He sits on a wooden silence. She lies on a damp mat.
‘Nimisha’, they call her. She looks fair in her layette. She is a moon. Kovilan and Kotha are in the moonlight now.
Kovilan belongs to a rare class – a coconut palm climber. Coconut grove owners have to wait for weeks to get him. “He is not here”, Kotha says, when the truth struggles in her mouth. The messenger boy from the land owner goes back in despair. There is no software to read and write in her brain. But we read practical wisdom on her monitor.
Kovilan’s palms transform into a bowl. He takes grey soil and pours into the pit. Neighbours and relatives also make contributions with the soil. A small mound of sand appears amid the crowd. A twig, which is cut from a henna plant, is planted to mark the head, and another the legs. Holy showers wash the mound.
“Wake up, Koviletta. Wake up, please”. Kotha’s words clank near his head. It is early morning – a time when the warm rays kissing the soft dawn under the dew drops.
“Nimisha is crying. She didn’t sleep at all last night. Do you know that? You always sleep like a buffalo”. Kotha’s feeling is an amalgam of grief and anger.
“What’s the matter?” – the question slips over on the rum stink.
“She has pain in her legs. Fever also. She tells her legs are losing their strength.”
They set off.
The doctor is in the city. Many pale looking figures have been scattered before the doctor’s door. ‘Rupees fifty or hundred’ – they are in confusion about the doctor’s fee.
“Apply an ointment on the legs sparingly. Take these pills after the food. Everything will be all right”, the doctor prescribes. They pay him a hundred rupees.
An owner of a coconut grove, which is near Kanoli canal, an ancient canal built by the British, stands holding an umbrella against the sun. Kotha and two other village women get ready to pick up the falling coconuts and carry them in big bamboo baskets. Kovilan climbs up the coconut palms one after another. He works his fingers to the bone. His calloused legs are kept within a ring rope, which is like his life. His intuition checks the ripeness of the coconuts. He cracks jokes, which are falling down from the coconut palm top. Some of his remarks blush the ladies.
A moon is hiding behind the clouds. Polio plucks the strings that move Nimisha’s legs. Now her legs rest as a stringless violin. She grows along with her mother’s tension and the father’s anxiety.
Kovilan usually climbs upon Today, never upon Yesterday and Tomorrow. His days are green and yellow like the coconut palm leaves. His ways are hackneyed.
Nimisha cannot climb upon life – Kovilan cogitates about his daughter.
Rustic children watch Nimisha, who sits on a wheel chair in the yard. They smile at her. But it is unwise to take her with them. Legs are important in their games. Polio bursts her bubble. A sad raga is played on the strings of her mind.
Rain drizzles over the Kanoli bank.
Kotha comes out like lightning. She takes Nimisha into the veranda. Then she darts to the paddy farm in front of her thatched home, where she had laid mango peels to dry on an empty sack. She folds the sack keeping the mango peels inside and runs back into the kitchen.
Nimisha coughs……coughs……coughs…. She spits phlegm out. Her mother takes some medicinal powder, which is made of herbs, and rubs it on the scalp of her daughter.
“Don’t worry. It’s due to the climate change”, the father consoles her.
A Sunny afternoon.
Nimisha sits coughing on her wheel-chair in the veranda. A flock of rustic girls passes by, greeting her. She smiles at them. A sweet smile of innocence. But nobody takes her to the rural shrine .She has put on a new frock. As the butterflies on her dress, she also cannot flit to the yard of the shrine. She blinks back her tears.
Ice-cream sellers fly sounding horns to the festival ground on bicycles, a Tamil speaking woman who sells bangles follow them on foot, two big elephants move dancing and clinking the chains, the mahouts holding poles and sticks accompany them…………..
Nimisha’s eyes chase the sights.
She falls into a chasm of desolation. Cough waves shake her lungs again. She doesn’t know that pneumonia is packing her soul. Her fingers move in the rhythmic wind. The clarion does ripple the divine thoughts in her ears.
By the twilight, the drum storm develops again. All the villagers have gathered in front of the shrine.
Few knew Nimisha swooned.
Returning people from the festival ground hear about a bolt from the blue, who stop by Nimisha’s house. The crowd thickens.
A wrinkled yellow man whispers, “Being holy, an apt day it is.”
The wheel-chair withdraws into the dust.
In infinite emptiness, the parents knew her truly.