I woke up to the sound of the rooster announcing a new day. As I rubbed my eyes and sat up in bed, I could hear the sivastuthi from the neighboring temple. There wasn’t a lot of light yet, but I knew it would get brighter soon. I saw my sister still peacefully asleep, and without further ado, took my pillow and pummeled her with it, waking her up. She woke up with a start, and seeing me with the pillow, took up her own and retaliated. Soon, we were rolling on the floor, laughing heartily, as our grandmother came in, hearing the noise we had made.
“Started fighting already? It’s not even seven in the morning,” she said, a twinkle in her eye and trying to control her laughter.
We grinned back, and she pushed us out the door, and to start our morning chores. She also took the bucket with the soiled clothes from beside the bed, heading off to wash them.
“The sooner they are washed, the more time they’ll get to dry,” she would say every time we asked her.
The weather in Kerala was definitely hot, but my sister and I didn’t mind. We didn’t have many relatives to play with outside, so we had come from the cooler climes of Bangalore armed with board games and audio cassettes to listen on our walkman.
After our morning chores, we found Ammamma still outside. She was scrubbing away at the white shirt I had worn yesterday, and Aathira’s pale cream skirt. Looking closer as we avoided the splashing soap bubbles, we found the orange stains from the mango we had had last night. She saw us staring at it and smiled, continuing to attack it with the brush and then hit it against the stone in front of her.
“You two go play. This will take a while,” she said.
It was eleven when Ammamma came to our room, holding a plate. It had three juicy mangoes, uncut. She sat on the floor next to us and watched us play Monopoly. She didn’t understand the game, though we had tried to explain to her earlier.
“Ammamma,” I started. I looked at Aathira, who nodded.
“Can you cut the mangoes please?”
She was surprised at my request, knowing well that we both enjoyed having it the usual way.
“If we have it cut, then we wouldn’t spill onto our clothes,” added Aathira.
Ammamma laughed. She just handed the mangoes to us.
“My naughty little ones, do not worry so much about Ammamma, or your clothes,” she told. “The stains will go away with scrubbing, and it is okay even if they do not. You will not be children always. This is the time to have fun. Mangoes, cut up, are fine. But it’s fun when you squeeze the juice free by softly squishing them, then bite a hole and drink it. And then gnaw away the flesh from the skin of course. Come on now. No more sulking. I become a kid when I am with the two of you.”
We gave her a hug together, sitting on either side of her. Then she took a mango too. We started squeezing the mangoes slowly till the juice came inside, and then bit a hole near the top. We saw the juice dripping from Ammamma’s chin as she ate hers, not worrying about stains on her white saree. We happily did the same.
Outside, the sun beat down on the world heavily. Inside, the three of us sat happily, listening to songs, sharing stories from school and of course, enjoying the sweet taste of summer.
*sivastuthi: devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva
*Ammamma: maternal grandmother
(© Vinay Leo R. @ I Rhyme Without Reason,
16th July, 2017)