He showed his palm at me.


Looking at my reflection on the rear-view mirror, “Where else do you want to visit, thambi (younger brother)?”, driver anna (Elder Brother) inquired.

I paused for a minute and asked him, “Is there any, you think, I should visit?”.

It was quarter past five already in Vedaranyam. My plan was to stop at Chidambaram next, which takes a 3 1/2 hours of bus travel. Then look for a room there to stay, for Vedaranyam didn’t really have a convenient place to halt for a night. I was getting late.

“There is a small Agaththiyar temple, on our way to the town, if you want to visit..” he said.

“A temple for Agaththiyar? I definitely want to visit.” I couldn’t resist.

“Okay”, he laughed, “lets see if it is open still; nevertheless, will ask people nearby to open it for few minutes”.

I thanked him, he was indeed very kind to me.

Tholkappiyam – written by Tholkaappiyar,  lays the grammar for Tamil. Tholkappiyam is the oldest available scripture of and for Tamil. Tholkappiyam is believed to be derived from Agathiyam – written by Agaththiyar; which was lost and gone forever. Agaththiyar is the father of the language Tamil; Word ‘father’ here is not honorary; but an actual.

Vedaranyam

A simplest of Castles for the father of a Grandest Language. Uneven and unpolished rock floor; peeling off limestone painted walls; a deity as dark as the electric lightless room; dull light from the only oil lantern simmering on a side of the face – of the bearded statue and the priest with just a dhoti that has long lost its life and charm. I felt pressed by unreasonable reasons.

I was watching all around the place until the priest called, “Thambi..”, and nodded at me asking to reverence Agaththiyar while he showed the flame towards the father himself. It was emotional. Reverence was all pure.

I prayed, “Say all you left unsaid to this world, through me” and smiled. He showed his palm at me.

“How do you travel all alone?”, asked driver anna sipping tea, “isn’t that boring?”

“No, it is not. I’m comfortable alone”, I told him and smiled.

“Strange! did anything happen for you, recently?, like.. “, he meant unfortunate life-events and smiled.

“no..”, I laughed out loud.

He shook up left out little tea in the glass to dissolve the sedimented sugar and turned it down into his mouth; until no more drop of tea was left in it.

With empty glasses, we just sat there on the wooden bench for a while: I – looking around, him – reading a newspaper and shaking his head, perhaps, in disappointment, angst, apprehension that the happenings he read could have caused.

“It doesn’t seem like you could earn enough from your taxi..”, I asked about his earnings other than this.

“True, my brother does salt farming”, he said, “we are a join family”.

‘oh..’, I nodded.

“So, how’s life here na.. Happy?” I smiled.

“Happy?!” driver anna laughed throwing his head back, “I don’t really know, thambi”

“Why do you say that?”

“I don’t know..”, cuddling his grey beard he said, “sometime, even if I am happy, I doubt if that is what happiness is or is it like I’m faking myself about it, you know what I mean? For I can live, feel and perceive everything only from one life and body; I don’t have an approval, you see.. for many a things. And your feeling are nobody else’s. Sometimes, even the hard times, when I look back, I feel I enjoyed it; but does that mean happiness? I don’t know” he chuckled, twisting his wrist to show something is unknown, “like colors, ha ha.. you see, the green your eye balls may perceive may not be same as my eye balls do, they say. You can’t have an approval for it with just your eyes and brain. O! it is the same with the sadness, I may doubt sometime if I’m being too touchy. That is why I think, I really don’t know. Perhaps, I have allowed myself to analyze too much of a bare reality. Perhaps, we would be able to feel only ecstasy and despair as right as rain. uh?”

Leaning on the wooden bench, balancing my two arms over it, with my heads facing down, I smiled within, out of unexpected grander in his thoughts.

“what is that.. thambi”, he asked caressing my back.

“Nothing..” I tapped his thigh, “It is getting late for me, anna. I think, I must take a leave”

I settled up the money for his car rental and took a leave from him.

I don’t know if I’m right about it; but there wasn’t any want of an approval more assuring than that day has provided me for the kind of travel I wish to have.

The Most Truthful: A Short Story


1

A woman, and a girl kid – must be of six or seven years old, have come from Colombo to see someone here, near my town, without a precise address: having just the village name and a photo of someone – shot years back. Spoke sweetest of Tamil slangs – Srilankan Tamil.

I neither knew them nor owe anything.

The woman, wanted me to help find the person she is searching for. I resisted as much I could. But, she wasn’t ready to let me move, without what is needed from me. She wasn’t lending her ears to my point, she was just concerned about hers. I was loosing my patients. Annoying!

