Wednesday 24 June 2020 6:06 AM UTC
Having spent her childhood in Kerala, Aiswarya Kurup likes to pen nostalgic memories in different genres of literature. Being an avid reader of non-fictions and biographies she also enjoys writing about social movements, philosophies and psychological analogies. Aiswarya identifies herself as a people’s person and has travelled and volunteered across Africa and Asia supporting women and children’s rights. Aiswarya is a qualified Mental Health Practitioner working with NHS England & Improvement in Mental Health Programme Management.
Cleared of Blasphemy
By Aiswarya Kurup
It was immaculate the sky that evening, with a strike of red enveloped with golden hues and a very provoking sun about to make its demise. Kaveri was always fond of sunsets crossing the dusty brown wooden bridge charging past the lush green hills. Even though only twelve, she had the mind of an adult, filled with convoluted thoughts. Akash, her brother was only five, and she often wondered if he will grow up to such mental speculations. She wished not.
She loved him dearly, but she always felt inferior, having received unelevated levels of affection from her parents. ‘Sun, you shine so bright, Are you a boy or a girl? I would like to believe that you are a girl, persistent like my busy mind’ She contemplated.
It was the day of Padah (a Hindu religious day highlining Lord Shiva’s possession over a human to address his devotes), a festival where Thambran comes alive in a pre-determined man who ran wild with his blunt sword yet appearing razor sharp , engulfed with bells, jingling, screaming, frothing.
Flambeaus of fire, made of cloth and wood tied by coir in every nook and corner, dropping fire to the ground, as oil and char embraced each other in their last breath.
His blood shot eyes scared Kaveri, it seemed as though Thambran was trying to investigate her soul. Each scream piercing through her ears, she closed her eyes and shut her ears. Thambran was beastly to look at with colours of red, black, and white painted across his face. Sweat dripping to his loincloth, which could be seen through his lucid red dhoti.
As Thambran frog leaped closer, screaming baffling gobbledygook, Kaveri held her arm around her mum’s arm for comfort. There was a propelling smell of kerosene and alcohol. It would have been spectacular if he caught fire, a godly affair! Kaveri noticed a middle-aged woman in tears praying and begging in a state of trance to this kerosene infused man. She wondered what could be realised by a drunk man having an epileptic fit in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
Myth suggests that Thambran, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, possesses a human to resolve their problems and to punish the infidels. Thambran was an unconventional intoxicated god who would destroy the disobedient, hence the monstrous face and attire.
Kaveri much preferred the son, Lord Ganesh, he looked harmless with a baby elephant head and had a sweet tooth like Kaveri. As Kaveri was contemplating the righteousness of gods, a woman nearby came crashing down, bashing her shoulder on to the hardened mud twitching as her eyes started to roll back.
She had tears rolling down her closing eyes while saying Thambran… Thambran.. She was struggling to breathe, and people had gathered in that already crowded domain, lifting her and carrying her somewhere.
She noticed the woman had wet herself with urine dripping through her white cotton saree as she was raised. Kaveri sensed droplets making their own way to her own dusty feet. Fear is universal, body reacts to fear by releasing fluids to ground ourselves.
“I want to go home. I do not want to pray to such a god. Neither do I want to bid for his blessings”, she said to her mum in a raised voice. Her mum tapped her on her shoulder with a smile dismissing her request.
Why do adults do this, as if there is no conviction behind a child’s word! The lack of life experience would enhance their feelings which unacknowledged would leave a sense of insecurity. Children should always be endorsed, and a cheap response deemed a crime!
Kaveri felt confused with the hullabaloo that surrounded over one cosplay, and as she glanced to her right with a squinted face, saw a group of young men fully covered in mud holding shoots of young palm leaves running towards the crowd.
They had on what appeared like a rolled-up Dhoti; one could not tell the colour of the clothes or identify the people. She noticed the white of their eyes in between the muddy water droplets, latching on to their lashes in quarrel with gravity.
As they shook themselves in glee, drops of the water landed on her parrot green silk skirt and hands. She rubbed a drop with her fingers and smelt it. She could smell the rice fields behind the slightly elevated field, which is where the temple was situated.
They had rolled around in the fields and have come to solemnise the event. She could not tell which was louder, her throbbing heart, the vocalised prayers by the barmy devotees, or the dogs in the distance howling in opposition to the fireworks. She felt a compulsive need to be alone and be one with her busy mind!
Thambran came closer and decided to connect with Kaveri to her utter displeasure. “Thambranae, she is always in her thoughts and is never behaving like a child; her nakshathra is avittam” said Kaveri’s mother. Kaveri was so irate with her mother and looked away partly in fear and the rest in fury. She wondered why adults identified their children’s prospects with astrology, if they paid more attention, could they play an active role in shaping their personality?
Now that Thambran had some form of a clue as to where her future is headed, he will make proclamations and conditions by which Kaveri must live by. Kaveri was ready to be dismissive and let out a scream if the situation warranted. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Thambran shook his jingling sword and jumped around forward and backward. He was mindful of energy conservation as this will be a long night covering the whole village before making his penultimate loop around the big banyan tree and lighting a lamp for the serpents before making his way back inside the temple where the Deity is placed.
“This is Parvathy herself in human form; she is godly in every way. Her stubbornness is relative to the same goddess who wanted to attain Lord Shiva as her beloved. She is on her way to bring the divine into your house,” said Thambran.
Then he let his tongue out, looking straight at Kaveri and shook his head vigorously. Kaveri shrieked, nevertheless felt a bit of relief as the tide went against the anticipated defamation of character. She couldn’t manage a smile, however, loosened the grip from her mother’s arm as she relaxed.
Thambran jumped to the next victim as she felt her father pull her by her hand and holding on tight to ensure the kids did not get lost.
