A namboodiri family engaged a young namboodiri to teach girls of thirteen and ten, as they were not supposed to go to school, where they will have to sit among pupils of other castes.. After classes, the elder sister and teacher used to “play” and the younger one kept guard to alert them, if some one comes. In the dusk no one will come as the women folk will be busy praying. The result soon came out; she became pregnant.
The tutor too was only eighteen years and was unprepared to face the consequences. So they ran away. The girl’s necklace brought some money, with which they managed to go to reach Kasargod. There a substitute poojary was needed. So the boy started earning. They stayed as husband and wife as child marriages were normal in those days.
I was attending a conference of Environmental Scientists at Cuttack. Young students were also invited to attend the proceedings and also to present their papers. Among them, one boy named Aswin impressed me by his academic qualifications and meticulously studied paper about tortoises. He was tall for his years and had bright, searching eyes and high forehead. He was not fluent in English and so I enquired: what is your mother tongue?
When he said Malayalam, I became more interested.. But he had no information about his home or village.
After the conference, I accompanied him to his house, near the temple. His mother attracted me by her face – the same eyes and forehead as his son’s!
Involuntarily, I placed my hand on her shoulder and said: congratulations. Your boy has been selected for research!
She sat down, caught my feet and started crying. I felt embarrassed. I too sat down on the floor and wiped her tears.
I said: today is an occasion to celebrate. Aswin is an intellectual giant, though still a boy. I will see that he succeeds. Sister, give me rice and sambar. I want to eat to my capacity!
Then she smiled. I sent Aswin to bring sweets, giving him five hundred rupee note.
In his absence, his mother became talkative.
What is your name?
What caste are you?
Warriar, we live near the Mahadevamangalam temple on the bank of the river Bharathapuzha. At the mention of the temple, she beamed and became warm. She was about to touch me, but hesitated. So I held her hand and pressed it. I asked: do you know the place?
She avoided an answer. I continued:
My parents are in Delhi. I am their only son, unmarried and thirty years old. How old are you?
Next month I will be thirty two.
So you are my oppol (elder sister.)
You didn’t tell me your name.
When I am in Delhi, do come there.
She used to write to me. Though her writing lacked order and sophistication, I loved to read it.On the occasion of Rakhi, I sent her the traditional bracelet, indicating my determination to protect her, and, costly gifts.
The next winter, Sushma and her son came to Delhi and stayed as my guests. Aswin was in JNU. Sushma’s husband could not get leave as he was a poojari, and so, it was a Sushma and myself who toured Agra and Jaipur. I found her company entertaining and satisfactory.
The next time I went to my home in Keralam, my grandmother insisted that I marry.. She even earmarked a girl as my wife and introduced her to me. She was quite handsome, though short, and was educated. Somehow, I did not like the idea. Grandma was unhappy.
I was returning home. I hailed an autorickshaw and when it stopped, a lady requested for sharing it.. She was dark, with lively eyes and I enquired where she was going. She too was going to Mahadevamangalam temple.
I hazarded a guess: are you a teacher?
Do you know Sankaran warriar?
I have seen him as a child.. Now I hear he is a big scientist.
Am I big?
She watched me closely and laughed. You are that Sankaran who used to play with us? A dirty brat with running nose and scabbies? Oh! My. God! How you have changed. Why this big moustache? I don’t like it.
By this time we had reached the temple. It was about to be closed. We had to go down a flight of steps to reach the river. I held her hand lest she may slip and fall. I sat on the steps, while she was taking bath.
The crescent moon could faintly be seen over the vast expanse of fields, beyond the river.
I said: there is no water in the river.
She: some experiments were made to “conserve water” and this is the result. I have to lie down to take bath.
I: hurry up; it is getting dark.
By the time we came up, the temple was about to be closed. I didn’t go in. She finished and came out.
We climbed a rock, overlooking the river and sat there side by side. May I touch you?
She laughed: you men are like that. Can’t you wait till we marry?
So is it settled about our marriage?
You like to fiddle with my body and leave me?
Sorry madam; I just wanted to hold you in my arm.
She cuddled close to me and I tightly held her. She then described all that I mentioned in the beginning about Sushma’s elopement. (As I was with my parents in Delhi, I never heard about it ). I cried out in ecstasy: I am her best friend and mentioned all that happened at Cuttack.
We then went to her house to inform the good news.. The old parents could not believe it.
They asked: why did she not write to us?
She never talked about you. Even when she knew who I am, she did not divulge any details about herself.
Veena suggested that she may be afraid of the parents’ anger.
I went away, promising to meet the teacher at the school.
At 4 PM, when the school closes, I was there with a dozen saris. We spent the evening in the municipal park. She was moody and won’t say what is wrong.
I asked her whether she is having a lover.
Then only she smiled. She shook her head in the negative.
I left her at her hostel.
Next day I had to go to Madras for some urgent work. In the night, I wrote a long letter to her, with plenty of hot kisses. The reply, when it came, was the shortest love letter ever written!
I cannot live without you.
In the meanwhile, Sushma and her husband came to see her parents. I am told that they were persuaded by all, to arrange my marriage with Veena.
But my grandma refused. She won’t hear abut it. So I returned to Delhi, very much disappointed.
Things were moving fast.
The old poojary of Shiva temple at Mahadevamangalam wanted to retire. He was not getting a reliever. Sushma’s husband was willing to do that job, so that she could look after her parents.
I returned to Keralam and the new atmosphere was very exciting. Veena ran to my place whenever she could. Grandma became very friendly with her. Veena had given me sexual freedom and I used it to maximum advantage, as grandma was resting in her room, most of the time.
My parents came home and clinched the issue by extracting grandma’s consent for our marriage.