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Khadar ikkaka was speeding to buy some eggs and milk from Janaki amma’s farmhouse, entrusting Abu, his eldest son, at the Chayakada(teashop). The mildly wet grass on the paddy fields caressed his sore feet as he dragged them hurriedly through the broad pathway lined by deep tire marks left by the convoy of tractors. He had dragged himself half the way when the loud temple clock rang five times followed by the creaky sound of the lofty temple gates that were getting opened again. That reminded him to hurry up. Khader ikkaka wanted to finish off all his errands and reach his Chayakada before the sunrise adhan at six. The Grand Theyyam not only kept the temple alive throughout the previous night but also gave Khadar Ikkaka a brisk business. However, the long hours of work in the fiery-hot kitchen left him sleep-deprived and wobbly too. Rhythmically sliding the holy beads he kept chanting prayers and wading through the dark. Suddenly there was an abrupt jerk when he tripped on something lying on the pathway… “Yaa Allah”, he groaned, dusting off all the grit and grass strands off his long pearl white beard. Khader ikkaka dug his hands deep into his ill-fitted jubbah frantically searching for matchboxes. He threw away the crumpled Dinesh Beedi (a type of Indian cigarette) wrapper and grabbed the soggy matchbox, striking repeatedly to light it.
In the dim matchstick’s light, he noticed a thin stream of blood that had oozed out of the unknown man’s head. Most of the blood was sucked up by the land.
Stooping down and bringing the glowing match stick closer to the man’s face; he confirmed that it was Dharmedran Tamburan, the despicable owner of the vast fields and the temple. Khader ikkaka shook him a couple of times and brought his shivery fingers close to Dharmendran’s face — he wasn’t breathing… The dying matchstick captured Khader ikkakka’s gleaming eyes that divulged a satanic smile on his lips. Flinging away the matchstick he hid his true emotions and ran to alert the priests in the nearby temple. Within minutes the Melshanthi(main priest) chugged off in his second-hand Lambretta towards the Theeroor police station.
The police had always been faithful secret-keepers and silent supporters of the aristocratic Theelot Mana for ages. They help the men of the tharavad hide all their filthy secrets in return for hefty bribes. No wonder the police were on the prowl with their full-fledged noisy sirens that disturbed the usual peace of the little village. All the gossip mongers thronged Khader ikkaka’s chayakada while a few others felt insecure and restless deep within. Undoubtedly Dharmendran’s death was a relief for most in the village!
For days together the police kept loitering at Theroor questioning random people and maintained a secret eye on a few that they suspected.
Abu who was breathing heavily hid behind the long glassed-rack that was filled with oil-soaked undam pori(a sweet snack), waiting for the police jeep to vanish out of his sight. His shaky hands got the oil-smeared creaky rack to wobble like there was an earth tremor.
Stepping back he brushed his hands on his thighs to feel the metal rods that ran over his legs. The sight of the police brought back terrorizing memories of the night that he had to spend in the police station just for stealing a few coconuts from Dhramendran’s fields. The ruthless police had battered his legs for resisting the arrest. Abu’s teenage was shattered and his frail legs were destined to be confined in a cheap metal case for his lifetime.Stifling his tears he limped towards the kitchen when he saw Kathyayani extending her hand into the Chaayakada with a few coins, gesturing for some undamporis. All of a sudden, the gleaming kathara hiding inside her basket caught Abu’s eyes.
As he locked his eyes with hers, he noticed her brown eyes lacked the spark of vengeance that he had observed when the gutsy woman had bad-mouthed Dharmendran at the Chayakada a few days ago.
That was the only day when rebellious Kathyayani marched off without buying anything from the chayakada swearing “Elaaam Sheriyaakum nyan[I’ll fix everything right]”
Streamlining his thoughts Abu handed over the undamporis to Kathyayani with a puzzled look…Abu’s imagination went wild…Is it her?…or the convoy of tractors (as the police thought)…or Khader ikkaka(his own father)?…or…
To be continued…
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