place.
Outside the house clouds throbbed to rain. In Antony’s heart
too. With whir and pleasure rain poured without memories.
“Are there no lightning and thunder as in our native land?”
Danny was eager to know. “Flint like lightning doesn’t occur
here’’, Antony said. There was no whistling rain here, he
added. It is enchanting to see the rain in our native country.
The rain is lousy. Listless rain embracing the earth.
Rooms are all intact. Three rooms upstairs. Toilets
on both floors. All rooms attached with bathrooms. On
the ground floor the dining table is surrounded by chairs.
Drawing rooms adorned with showcases attached to the
walls. Mary and Antony were hilarious. What all wonders!
Owning a house on the very day the family landed here!
These are all unexpected. All fortunes in life are
unexpected. Telling Mary to bathe the children, Antony came
down and sat on a brown sofa. Rain was dancing around the
house. As longevity is uncertain, life is endless.
The hunger and thirst of those who sweat in the fields
lie titillated in cities. Gigantic mansions spring up. The
metro city welcome me and my family. We have become
residents here. Antony’s face brightened. When he was
alone memories wandered in him. He was untouched by the
hullabaloo of children. Antony cruised through the pain
and anguish suffered in his boyhood. He remembered his
mother looking through the winding ridge of the paddy field
in the faint flame of the oil lamp and waiting for the arrival
of his father daily.
The sheaf of paddy ears would glitter in the moonlight.
It was amma (mother) who is helping appan (father) to climb
up the compound steps in his inebriated condition. Appan’s
presence will push the home into the stillness of a graveyard.
Till he goes to bed he would unleash imprecations about the
landlords and kings like agitated waves. An anguished amma
would stand listening to the abuses as a mute witness. Girls
would latch the doors from inside.
“Ezhi (edi)—address form of she) mazhiye (Mariye)
….Polaye (Pulaya- caste)…chekkane (boy) viya..
viyazhappu…oyzhakkunna manninu… ayi… ayizhithamilla
….. thengae… kezhunnathinu ayizhithamilla….

avaneevazhi nadannale… ayizitham…(There is no feeling
of untouchability against Pulaya boy for working in the mud
and climbing up the coconut palms. There is untouchability
only when he walks this way). Ee..nattile janmimazhu…
nazhikala…allazhi Mazhiye….enthazhi…ithu vellarika
pattanama? (The landlords in this country are a mere dirty
lot. Is this some anarchy? Phoo.” (He spits out).
Although Mathai would drink he is a redeemer for all
the Pulayas and Parayas. Escaping from the torture of the
landlords they used to hide in the cow-dung dabbed floor
of Mathai’s backside verandah. Lords won’t dare to come
there. If anyone dares, he won’t go back in one piece. When
the landlords’ henchmen come there with sticks and swords
Mathai’s kin will array behind him like a rock. The guys will
pull back.
When appan sits to eat everybody’s innards would burn
for if something (salt, chilli) is short or in excess in the dish,
beating is sure for amma. Appan’s ezhi(she) call means slap.
Amma waits inside the room. Instead 16 and 17 years old
Eliyamma and Thankamma respectively would present
themselves. When he sees the girls his rage would come
down. Abruptly again he would shout ` evide..pozyazhi
vizhikazhi …avalae..(where has the fucking woman gone,
call her). And give the first beat on amma. In the bid to save
mother they would get the share. 12-year-old I and youngest
sister Rosakutty would meddle and request the father “
Appa, don’t beat amma’’. Appan would become calm.
Glance at the scared children with love….
Then he would lie down on his cot. In the dark appan’s
resounding snore can be heard.
How long had I prayed to God to refrain father from
the evil of drinking! Parents of this type are a curse for the
offspring. Cursed the brewers of liquor which spoils his
brain. In the two rooms in the small house there was no space
even to turn about. During the rains water would filter down
the room and the blame would fall on amma. He blamed
amma’s misdeeds for this misfortune. Amma would swab the
rainwater in the room and fill it in the mud pot and pour out
into the compound. Tears would be glistening in her eyes at
that time.
There was no leak in appan’s bedroom and the cattle
shed. On leaky days mother and sisters would sleep coiled
in appan’s room. As there was no extra space in the room
Antony would sleep in front of the manger. In the morning
when amma comes to call Antony the family dog would
be seen sleeping huddled in his warmth. How many rainy
days? How many sleepless nights? Boyhood rolled down
As milk was the key source of income, the cows should
be bred and protected well. Cows and oxen were more
beloved than the members of the family. In order to feed the
cattle his sisters would sometimes trespass to the adjacent
Nambudiri’s compound and cut down grass. The eldest
Nambudiri would shout them out. At that time Antony
would be cutting grass somewhere in the compound out of
the sight of the Nambudiri.
The other neighbour was Antony’s classmate Rajan Pillai.
As they were affluent their house was tiled. On the days when
climbers are plucking coconut, without their knowledgeRajan Pillai would give Antony’s family palm fronds and
spandex. Antony would hand over it to his eldest sister. She
would weave fronds into thatches and attach them over the
leaking portions of the roof and suspend stones over them
tied with ropes before the onset of rain.
