‘There’s knee-deep water in the yard now,’ said Sankaran. ‘We want to swim,’ I cried. ‘You can swim in the courtyard of the nalukettu,’ said Ettan. I put my hand into the water in the courtyard. ‘It’s ice-cold.’ I grumbled. ‘Don’t play in the water, children,’ Ammamma called out loudly. We climbed back on the bed. Someone seemed to be knocking on the door on the southern side. Sanakaran opened it. A dog stood on the verandah, dripping wet-Thumbi, the black-and-white pet dog from Ambazhathel.

     ‘Look, here’s Thumbi. ‘He’s drenched. Poor thing, he must have come out with Balamani Amma’, said Sankaran. We looked at Thumbi and he looked at us. He was shivering in the cold. Sankaran spread a gunny bag on the verandah. ‘Lie down on this. In a storm like this, how can we make a difference between a man and a dog? Go to sleep, Thumbi.’ Thumbi lay down on the gunny bags and looked contentedly at me and my brother. We spent the whole night in the southern room. By the time we woke up, the rain had stopped.

     It was the sound of a pleading voice saying ‘Please open the gate’ that actually woke me. A young man stood smiling in the waist-high water at the gate. ‘I’m from Vadekkara. Is everyone here all right?’ ‘Yes,’ said Ammamma. ‘We’ve had no casualties. How did you come, Balan?’ ‘I started out at daybreak and waded through the water.’ ‘That’s really smart!’ ‘The number of huts and trees that have collapsed! Fowls lying dead everywhere, dead goats floating in the water -- what a sight!’ Come in, Balan, and change your mundu.’

     ‘Have they sent us anything from Vadekkara? Murukkus or dates?’ I asked. ‘No, child. I’ve come empty-handed,’ said Balan, displaying his buck teeth. ‘What a time to ask for murukkus and dates!’ muttered Ammaman’s mother. I hung my head, ashamed.
Sankaran continued to say that the water level was knee-deep in the yard. Kamala cried that she wanted to swim. Her brother Ettan said she could swim in the courtyard of the hall. Kamala dipped her hand in the water collected in the courtyard and complained that it was cold as ice. Ammamma instructed the kids not to play in the water. The kids got back on the bed. From the southern side, they heard a knocking sound. When Sankaran opened, he saw the thoroughly drenched, black and white pet dog, Thumbi.
Thumbi dog.jpg
Thumbi, the family pet dog stood drenched in the rain!
Sankaran felt pity for the poor dog. He must have come along with Balamani Amma, he guessed. The kids looked at Thumbi and he looked back at them. He was trembling due to the chillness. Sankaran spread a jute sack on the porch and told Thumbi to lie down on the sack. In a storm condition like this, man and animals could not be differentiated in their needs, Sankaran mentioned. Thumbi lied down and looked satisfied at Kamala and her brother. They all spent the night in the southern room and by morning, the rains had subsided.
Kamala woke up with the sound of a pleading voice that asked them to open the gate. A young man stood at the entrance and the water level was till his waist. He said that he was from Vadekkara and asked if everyone were doing fine. Ammamma replied that they were doing good and no one was injured there. She asked Balan how he had reached. He replied that he started when the sun rose and walked through the water with great effort. He replied that he was really smart. The situation was worse outside as a lot of huts and trees had fallen down; domestic hens and goats were floating dead in the water and it was a nasty sight! Ammamma asked Balan to come inside and change his dress (mundu).
Balan said the situation outside was worse and the whole area was flooded!
Kamala, innocently asked if they had sent any snacks for them from Vadekkara, like murukkus (a crunchy Indian snack made of rice flour) or dates. Balan smiled with his protruding teeth and said he had come empty-handed! Ammamma's mother murmured that this child was asking for snacks at a wrong time. Kamala hung her head in embarrassment.
Meanings of difficult words:
gunny baga sack made of thick material like jute
casualtiespeople injured in an accident or event
daybreakdawn, sunrise
fowla domestic cock and hen
buck teethan upper tooth that projects over the lower lip
State Council of Educational Research and Training (2019). Term-3 English Standard-6. A Childhood in Malabar: A Memoir - Kamala Das (pp 84-89). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.