Monday, February 23, 2009

summer afternoon

Tikki spent the whole afternoon collecting shells and sparkling bits of stone. He ran behind goats and crossed the stream over the small make shift bridge. It was a hot summer afternoon but amidst the coconut trees and paddy crop, it was cool and shady. He napped under a tall coconut tree while the farmhands ate their lunch. After his nap, Tikki ran behind the crows and tried to catch them. Sparrows are more cautious birds but the crows at the farm were bold and landed close to him. The farm hands never paid attention to the crows but Tikki was determined to grab one of the fat crows. After trying for a long time, he left the chase and ran behind squirrels. The squirrels had three stripes on their backs and long bushy tails. They seemed to look at him with their dark eyes. One looked like it smiled at him. He ran back to where his grandfather sat conversing with the tenant and asked why the squirrels had those light stripes. The tenant answered before his grandfather did and told him how a squirrel tried to help lord Rama build the bridge to Lanka. When lord Rama noticed, he affectionately stroked the squirrel with three of his fingers, which left their impressions. And since then, all squirrels that descended from that one had those stripes to show their lineage.
Had he stayed back home, amma would have made him eat dal and curd, and made him sleep along with the rest of the family. He would have sneaked out of the house while everybody is enjoying the afternoon siesta and climbed the mango tree in the front yard. The huge mango tree! It is so much fun to climb and now of course, all the mangos are ripe. Of course, atta always threatened to break his knuckles if he sneaked out of the house during mid day, but what would atta know of climbing trees and eating ripe mangos! Atta and for that matter, even amma were never kids. From the time he knew, they have been tall and strong and wore zari saris, unlike bujji. Bujji is different. She looks a lot like amma but is very little. She only wears a glasco jubba. In fact, bujji was even smaller six months ago. She was not even talking. Now of course, she calls him anna. Tikki heard grandfather call and ran back to the bullock cart. Grandfather said, “Come on Tikki, let us start. We will have to reach home before it gets dark”. The bullock cart ride was slow and bumpy. Tikki saw goats and cows on the road. He also saw those big cows with a hump. There is only one humped cow at home (bull). Here is a herd of them. Amma never milked this huge cow. She said it it wasn’t for milking, besides, it would hit her with its hind legs. But the other cows also hit people sometimes when they were really angry. They never hit amma though! Tikki reached home about seven O clock tired but not hungry. He had his fill of coconut water and tender coconut meat. Tikki placed all the shells he collected in a mug of water next to the well and went away to freshen up.

Next day, he woke up and saw that the mug of shells was empty and small slimy creatures were carrying away his shells into the well. He started weeping and complained to amma. “Amma, they are taking my shells away”. Amma came out of the kitchen and looked and laughed. She told him, “Tikki, those shells belong to those little creatures. They are called snails and they live close to water bodies like our well. You should let them carry their own shells. Now stop weeping and freshen up. I have made your favourite utappam for breakfast”