Poverty gripped the family whenever the bullock cart
was idle. To feed the animals and to give father money for
booze was mother’s onus. By selling milk, eggs, and cowdung
mother would manage to make both ends meet. Whenever
Antony remembers amma tears would trickle down his
Father was in debt. There was dues to be given to the inlaws of the two daughters as part of the dowry promised. To
meet the marriage expenses Antony’s grandpa Kochukunju
had sold some property. Antony planted cassava and other
tuber roots in the remaining one acre plot. Sisters ventured
into vegetable cultivation. As the lone son in the family,
Antony enjoyed the love and affection of other family
members. His black complexion was his only drawback. As a
bright student he studied up to the 10th class and discontinued
for want of money. Neighbour Rajan Pillai continued his
studies. After the harvest Rajan used to give paddy to them
and hay for the cattle. Whenever there was shortage of rice
Mariyamma would borrow a nazhi (small measure) of rice
from Rajan’s mother Parvathy who gave it gratis and would
ask Mariyamma not to hesitate to ask for more when there
was scarcity at home. Don’t let the children starve, she would
say. Parvathy was Mariamma’s visible goddess.
Parvathy was anxious when Antony discontinued his
studies. She used to say that to get rid of the poverty of the
neighbour Antony should get some job. Antony has heard
Parvathy reminding her husband Sankara Pillai of this.
Sankara Pillai was a worker at the Mavelikara palace. By
his recommendation Antony got a job in the British army
in Cochin by the time he was 19. He started as one of the
security personnel at William Scot’s bungalow with a modest
salary. He was ready to do any job. What he got he gave to the
poverty- stricken family. Then the family began to thrive on
his meager income. Two sisters were married off.
What Appan earned went to the toddy shop owner
Konnan’s pocket. The toddy shop would remain open till
midnight for Mathai. Otherwise Mathai would sit in protest
in the toddy shop hurling invectives at the owner. When
Mathai gets saturated with the potion he is no more bothered
with anyone’s social status. He would beat anyone who
deserves a beating. And that was Mathai.
Muralidharan Nair was such a person who earned blows
from Mathai. A tiff in the toddy shop climaxed in physical
assault. With the connivance of a staff member of the palace
Muralidharan Nair filed a case against Mathai. When the
police came to know that Mathai’s son was the inmate of the
British army chief ’s palace they became disinterested. The
police feared the British army than those who were wearing
a crown without power. They had seen army-men riding on
horseback from Cochin to Trivandrum All were afraid of
the army guns. How many chests had been riddled by their
bullets! Now who bothered about spears and swords. It was
like playing with fire to move against the army. If one fell
victim to their bullets his family would have to starve. If itwas royal rule there would have been provision to either
incarcerate him or exile him.
When Mary and children came out after bath, wiping
their heads and smiling, it was a torrential downpour inside
Antony. In his inner core it was an avalanche cascading down.
Outside the house rain and wind were wrestling.
When daughter’s voice woke him up from his reverie he
held the kids by their shoulders and made them sit on his lap.
He was afraid of the luxury of the modern age. He felt that
the old tradition was simple in its character. He recollected
his brief holidays when he was in the native land and when
he slept with the children, hugging them close to him. Then
they were as small as chickens. Today they were grown up.
Although nearby Mary knew Antony was not very happy.
Drawing near him she asked smiling “What Antonyachhaya,
what do you cherish?…about appan? Amma? Did you
remember Lissie?
What he was trying to dig in his mind was dug up by Mary.
She saw that Antony’s lips were frantically searching for
words. She is the woman who has managed to marry off a
sister in my absence. It was from a house filled with her love
and affection that I brought her to my own abode. When the
young darling was going away will their parents be happy?
When Mary and siblings boarded the ship amma might have
wept. Only after Mary’s arrival the family knew the comforts
of life, they used to say. Lissie would be consoling them who
try to suppress their tears. Antony’s isolated life and now his
moist eyes pained Mary’s inner. Clasping Antony’s hands,
Mary smiled and said:
“Hey, don’t get emotional by remembering them. Appan’s
asthma is receding.”
“How did you know that I was remembering them?”
Antony asked.
“A nice question! In this body I know each strand of hair.
Who else knows the anguish of one’s husband?” Antony
looked at her with a pleased smile.
“Inform them that we have reached here. Otherwise they
would be anxious. If there is money send some! Mary sat
close to him.
“Appa, what is the time now. Is there no night here?” An
abrupt question from Danny.
“I feel sleepy,” running fingers on his cheek Antony
looked at the watch.
“It’s 9 p.m. now. Here night falls after 10. That’s why this
country is known as the empire where the sun never sets.
Now we may pray and go to sleep.”
Mary went upstairs and came back with the prayer books.
Sang two of the hymns with others and prayed. Then they
were in meditation. They meditated over the mercy of Him
who brought them from darkness to light. Earlier they were
mere people without the blessings of God.
Now they are those who got the mercy of God. And the
prayer ended with the “Oh, our heavenly Father!”.
When she opened her eyes the twin black bulbs were
drenched in tears. Mavelikkara Kattanathukari Mary has learnt the prayer method of Thamarakulam Marthomite
Antony. Children were happy at seeing the cozy pillow and
bed. The universe spread the night carpet for sleep. She
slammed the door, lay with her spouse. In the faint light of
the lantern she realised the movement of Antony’s hands
over her body. The knots of the sari were untied. The draped
yellow sari slithered away. They embraced each other. The
moments of bliss. New buds sprouted on the body. His
rough arms’ smooth pattings aroused her. In the perfumed
oil of lust, hair was scattered around.
A sleepless nights’ pangs wakened her up. As soon as she
woke up in the morning than she searched for her husband.
She could not find him in the house. She was anxious. “Where
has Antonyachhayan gone?”

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