Only a duo of months had passed after Ponnamma’s appointment in that domicile as the house-help. And Karthyayani was the maid before Ponnamma's arrival to be befitted in the slot. Facilities of the house served her, as if she was one of the members of the family. In the real sense an outsider would have mistaken Karthyayani’s role as the mistress-ship in that house.She put on view all the rights for her in that house. And the oldsters-Karunakaran Nair and Bhargavi Amma-didn’t monitor or meddle with any of the activities of hers. So she stayed there like their daughter. She called them amma(mother) and ammmavan(uncle).
Of course she loved and fondled the little one Suma and Suma’s limbs mostly moved within Karthyaani’s proximity, as she had none there to have a company with. Suma was slightly more matured than her peers,may be that her movement was with elders only. Karthyayani was an orphan staying with her maternal auntie. Her parents had passed away in an epidemic that hit that area a decade ago. Around two leaves were shed from the year- tree after Karthyayani’s advent in that house. She had completed twenty cycles after her appearance on earth at that time. Her auntie was rich in poverty and that was the reason for Karthyayani’s residing in that house then.
There was a male servant Vasudevan who was in charge of the cattle. He being a youth of mid-twenties had to tie, untie, bathe, feed and specially care the milch cows. He was the cow-boy and cow-man of that house in toto. He also assisted them in petty labours like uprooting tapioca, go marketing and so on. Vasudevan was fond of Suma and he picked lovely flowers, sweet mangoes, mouth-watering wild jack fruit, mind-catching cashew apples etc for her. In that midst Vasudevan was directly or indirectly adapting numerous skills to magnetize Karthyayani. In the initial stages she tried to drive him away with harsh words. His continuous trial pulled her mind little by little towards him and he found himself successful at the end of the second year.
Suma spent her time by chitchatting with either of the helps. Sometimes she hung about in ammoomma’s and appooppan’s stories. She also amusingly watched ammoomma extracting cream by churning curd , chopping vegetables for curries etc. And she also tried her ways in those activities despite ammoomma’s warning. Suma would be following Karthyayani wherever she went and whatever she did, during the former’s non-school hours.
Occurrence of a chance Vasudevan never wasted to converse with Karthyayani. Vasudevan used to present his strength by drumming on the protruding biceps with his own hands. Suma had veered off her vision whenever she happened to see the projected muscles. She was a bit scared of people with masculine muscles of that design. Still she liked him. Vasudevan secretly exhibited the machismo nature of his body with a virile style to gather Karthyayani’s favour pretending that it occurred naturally.
Karthyayani used to take Suma with her for taking bath in the pond. She bathed Suma first and then she herself had her bath. Vasudevan made his presence at the sand-bank of the pond on the pretext of grabbing hold of a calf or so. There he put a hiatus and passed some remarks to please her. Though she used to turn to the reverse physically, her mind turned to be covetous for his comments. Little Suma was ignorant of two minds’ conversation in their hey-days of youth. So she swung her hands in the air after butterflies, dragonflies etc after getting the bath.
Karthyayani and Vasudevan had arrived at a time when both could not separate each other. They became aware that their castes would raise a barrier to prevent the flow of courtship. So only an elopement would pave way for their togetherness. Moreover a destitute like her could not think of unfolding her wish to somebody. So one day both vanished from the master’s house and their castes banished them to their fate after a clash toexpress their haughtiness.
Vasudevan felt proud of being the spouse of a higher caste woman. He acted as if he had conquered the heaven and his brawn was mighty enough to earn bread for both and build a haven in his three cents of legacy- land. He had mastered many a skill like coconut-climbing(he belonged to that caste),tree-felling, agricultural labour etc. Since he was isolated by his dear and near in his village, he found better prospects in a far-off place.
The safety and joy reigned there for two months and then deserted them when a slippery coconut plunged Vasudevan onto the ground. A crack on the hip bone sent him to bed for a long time. It might take a revolution of the earth for his revitalization. Suma had to find a way for meeting the need of their stomach as well as cash for her husband’s medicines. Everything had reached its bottom. Nothing was there in the house for lunch. Their pecuniary position was very pathetic.That only made her touch the soil that banned her steps two months ago, for some rice. She cooked the rice for her bed-ridden husband, made available by Suma.
In that village affluent family’s number was fewer than the other ones. So Karthyayani helplessly had to visit her previous mistress’s house. “Amma, shall.. I also.. come here and assist.. Ponnamma in her.. assignments,” she pleaded in fumbling words with repenting eyes. “I need only a.. small amount of.. finance and food.. for my husband.Therefore I ..shall..be here for a meagre payment.”
Though Bhargavi Amma housed a broad heart within her physique,at that time she was in a mood to reproach her for her undisclosed deed. Karthyayani hopelessly returned.Tears rolled down her cheeks. Two diminutive eyes of the tot watched the scene silently. Some pricks hurt her heart, for she was fond of the couple. Meanwhile appooppan appeared there.
“Ammoomma, can’t we appoint her? You said I would be sent to an outlying school next week after the reopening. Karthyayani chechi (Diedi) can escort me, I am afraid to go unaccompanied,” the infant pitied.
“Who will pay for her, will you?” ammoomma (veiling her fondness.)
“I’ll appeal to my father and he will pay,” Suma.
Appooppan intervened, “Suma mole’s little heart is so wide that she longs for good. Let her wish be executed here. Let’s have Karthyayani here,”
Both the grandparents clasped their little darling. Suma took to her toes and reached Karthyayani who hugged her dearly.
[ The end]