Rains, Thieves and Broken Dreams

Originally Written here

Unlike most of India that receives rains once, Kerala has two rounds of monsoons. The first of the season arrives in June when the advancing monsoons make bountiful our harvest and rake up our GDP numbers. The brief spell of unperturbed sunlight is broken by the retreating monsoons, popularly called ‘Thulavarsham’ for they occur in the month of October/’Thula’, taking their leave from the country having toured thoroughly. Palghat being the gap between the Nilgiris is a recipient of copious rains on both occasions, as much awaited winds arrive and depart through the mountains. One such rainy night, Unnimol, a thirteen year old girl in Palghat was peacefully asleep in her parents’ room after a stubborn protest to sleep with them. Her mother, Latha tried to subtly coerce her but had failed. ‘You can not sleep with your brother and his wife, you can’t with your mom and dad, but you can, with your grandmother or with your grandmother and grandfather’. Being a girl from rural Palghat, who didn’t even know what boyfriend meant at that age, Unnimol wasn’t going to take any of that.

They lived in a modest house across the NH47 national highway in a quiet colony, Srinagaram. At night, the sound of the rain pounding on the asbestos sheets often muffles the cries by frogs and crickets, who waits eagerly to showcase their effervescent chorus as soon as the rains drain. In the days of her childhood, thieves were common in the locality. The luscious jackfruits that hung from the tree that Latha carefully grooms always get stolen. She laughs at her kids and her husband, Ramachandran. You see, my reader, Latha was born and brought up in Thrissur, in a more prosperous household and locality, where according to her jackfruits fall to the ground and crack, to lie there and rot with their guts splattered out. In comparison, Ramachandran and his family belongs to Palakkad, which is factually underdeveloped than Thrissur. The four daughters and father( since by patriarchy the kids belonged to Palghat and lived there forever) would never admit that, leading to vicious clashes between team Thrissur, constituted by Latha and team Palakkad, composed of Unnimol, her sisters and her dad, Ramu. This led to endless winding arguments during similarly endless and winding car drives, where Unnimol’s mimicry of the oblique Thrissur accented ‘Enthutta??’ and Ramu’s playful jibes met with Latha’s condescending retorts of ‘Palakkad-Pattikkad’( Pattikad translates literally to bitch-forest, nevertheless a real place).

Sourced from Google Images

Monsoons are also the time when trade bustles for local thieves, as the roar and clatter of the incessantly boisterous rains form the ideal camouflage for their covert businesses. One night, Latha, who had fallen asleep on the couch watching TV, was walking to her bedroom at 1 AM, found the bars of the hall window reflected on the door on the opposite wall. Having dismissed it as the friendly Kaladharan uncle looking around with his torch( those days, LOL), she was shocked to see a man wearing a hat move in the car porch. Quietly slipping to the bedroom, she alerted her husband who walked up to the room they called ‘varkerea’( a Malayali adaptation of ‘work area’) to find a man peeping from the corner of the grilled and netted(because mosquitoes) wall. Now, Ramu may be a whipped husband, like most South Indian husbands, having little say in household matters. Even more so, because his wife earns more than him and her fiscally prudent and industrious investments in land and gold compared to his risk averse fixed deposits and low yield government bonds have let her eclipse him in wealth and subsequently, decisions of the kids and the household. But that day, he was a brave man; put on his shirt, grabbed an iron rod in tranquil resolution and stepped out of the house despite the horrified pleadings of his daughters and Latha physically blocking him.

During another instance in the Srinagaram colony, an eccentric thief visited Archana chechi’s house every Thursday, and pooped on their clothes hanging out. The neighbours, anticipating him on a subsequent Thursday, laid wait and chased him across the open fields behind the colony. That was his last visit. A different thief broke into Ammu and Appu’s house by removing the door while their house was under reconstruction, and stole everything in the lower floor knowing fully well they were blissfully sleeping upstairs. It got so bad that at one instance, the police brought a criminal who was charged with murdering a housewife in Northern Calicut and the whole colony watched as he dug out the weapon and ornaments of the victim from Athira chechi’s backyard, along with her mother’s gold anklet which had been missing for a while.

Marred by these incidents, Unnimol’s family was always on the alert for thieves, especially during the rainy days. After launching that staunch protest, and threatening a full scale civil disobedience movement inspired from her 8th standard history textbook, Unnimol was allowed to sleep with her parents. In the middle of the night, they woke up to the screams of Unnimol’s grandmother, Rajeshwari, dearly addressed as Ammamma, who slept across the hall with Unnimol’s three sisters. Ammamma was howling and wailing, in high pitched groans of ‘Ayyo…’ and as Latha and Unnimol woke up wide eyed in shock and scurried to her room with petrified faces, being sure she was being robbed. They ran to her and switched on the lights, while Ramu sat up in his bed, rubbing his droopy eyes. She was lying in her bed, squirming with eyes closed while Latha shook her violently. She sat up and half asleep, explained how she had her social studies board exam the next day and being severely underprepared with loads to study, was headed to a near-definite failure. Having made sure there were no robbers in the room, Latha reminded her that she was not a 15 year old tenth standard student, but a 73 year old grandmother of 9! After calming down, Ammamma went back to sleep. Latha made some warm milk for her daughter and they went to sleep to resume their own peculiar dreams, amused. Unnimol closed her eyes with the realisation that the dreams that haunt her today, of being worried about exams, finding herself naked in school grounds and staring into the mouth of a roaring giant lion that came alive from a loose pile of sand during a failed mission to save the princess, will haunt her even as her hair turns grey and face grows saggy.


Liked this? Read Chapter 1 here: https://keerthanpg.github.io/blog/Lazy-Sunday-Morning