Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Thoughtless words

Muthamizh. That was the word that got into his mind when he opened his eyes. The sun played on the paddy field making it glisten like a huge emerald. He stared at the field. The occasional heron that landed made the picture more vivid. There were sounds, noises all around and yet a gentle note of silence seemed to run under all of them. The sounds were like the gentle breathing of Shiva in deep meditation.

The breeze was playing gently with his dhoti. Araikaani he thought suddenly. That must be the dimensions of this land, half a kaani. Half of what Barathi wanted. He smiled gently. There were coconut trees lined in distance. The banana plantations however were close by. His gaze then shifted to the pump set. Water was gushing from it in a hurry. Nobody was bathing in it today. He approached the pump set. Drops of water sprayed on to his face. He was reminded of those rose water sprinklers in marriages. He moved away and wiped his face with the dhoti.

A vague shout came from the old man who had been eyeing him suspiciously earlier in the day. He looked up and saw. The old man was making agitated gestures and shouting a lot. The makeshift dam that was controlling the water flow had broken. The old man was trying to simultaneously plug the hole and keep himself from being dragged with the water. Visai he thought. His eyes were now fixed on the canal running next to him. There were crabs scuttling along. Then a water snake came around. It regarded him for a minute and then lost interest.

He sat down now in the shade of the tamarind tree. There were women sowing paddy in his view. They somehow looked like cranes bending low and fishing. He felt there was something wrong in this comparison, but he was reminded of nothing else. There was mild chatter between the women accompanied by gentle laughter. They broke into occasional songs.

The women then started for the Banyan tree for lunch. He noticed one of them. He noticed her when she climbed to the Varappu from the field. She put her right foot up and her sari pulled up revealing her calf. What the cloth failed to cover, the mud did. She lifted her hands to brush the sweat on her forehead. As she did so he could see her slender waist and the droplets of sweat on it catching the sun. She brushed her forehead removing the sweat and leaving a thin layer of mud in its place.

The women had now gathered at the banyan tree. The sounds from them now felt like Thillaanaa. His eyes were closed. The breeze had lost interest in his dhoti and was instead playing with his hair. The sun stole through the leaves and warmed the behind of his neck in a pleasurable manner. His hands were playing with fallen leaves and twigs. Maiyyal was the word that caught his fancy now. But the word did not stay for long. Almost suddenly his thoughts went to Valli. He felt like he was on some hill in a hunter’s attire chasing Valli. He had never heard Valli speak, but somehow felt her voice must be very sweet.

When he opened his eyes he saw the green paddy again. Nel he thought. Then in an unexpected manner he went on rhyming Nel, Sol, Pal, Kal, Vil, Nil and so on. He was walking along the field quickly as he did this. Then as though tired from the effort, he started breathing heavily. Nellamma is a quaintly beautiful phrase he thought. The paddy is the mother. Muthu Nellamma he thought. He bent down and picked a fallen leaf. By the time he rose again, he had wandered on to Kannamma. For the first time since morning he spoke aloud. He said Kannamma. He said it aloud twice. Indeed, it felt sweet in his tongue.

The sun’s last rays were coming down like desperate warriors of a losing King trying to stop the armies of darkness crowding in the west. The women were now moving homewards visible only as silhouettes. He closed his eyes once more and opened them. He turned around slowly towards home. A single butterfly which he had not noticed since morning flitted in front of his face. Vannam he thought…Vannam, Thinnam, Munnam, Ennam…he walked on.

Muthamizh – A single word denoting the three facets of Tamizh language namely drama, poetry and prose.

Araikaani – A measure of land

Visai – Force

Varappu – The elevated pathway in a field

Maiyyal – Desirous love

Valli – Lord Murugan’s consort

Nel – Paddy

Sol – Word

Pal – Teeth

Kal – Stone

Vil – Bow

Nil – Stop

Muthu – Pearl