by Fabiyas M V
Pick-axes and hammers resonate on the stones and planks of Aachu’s heart. Her ancient mansion loses its head, arms, trunk… She sees the changing patterns of memory in her mind’s kaleidoscope.
Received your letter. Thank you. Your words caused ripples of nostalgia in my heart . Here, loneliness wounds me. I wish I could fly back to India. But the War is getting fierce. I fear bombing in this city. I plan to flee into the woods. How is our daughter Saisha? I don’t know when I can write the next letter to you.”
The postman passed her days without stretching any letter to her. Her mind crossed the sea and roamed in the Malaysian woods at night. She had never visited Malaysia. She found him in a wood. Her vision was blurred in the mist. Life always tried to take diversion from death. Anxieties about her husband’s food and shelter twisted her wound.
The west wind brought her the bucolic songs from her paddy farms near the Kanoli Canal, an ancient canal built by the British. Reapers bending like the sickles reaped the golden crops. Aachu owned acres of paddy farms and groves of coconut palms. Poor villagers often sought refuge under her wings.
Now she slowly falls into a nap.
* * *
Today, the coolies demolish the kitchen walls of her old house. Aachu remembers Sudha, a maid who had helped her in cooking. Sudha used to blather in the kitchen. Her tongue never took rest. She poured calumnies from her vast tank into Aachu’s ear-buckets. Sudha’s words had occasionally tickled her mistress. Aachu’s nights were empty. Her ears often caught the mice piercing the silence beside her granary, which was always full to the brim. Night wind always frightened her, rattling the lone window of the top story of her ancient house.
Rural women, Aachu’s daily visitors, gifted her with the local news and strange stories that were coated with superstitions and exaggerations:
“Rajan, the cowherd, swooned at noon yesterday. He was lying under the tall palm tree. He was indeed caught by a ghost.” Aachu once heard from Parutty, a middle aged-woman.
Aachu eyes two dusty figures removing the rusty gate of her ancient mansion. Her mind’s nose catches the fragrance of an old Friday:
The moon had bloomed fully on that day. Aachu noticed a coolie with a big iron box on his head, pushing open her gate. A leather bag was swinging over his right shoulder. She saw a gentle man just behind the coolie—a tall man, who had put on a white shirt and dhoti. He filled her eyes in the moonlight. She had felt an emotion that was beyond all definitions. It was her beloved returning from Malaysia after many a year!
Thus endless varieties of recollections flash by in her yellow kaleidoscope. Her threshold had withstood several farewells, and jerked with unbound joys.
A cluster of coolies from Tamil Nadu, her neighboring State, put their shoulders to the wheel. They pick the broken stones and mortar up, carry them in baskets, and dump them in a large waste pond.
* * *
A temporary wedding pandal raises its head again in Aachu’s mind. A bride, her daughter, stands, drooping her head in the rural Indian shyness. The glitz of dowry gold dazzles the guests, especially the rustic women. Spicy smell of biriyani, prepared for the nuptial party decades back, wafts up again from her memory’s kitchen.
Days die, one by one, on the walls. Demolishing works progress. Aachu sits on the veranda of her daughter’s home, chewing the betel–a way to reduce her tension.
Aachu had a powerful magnetizing effect on her husband Akku, who worked in a company in Malaysia. He had accumulated a huge wealth for his wife and daughter, who lived in India. A heart attack had made Aachu a widow.
She chews the betel without a pause, for she has been casting her mind back to all the sweat blobs and tension waves of the house construction time. Coolies will clear everything soon. Not even a single stone will remain there to announce the past glory of her mansion. She had lived in that big house for forty years.
Her daughter Saisha resides in an adjacent house. Two years before, she cajoled her mother to stay with her. But Aachu couldn’t even imagine chucking her big house away, where sweet recollections came out of loneliness to give her company.
There was a morning cool as dew drops. Saisha came to her mother as usual. But the front wooden door remained closed. She peeped into the bedroom through the narrow gap of the window. She shrieked. Neighbors crowded there like a flock of crows. The air was noisy. Someone broke the brass lock and the folk entered the house. They saw Aachu lying swooned. Somebody sprinkled water on her face and Aachu opened her eyes.
“Once, Saisha had depended on me for everything. Today, I have to rely on her.” Aachu had contemplated on the reversal of roles in old age, while leaving her precious mansion behind forever. Jafi, Saisha’s husband was kind towards his aged mother-in-law. At the same time, he had a cache of greed. He sold that deserted house for the thirty lakhs.
Demolishing works go on. Broken stones and planks are heaped up before Aachu’s wrinkled emotions. She watches all from her son-in-law’s kind veranda. She now sits between sleep and memory.
Present is only a ghost of the past in her yellow kaleidoscope.
◊ ◊ ◊
Fabiyas M V
Fabiyas M V is a writer from Orumanayur village in Kerala,India. His fiction and poetry have appeared in several anthologies, magazines and journals. His publishers include Western Australian University, British Council, Rosemont College, US, Forward Poetry, Off the Coast, Silver Blade, Pear Tree Press, Zimbell House Publishing LLC, Shooter, Nous, Structo, Encircle Publications, and Anima Poetry. He won many international accolades including Merseyside at War Poetry Award from Liverpool University, U K, the Poetry Soup International Award, USA and Animal Poetry Prize 2012 from RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelties against Animals, U K). He was the finalist for Global Poetry Prize 2015 by the United Poets Laureate International (UPLI), Vienna.