‘It’s not even four, but it’s pitch dark outside,’ said Ammamma.‘I want to see Kutti Oppu,’ said Malathikutty. ‘She’ll come by dusk,’ said Ammamma.‘I want to go to Ambazhathel now, this minute,’ said Malathikutty. ‘I’ll send you to Ambazhathel as soon as the storm stops.’ Ammamma tried to comfort her, but Malathikutty began to sob loudly. That was when we heard a coconut palm crashing down. ‘Kochu, what was that? Will the house collapse?’ That was Muthassi.
‘Don’t worry. It was a coconut palm falling. We’ll go and have a look at it once the rain stops. Let’s say our prayers and sit here quietly’, said Ammamma. All of us took shelter in the southern room downstairs as Ammaman’s mother instructed us to do.
She said this room had the strongest ceiling. The thekkini was flooded and the water that had collected in the sunken courtyard of the nalukettu, the central hall with four wooden pillars, began to overflow. Ammaman and all of us sat on the bed. Ammamma and the grandmothers sat on the rolled-up mattresses stacked on the floor. And the servant woman took refuge in the makeshift toilet adjacent to the room.
Ammayi arrived, drenched to the skin, unmindful of the thunder and lightning and driving rain. ‘How can you be so foolish, Bala? What if you fall ill of a fever?’ asked Ammaman. Ammayi laughed. ‘Here’s Kutti Oppu,’ exclaimed Malathikutty joyfully. Ammayi hugged her.
Ammamma said it had become very dark outside and the time was just four pm. Malathikutty said that she wanted to see Kutti Oppu. Ammamma replied that she would come around 6 pm. But Malathikutty was persistent, and she said she wanted to go to Ambazhathel that time itself. Ammamma tried to convince her by saying that she would send her after the storm calms down. Malathikutty knew the storm was not about to calm down anytime soon, and she started crying loudly. They all heard a huge crashing sound from the garden. A coconut palm had fallen due to the stormy winds. Muthassi asked Kochu what the sound was and whether the house would crumble down.
Ammamma said it was the sound of a coconut palm and not to worry about it. She added that they could go and see the condition once rain stops. She told them to chant prayers quietly. All of them assembled in the southern room as told by Ammamma.
She had mentioned that the room had the strongest ceiling. The southern room (thekkini) was filled with rainwater already and the courtyard of the central hall called as nalukettu was submerged. It was a hall in the middle of the house with four wooden pillars for support. The kids and grandmothers (Ammamma and Muthassi) sat on rolled-up beds arranged on the floor, while the servant woman took shelter in the temporary toilet near the room.
A traditional home in Kerala - a hall with pillars!
Ammayi (mother-in-law) came there soaked wet in the rain, totally not conscious of the thunder, lightning and lashing rain. Ammamma scolded her saying she had been so foolish, as they can fall ill because of the rains. Ammayi laughed and handed over Kutti Oppu. Malathikutty was overjoyed and Ammayi hugged her.
Meanings of difficult words:
|mattress||a fabric case filled with soft, firm, or springy material, used for sleeping on|
|makeshift||acting as a temporary arrangement|
|drenched||wet thoroughly, soaked|
|4||unmindful||not conscious, unaware|
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.