Kid, didn’t utter a word, just replicated the facial expression – adorably, from her mother. Perhaps, She understood the situation.

“Please…I have been desperate to see her for years…” She said, in a voice half swallowed.

“I told you already… I can’t come with you people to find the person you are looking for”

“Please…!” She said again. With her palms clasped at her bosom.

“How the hell….. I’m…sorry… For heaven sake, tell me… How could someone on this good earth would find a person you are searching for: just with the village name and a photo – that can’t help..” I yelled annoyingly. Grabbing the photo she had, showed it to her face.

Holding my hands hard “Please…”, she plead.  Another word she utter would make her tear up.

Couldn’t move on from there, Couldn’t give myself to help them, Couldn’t resist myself from showing off my discontent: was sweating badly on a gloomy morning. It was one awkward moment! Throwing my head back, looked at the sky, sun hid itself behind the clouds.

Bringing myself to sanity, looked at the photo I plucked from her hands.It was a young mother with a girl kid. The women and kid I was speaking to, weren’t the ones in the photo.

Srilankan Tamil  Mother

Photo, the women had

“Who is she… I mean, who is the person you are searching, for you?”

With a voice dissolved in flood of tears, she said “My….Birth Mother!… I’m… I’m begging you to help me find my birth mother”.

She didn’t stop sobbing for minutes, I couldn’t stop her either. Kid started crying too: perhaps, for the reason – her mother was crying.

Calming herself down, the women, started telling me the things in detail: the fact she ended-up here, the reason she didn’t have an exact address or a photo that can help, the sense she was so desperate and self-centered.

I couldn’t speak anything more than “Lets go..”

2

“How long still…Velu?” Venbha inquired tiredly; resting on my shoulders. In those few hours of walk to the village, Venbha – the kid, got along with me so well. Perhaps because, I was the only of two grown-ups, who atleast tried to answer the questions she popped up – Why we walk? Don’t we have buses to this village? How come people live in these very small houses? Why did you make my mom cry there in the town? Why do people live in such a remote place? Can’t they live in towns or cities? , I quenched her curiosity as much I can.

“Another ten minutes” I said.

“ufff… You are saying the samething again…” she said disappointingly, balancing her jaw with her little elbow over my head.

I couldn’t keep down my curiosity any longer.

“So… who brought you up, then?” I questioned Venbha’s mom.

“Asylum”, was the reply.

“What?!!.. I mean.. Why?”

With a faintest smile her face can express, she said “Abnormality is the normality of life, if you are a born Tamil in my Island. Will be shot before you speak, buried before you are dead, hospitals are the graveyard. I’m not afraid of hell.. you know. Hell must be a far better place than my slaughter-island. Giving birth to a girl kid in a place like that – my mother must have had her heart in her boots. My father died before I was born. She took refuge here, leaving me there to someone she had trust on. They brought me up – as long as they could and they left me in an asylum. I don’t know, why she didn’t take me with her. Perhaps because, I was too young to go-through what she would have gone through – to travel across sea. I came here not as a Tamil, but as a Sinhalese woman. Growing up as a street’s child, I have learnt sinhala too. My desperation to see my mother was more than my love on my mother language. Venbha is my adopted child. I have atleast got the news years later that: my mom is alive here. But, Venbha’s parents are in a better place than this planet, already”

Nobody, except feathered creatures and plants, made sound there for another few minutes.

“We have come to the village” I declared, looking at Venbha’s mom. Her face worsened: all at once – longing, anger, happiness; she started shivering.

I had the photo I grabbed from her. Showed it to every one we saw, inquired every home we passed by; only acknowledgement we got was “no”. Time passed fast, Twilight diffused all over the place.

A women – hairs grayed out, wrinkled skin covering her bones – without muscles, came towards us, saying nothing; Her face looked as if – it was tired of expressing anything. Facing Venbha’s mom quiet and deeper…

“Isai priya!!”, she said.

Venbha’s mom nodded furiously. Both broke-down. Purest of hugs and kisses. The Most Truthful exchange of Love. Sun went below the horizon: to shed tears quietly in concealment.

“How did she find my mom?” Venbha wondered.

“She carried your mom for months, in her womb” I said.

Coming back to the present, isai priya and her mother thanked me till words dried out.

Soon, I become the chief-guest for the village. Dinner that I never had in years, fulfillment that I never sensed before. That night, I stayed there in their hut. Lighter the heart, deeper the sleep.

Next morning, Holding Venbha’s cute little hands: “I’m afraid, I must take a leave from you” I said.

Looking down, She just smiled. Smile that expressed not happiness, but the acceptance of reality.

Kissing her soft on the forehead, I bid “Goodbye”.