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Being an eminent Theyyam artist, Thondachan transforms miraculously during his Theyyam performances into a mighty and fearless supernatural human, more of God rather. With the majestic headgear, his head remained raised and his eyes were induced with the power to stun the strongest man. Neither his heavy anklet nor the bulky costume slowed down his pace, as he strode on the sharp temple pebbles like walking on a bed of flowers. Karumban would easily slip into a trance and absorb all that his father bestowed—the confidence, the unstoppable strength, and the unnatural vigour. That was the moment when Karumban loved his father the most. He felt like a prince, the contender of the mighty king— Thondachan Peruvambad. He wished that feeling remained longer. His eyes would not blink when he watched his father jump on a pile of ember fearlessly, blessing all the people of Theeroor—irrespective of their castes. He felt a deep unexplainable momentary pleasure while watching the haughty upper-class men fall on his father’s feet, crying out loud with tears in their eyes. Karumban kept picturizing these scenes with a contented smile, even days after the performance. For him it was ecstasy. There is no second thought… Thondachan loved the art while Karumban loved the hidden power.
Kathyayani was always accompanied by one of the male family members whenever she ventured out for Pachha Marunnu (herbal medicine) selling. Karumban was the most enthusiastic one who used to wait for his turn to partner with his mother for the thrilling village trek as she was the only one to tell stories that made him feel proud of his lineage . He proactively packed and carried all the Pachha Marunnu in a Kotta (handwoven basket) to try their luck in selling a few bottles on the way. Throughout their journey, they sang Naadan Paat(Folk songs) to attract people’s attention.
“Ponn niramulloru Paccha Enna Tharaaamm
Churiyan Chandiran Tandaanaa
Marotiikka Jaathikaa Chaachittu Vechoru
Churiyan Chandiran Tandaanaa Tanaaa
Churiyan Chandiran Tandaanaa …”
[sometimes Karumban murmured these lines in his sleep too]
Karumban’s Adam’s apple kept moving vigorously as he repeated the song rhythmically faster and faster. As intended his deep voice always overpowered his mother’s melodious voice and grabbed the attention of many. The rest was handled by Kathyayani. She could confidently sell, even a dead rat! Karumban was enthralled to see the confidence that sparkled in her brown eyes.
Singing intermittently, together they covered all the spots usually thronged by their prospective customers: Jaffer Ikka’s Chaaya Kada(Tea shop), the crowded riverside, and the temple in the paddy fields. After a long day’s selling, they headed straight towards the isolated thicket which was just a stone’s throw from the paddy fields. This place had some of the best medicinal herbs used for preparing their Paccha Marunnu concoctions. The villagers never dared to venture into this thicket due to mysterious movements and weird noises that were heard during unearthly hours, but—Thondachan’s family was an exception!
As they both stepped into the thick woods, Karumban could hear his own heartbeat. His hands froze; this happened every time he entered that place. The cool wind that blew all around them made no noise. The ghostly silence was disturbed by their footsteps. Kathyayani placed a big parcel of food (neatly wound in a plantain leaf) under an old tree and broke the silence by chanting, “This place and the rare herbs are protected by Kuttichathan( mischievous demon) for whom I place the food in return “. Kathyayani nudged Karumban to quickly pluck the required herbs. And within a few minutes, they jumped out of the thorny entrance of the thicket and leaped towards the paddy fields. They never bothered to touch anything from the fields as it belonged to Dharmendran. Catching her breath, in the back of her mind she knew she had to reach the cursed Theloottu Mana before the dusk. That was the order…
Being a teenager Karumban’s blood used to boil for the way Dharmendran Thamburan lustfully looked at his mother whenever she visited the Theloottu Mana to administer Paccha Marunnu to his pregnant wife. There were times when he lost his cool for Dharmendran’s lewd comments but he was always silenced and stopped by Kathyayani from reacting. “Don’t disturb the devil, we’ll lose the peace”, she begged looking into Karumban’s eyes. Deep within, Kathyayani knew she went to that jinxed place just to catch an eye of her beloved Devaki Kutty (kid), Dharmendran’s daughter from his first wife. Even though she was entrusted to be the little one’s nanny; she secretly considered herself as Devaki Kutty’s foster mother.
Thondachan spent his late evenings training his twin sons on Theyyam practices, makeup, elaborate jewelry, and dressmaking too. Thirothan was trained to be his father’s makeup artist while Karumban was quick enough to follow his father’s footsteps. He was ambitious and had a twinkle in his eye each time he thought of a huge crowd cheering him respectfully. The villagers could vouch for the fact that Karumban’s Guligan Theyyam(representing Yama, the Hindu God of death) could bring goose bumps and he was undoubtedly the perfect embodiment of Yama.
To Read Chapter 5 here