Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Trail of Tiny Red Ants


He was born on the first June 1982 in a nondescript hospital at Pallarmangalm to an infirm housewife, Rohini and a struggling farmer, Narayanan. They remembered nothing in particular about the day except that it was very sunny and a bit too warm. It was as if these rays were deliberately sent to make it as uncomfortable as it could be for him on his first step into the earth. They also remembered that he cried in an unusual way resembling the wailing of a fox. There was no dearth of foxes back then, and in the dusk, one could hear them wailing and howling. Old folks always claimed it to be the sound of the young litter demanding food. 

He was brought home unceremoniously in an Ambassador car, its glistening body swaying and jumping while coasting down the rough roads damaged by the rains. The flooded paddy fields were dimly lit by the monsoon moon that made occasional bursts from the dark clouds above. And a hundred thousand frogs croaked in unison from the fields to a dull noise that seeped into the background blending with it gradually. 

Someone had left the gate open and Rohini, debile from the delivery, lurched out the car and held on to the black iron rails on the gate for support. And the heavens opened up hard. Torrential rains hit everything with a force so mighty that the hiss and sputter of the rains subdued every other noise around her. Ramankutty, the driver, changed his mind about giving them a hand and hastily withdrew to the safe confines of the car, banging the door shut. 

Paru, one of the servants, ran out with a plastic round hat offering it to Narayanan, who pushed aside her aside and ran inside with the white bundle that was wriggling uncomfortably. Running off behind him, Paru stopped on an afterthought and returned to find Rohini balancing herself on the iron gate, drenched in the rain. She pulled the numb figure of Rohini away and hurried into the house while rain pelted mercilessly. 

Sarojini Amma, the grandmother who would later accuse little Unni of stealing tiny round biscuits from the glass jars, rushed to his son and grabbed the bundle off him letting Narayanan heave a sigh of relief and contemplate the rains from the verandah. Paru had led a shivering and weak Rohini inside, and he had bigger concerns now. A stray cut off branch with a heap of leaves and some stones had blocked the water channel, and it was flooding the entire portico. Swearing silently, he went inside shouting for the kerosene lamp to find his spade that the servants had misplaced in his absence.

Little Unni wriggled in the hands of his grandmother while the rain hit the tiled rooftop viciously silencing his foxy wails. Rohini, lying down on the damp bed, watched the dull flashes of lightning through the window across the infinite droplets that fell noisily. She thought of the rain-soaked kid while the fatigue of the days that preceded dragged her off to a disturbed sleep in which she woke up startled a few time to find the silhouette of Paru beside her staring out of the window.


Image courtesy:  sreeni sreedharan 

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