Living a dog’s life
On the day of Divasi amavasya, Amma breaks a thumri on the transistor, fetches some fresh mud near the tulsi plant with a girl child’s innocence. She makes two idols — Shiva and Parvati — faceless, crude, even genderless. She empties a bowl of coconut oil on my head, saying that my head is hot, and scrubs it with shikakai she has brought all the way from Bangalore. Clarity doesn’t need a wash. After a dash of red and yellow from for arishina-kumkum, she unleashes hues of pinks and oranges from the periwinkles and hibiscuses that grow in the backyard only to end on the idols. She asks me to stretch out my index finger and treats it like a hook to which she winds a thread — round and round like my imagination. After six rounds, she smears it again with the holiness of arishina-kumkum. She then makes tiny knots and fits jasmine and rose petals in between.
The pooja is nothing but a set of instructions I am to follow for that year and the next twelve years. The result will be a good husband, she says. Her eyes brighten with day stars or hope, I am not sure. As she holds the lamp, the room of depression within her swells. It opens a door with a creaking noise and tears flow without a tide.
Outside, Moti sleeps, warming his body, looking dead and, looking indifferent to the arriving Shravan. He just doesn’t give a damn and I envy him.
Food as a source to being
Ajji tells me gamaka kala is a lost virtue. Her father was good at it. His troupe chose and sang songs of the Mahabharata that went around villages. After all, Kumaravyasa was their forefather. Poetry and music were in their blood.
So was infidelity. Ajji says her father had another family somewhere, where the village ended, and the cotton crops stood shivering in the winter nights.
Ajji gets a bit sad at the memories of her father. She says he always brought her hairpins and colourful ribbons when he returned, and she stored it in her tin box where her kumkum and comb now rest.
As Ajji takes me to a different time-space, Moti barks standing at the front door waiting for Ajji to give him his share of bhakri. He has become too brahminical, too chaste for a dog’s way of living, I suppose.
Character as a rage breaker
You can identify our house with two things. The windows, which outnumber the people inside, and the curtain of damp clothes desperate to spot the sun right in the portico.
The old lane with a dusty road, the few last standing bungalows with high ceilings and a tulasi katti will remind you how time not only heals, but peels.
In the dead silence of a summer afternoon when Dodappa discovered that his eldest daughter had eloped, he didn’t know whether to curse his intuition or his upbringing. Ajja, with his deafness intact, was busy pounding the pan with his mortar and pestle. He paused. Chaos can become an entity at times. He called out and asked what the hustle was about. She ran away, said Doddappa. Ajja fastened his pace and the dhab, dhab dhab of the stone suddenly felt like the honour of the family. Everyone pronounced her a bitch.
Moti wags his tail at the sight of his favourite girl, jumps on his fours and goes on sniffing. It was business as usual for him.