Sitting on the rock, with a towel shrouded around her wet hair Sugi dropped her little fingers into the bronze tiffin box she had brought. Her sister was still enjoying dips in the river while Sugi licked each of her fingers that were dripping with orangish curd. The mango pickle had been soaked completely by the homemade curd that changed the white curd to orangish. Sugi had stopped enjoying the curd when her thoughts suddenly shifted to her mother. Meenakshi (Meenatchi – that’s how it is in Tamil) had been admitted in the local town hospital for her tenth child delivery. Just yesterday, she had delivered a dead boy to the family’s disappointment. Sugi and her younger sister had gone to visit their mother that morning. Though there was sadness in the air, Sugi could sense another strange sorrow in the ward where her mother lay. Meenatchi (though conscious) had not spoken to Sugi nor her sister. As young kids of twelve and ten years they ignored the serious atmosphere in the hospital and had gone to the river for a bath and lunch.
Sugi was interrupted in her quest for her mother’s silence when her sister snatched the tiffin box from her saying ‘I need to have lunch too!’ Of course Sugi being the elder one would have always be careful enough to allocate food for her sister. Sugi just smiled and moved towards the river and bent down to wash her pickle stained fingers. As she walked back, the sound of her anklets added the second track of music to the first – the river’s.
It had been a week and Meenatchi had not yet returned to the thatched house from hospital. No one could have missed her more than Sugi’s elder brother Veera. Boys were always dear to the mothers’ right! He had dropped out of school but never bothered to get a job in the village. When neighbors do their usual work of questioning the activities of a boy next door, he would reply “How can I leave my amma? I can’t”. The neighbors and even his own father hurled insults for not being of any use to the family.
Sugi had not packed her lunch, as her father had told that Meenatchi would be back from hospital by afternoon. She decided to get back home for lunch and also spend time with the bravest woman she ever knew in her life. She ran back home when the village school bell went tang! tang! tang! She was served lunch by her paternal grandmother, who also informed her that Meenatchi had been affected by jaundice. Sugi was not worried, for her dad was one of the most known Homeopathy doctors in her village. She herself had seen a number of jaundice patients get cured by her father’s medicines. Sugi sat straight to the doorway of another room in the house from where she could see her mother lay with eyes closed. She completed her lunch without taking off her eyes from her amma’s face. It was time to get back to school.
As Maths teacher was teaching fractions on the blackboard, Sugi sat with her hands on her chin displaying alertness. The teacher was interrupted by a young man outside the classroom who Sugi identified to be Mahesh anna, her neighbor. He whispered something in the ears of Kavitha miss and Sugi was called to go out. Sugi looked into the face of Mahesh anna to hear him say something that she never dreamt to hear. ‘Your amma is dead!’
Having said that, he accompanied Sugi to the school gate and then she could not find him. Sugi did not cry, when she heard that her paradigm was no more. May be she was just confused of how things could get wrong when her own father was a doctor and also a man who had contacts of all allopathy doctors in and out the village as well. She walked to her home alone and as she took the deviation that led her to her street she could see the commotion outside her house. It was a straight street and her house was fifth from the end. As she neared her home, her feet gained momentum that she almost started running so fast. Her speed was too much that the rubber chappal in one her foot flew and hit the unshaven face of Murugan Mama next door.
Sugi stopped at the threshold, catching her breath .But she couldn’t catch her tears as her found her chatelaine lay covered in garlands. Her hands shivered and she could not find where her voice had vanished. It was already time to carry the dead and as the men with lungis lifted her mom out of the house Sugi wailed with a shriek and screamed ‘Amma!’
Author Notes: Life can be filled with meetings and partings. But loosing someone, when you think you never will is the greatest pain. Nothing is in our hands !