A short story
Suma, the seven-year-old had come to her maternal grandparents for her schooling there. She was the third among the four feminine offspring of her parents. Might be due to the yen for a male progeny ,the pregnancy of their mother was not punctuated with a full stop after the birth of two. Suma’s achchan(father) expressed reluctance none to send one of the girls to his in-laws.
Suma would spend her summer vacation with her siblings and cousins, who would register their presence within a couple of days. During almost all the days, the vacations turn the house of grandparents with its vicinity in a topsy- turvy order. The milieu becomes soundly noisy with the hullabaloos, yelling, shouting and so on of the diminutive folk.
That day her grandparents had to be present at a marriage. So they left Suma with the maid of the house, Ponnamma. Sitting on the floor of the vast sit-out of the house she intruded into the world of her own imagination. She engaged in scratching the sketches of a large number of games to be played with the other children in a vital corner of the imaginary world.
Since she was alone at that time, she went out to the backyard of the house where she engaged herself into moulding a temple-edifice with sodden mud and flowers. As she finished her endeavor, the satiety appeared on her face flowed down to her hands, which in turn cheered it up by acclamation.
Then she went down to the bath-pond which was kept in condition after the annual clean-up. She sat on the mud-wall pelting stones into the water. She enjoyed the water-rings formed around the stone-falling spot. As the sun was taking its track to the noon, she moved to the shade of a mango-tree. A mango got detached off the stalk from a branch of the lowest bough. She acquired it and on to it she inserted her milk teeth, of which a few had been substituted by permanent ones.
“Suma mole(an endearing word),Sumamole, Karthyayani wants to meet you,” voiced the maid Ponnamma lovingly and loudly. The docile juvenile responded instantly making her presence by the side of the caller. Chellamma vanished from the scene to attend to the cuisine. A question mark emerged from Suma’s sight.
“Mole, where have ammoomma and appooppan(grand’s)gone?” Karthyayani.
“For a wedding,why?”Suma.
Karthyayani’s face contained a melancholic colour which vociferously expressed the privation she underwent.Reluctantly Kartyayani opened her mind which had the want for a small quantity of rice to be cooked for lunch .The infantile mouth articulated her futility in the subject concerned and turned away. But the matter slowly sowed an ache in the tiny heart for a while. Automatically her body attained a straight-angled turn.
“If I can find out the key of the‘Rice Storage Box’ I’ll help you.”
Suma someway managed to find out the key from under the bed and opened the box. She picked a cane basket from a shelf and provided Karthyayani two times basket-full rice. She unwillingly accepted the offer and returned home. Ponnamma witnessed none of these actions.
In the evening the grannie opened the rice box to take out rice for supper, she noticed the pits, dug in the rice stack with the basket. She questioned and rebuked her maid thinking that the latter might have pilfered the rice(It was not so long after the entry of the maid to that house). She turned swearing and sobbing that she possessed no such habit of burglary.
The child’s mind entered into a confusion state whether to confess or not. She was scared to hear unpleasant words from her beloved grandparents. Once she had observed her grandpa’s ire being exercised on a labourer. He was proved guilty of a burglarious attempt in the paddy-threshing ground. The socio-economic situation at that time was so hard that the workers could hardly find means to meet both ends. So a little bit of pilferage prevailed among the needy. Suma’s mind was limping around a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ gambling. She slowly walked towards the scene just like a cat. She remained there shutting her movements in silence for a while.
The tears, the tears formed a stream through the cheeks of Ponnamma did move Suma much. The diminutive mind crawled into a decision to face the consequences. Collecting courage she went straight to her grandma when words of tangible nature made their appearance there, “I couldn’t bear Karthyayani’s agony. She wanted some rice from you, ammoomma. Since you were not here, I searched and obtained the key .Please punish me, not Ponnamma It is me who stole rice. Grandma became anesthetized with her dear one’s words and the former became wordless then. Suma covered her eyes under the eyelids and stood tight, motionless there.
Two hands with wrinkled skin cuddled her affectionately with warmth. Grandfather who was an onlooker till then uttered words thus, “Children should be kind ,caring and sharing like you my darling. You didn’t indulge in any theft here. It is your home, how can one steal things owned by oneself?” “You are classy in all respects, my darling,”hugged her the grandparents. Ponnamma lifted her eyes towards the little girl in gratitude. The effusiveness that displaced tears on the face of Ponnamma was boundless.
Sarala. [ to be contd.]