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‘Theyyam’ was Thondachan’s life. It gave him all that he could have only dreamt of. The face that he fancied—The unearthly power. He considered his life to be a stage, that was set up to master his Theyyam moves.
His dark wheatish skin glistened under the sun, letting the huge pearls of sweat to roll down carelessly on his muscly body, as he mixed the bubbling hot Paccha Marunnu (herbal medicine) in the huge cauldron. It takes several hours to get the right consistency and color. Dropping the long wooden spatula onto the firm dung smeared ground he twirled around the boiling cauldron, moving his hands gracefully to form mystical mudras while his facial muscles flexed like natural rubber with apt expressions. His practice was hindered by Kathyayani’s long stare that got him back to his prime job, Pachha Marunnu mixing. She quickly stifled her smile but was truly clear in her mind that her husband had the gravitas of a true Theyyam artist.
Tightly wrapped in his sturdy arms, the enchanting smell of the homemade jasmine oil in Kathyayani’s hair acted as an aphrodisiac that enticed him to get closer to her. He groped her body and warmed her up by puffing out fiery hot air through his nostrils. He had already engulfed her tender body and hid it safe within him, subtly assuring her that he owned her for life. His heart was thudding faster… and faster…
Panting and puffing she jangled her metal bangles fighting to free herself. She finally jerked to push him away in fear and remorse. A fiery half-painted Theyyam face with long protruding fangs was floating above her in the air; staring at her constantly. ”You’re not my Thondachan”, she whimpered.
She lost count of the number of times this happened to her. Kathyayani loved her husband for his simplicity and caring nature. But sometimes the nights turned weird when she slipped into an unreal world of branding her husband as a powerful mystical man. That’s when she forgets… he is an ordinary man… a faithful husband… a responsible father…
Thondachan’s family was engaged in sorcery and traditional medicine during the months when Theyyam was not performed. His Paccha Marunnu concoctions could magically cure many ailments; a few that were life-threatening too. His thatched hut had a dedicated corner that was clean and cow dung smeared (acted as a coolant) to store all his rare medicinal concoctions. He called it the Marunnupura (medicine room).
Guilt struck him hard each time he used clueless Kathyayani as the carrier of his unique Ashwagandha Rasayanam for Dharmendran— a disgusting lecher! Kathyayani, the dedicated midwife for Dharmendran’s pregnant wife, got the Rasayanam to reach the Theloottu Mana whenever it was demanded.
Thondachan only knew to follow orders and remain humble. Naanivalyamma, his grandmother was to be blamed for this upbringing.
She used to say “We are downtrodden, we take orders and we never question”. It’s been two years since the old hag passed away, yet Thondachan’s innate feeling of inferiority lingers. And this made him recite archaic stories and principles about Cherujanmam (lesser birth rights) to his twin sons, Thirothan and Karunban. “Remember, this is our caste occupation and we never demand anything in return for our services. We need to accept whatever is offered with humility keeping our heads bowed”. Karunban, who was elder by two minutes, hated his father for such advice and felt his father was gutless.
His father’s timid nature hurt him more than the fire burns on his body during the grueling Fire-Theyyam practice sessions.
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