Akash was sulking about wanting to buy a balloon in the shape of a caterpillar from the local toy shop, which happened to be a man with a flat board attached to a stump of long wood which he conveniently carried on his shoulder.
Most of the toys were made of cheap plastic and attached to the board with pins and elastic bands. He constantly blew a mouth organ to attract customer attention, which felt like tinnitus to Kaveri. This mobile shop had everything a child could dream of in a village like theirs.
Akash managed to get the lousy balloon and a mini Dhamaru (a drum used by Lord Shiva to create rhythmic music for his thandavam (dance)) and was delighted with himself. As the four walked back home, Kaveri walked behind her father’s torchlight with a long stick tapping on the ground to warn any unwanted serpents going back from Padah.
Snakes, members of Lord Shiva’s loyal fan club, often deployed themselves as live jewellery for the almighty.
She tried to ignore the brewing annoyance stemming from the loud Dhamaru, which the boy was resolute with. Pop, the balloon burst as it touched something sharp on the ground.
He started wailing in a tantrum and ran to his father, throwing the Dhamaru on to the floor and held his arms up to be picked up. The night became peaceful again. ‘Maybe I am the divine Goddess Parvathy’ thought Kaveri adorning a smirk.
She loved her home, surrounded by trees and a long veranda draping the bungalow. She could step out of her room to sit out on the veranda to see nature’s magnificence.
She had a sensory overwhelm at padah today and wanted to root her racing mind like the trees that stood still in the night. Everything became tranquilised at that moment when she saw fireflies among the darkness of the trees. With a soft smile, she stepped out with a clay pot and caught a few of these effervescent creations and ran back into her room. Whilst lying on her bed, she let them free. They flew and glistened in total acceptance.
Kaveri left the windows open so that these glowing bundles of joy can fly to their families in full autonomy. And that was Kaveri, she implemented freedom as the principal sense of being.
In the pitch darkness, she saw more inquisitive fireflies coming through the window! Kaveri’s room started glowing so bright; she couldn’t contain her smile; she was feeling elated with joy and contentment.
Kaveri concluded, ‘It was a good day, now fly along to the mystery of the night with the crickets, with the safety of sleeping birds. The air is crisp tonight to cool your glowing bodies’. With that thought, she fell asleep, parking all her feelings.
“Don’t go to the river and play with those tyrant kids who jump into deep waters Kaveri, if you drown, we will just let you be,” said her Mum. “And make sure you are back by four, I want to oil your hair today,” she shouted as Kaveri ran out of her house with a big smile on her face.
She walked with a play-snake made from young palm leaves. She held it up for the wind to direct its movements.
She walked through the rice fields and on to the bridge and walked down the side, which is where she finds herself in her thoughts. She sometimes dips her feet into the crystal-clear water, where the little fishes make a meal out her skin, tickling her to bursts of laughter.
The whole sphere under the bridge is lit with sun and plants so green having access to water all year around. She sat down at her usual spot, watching the copper colour leaves of mango trees slowly turning green.’ Bloom, fruit, and ripen quick, I want to take you home’, thought Kaveri.
Kaveri contemplated her life journey, how many kids she will have, and how she wouldn’t buy them silly things like balloons. She would definitely hug them more often; she thought as she heard a laugh.
She turned towards it and saw a man looking hazy and dribbling slightly from his mouth. He was looking at the water and laughing. He re-lit a small roll of something and puffed away.
The pungency made Kaveri’s face squirm as she wriggled her nose. “How can you smoke that when it smells so bad?” She said softly. The man turned around and looked at Kaveri and smiled.
“This makes my troubles go away, and I am happy now,” said the man looking away.
“And will you not be happy later?” she queried. “Who knows child! This world is full of problems; nothing I am doing seems to be enough for people,” said the man.
“My Amma tells me to pray, and all my problems would go away,” suggested Kaveri.
“And have they?” asked the man grinning. They both sat in silence.
Kaveri wanted to ask a legion of questions to this man who seemed to be in his world, allying her.
Perhaps this is what adults do, engrossed in fascinations, contemplations, and confusions. The man decided to talk about his children and how he complicated his life by doing things that people told him to.
He wanted to learn the arts and be an actor in the folk drama. He wanted to travel and meet established artists across India. He sang a folk song, which made Kaveri smile as she caught rhythm with her hands.
His arms looked malnourished, and the apple in his throat was pulsing as he lost his voice mid-song. “I need to rest my throat, I think,” he laughed as he rubbed his chest.
“Anyway, it is getting late, and the Sun will soon set; let me walk you to your house,” the man said as he dusted off the dry leaves that were sticking to his long white dhoti.
Kaveri led the way in silence, something about him felt unsophisticated, as though she could trust him. She walked past the rice fields and noticed the plain where the boys would have rolled around yesterday; she could smell the strong scent of sludgy mud getting ready to receive seedlings for the next crop.
“Are you scared of snakes?” she asked the man following her.
“No, they are just like us, scared of us”, he let out a soft laugh. “Step heavy on the ground, they are stone deaf, when they feel you coming, and they will slither away. They are uninterested in our chaotic company”.
Kaveri felt confident and walked, making every step known. As she reached near the tall wooden gates, she felt a pang of sadness. She wanted to ask this man more questions or even help him with his troubles.
“Go inside and have some rice gruel and watch the moon; it’s full tonight,” he said affectionately. Don’t think so much, you don’t need to be so stubborn, but be relentless with what you want in life. “Do you hear Parvathy?” he said, cupping her cheeks.
“But my name is Kaveri,” her voice faded.
As he turned and walked, she saw remains of adamant red, black and white paint refusing to wash off from the back of his neck.
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