"Let us be grateful to good people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our soul blossom," Marcel Proust.
Memories of childhood are the most cherished secret treasures. Its bitterness, sweetness, sadness, ecstasy still stream like a beautiful symphony. Ma, my mother used to rear goats. Its upkeep was a part of our daily timetable. Strangely, one day one of them began to spin its head and bleat in pain continuously. Ma thought it would be due to the imprecation of the spirit passing through our compound. She scolded us for tying the goat under its hallway. The nearby Homeo doctor offered some medicine, but Ma was not satisfied. The burgher Kannan Kuravan treats all with his magic band and holy ashes. Ma often directs us to him.
One such day, the last ray of the setting sun vanished, (as per Ma, it’s the auspicious time to collect vibhuti, the powerful sacred ash) and the earth began to cover itself with a dark blanket. The moon slowly and steadily rises its light up. Me and my younger brother, Unni began our not so easy journey towards Kannan Kuravan’s house. We had to cross some hurdles one by one. In the family shrine, only one or two diyas (lamps) were lighted, it was like a scattered firefly, otherwise, it was pitch dark. The graveyard of our joint family, where grandparents were sleeping peacefully, emanating Vinca Rosa flowers pungent smell. And the howling of street dogs added to the fear factor.
The tiny stone trail leading to his house might have venomous serpentines, sneaking scorpions, and the many like of such. The dim light of the small torch offers only a fragmentary vision. Holding Unni’s hand we moved fast, half running and half walking. The fear of the unknown Enampechi, Marutha, Yakshi, Pisachu blindfolded.
Kannan Kuravan’s mud-walled small hut was neat and tidy. His daughter, who was my classmate used to come to me often with her boiled sweet potato and yummy chilly chutney to school. Sharing of food was done secretly as my Ma would not allow me to eat any cooked items from their house. Upon reaching the courtyard Unni stumbled on a stone and was injured slightly. It was more than enough reason to make him cry out aloud. Hearing his cries Kannan Kuravan came and took us into his shelter.
Instead of the ghostly look that we imagined, it was as simple as every poverty-ridden folk of those times. Kannan Kuravan’s eyes, glittered with love and empathy. He applied some extracts of the leaves collected from nearby his home, to Unni’s wound. He offered us water and sweet plantain. Unni whispered, ‘don’t tell this to Ma’. He gave us Vibhuthi, ‘the sacred ash,’ tied in a piece of plantain leaf. He embraced us and told “don’t ever come here in search of holy ashes at this odd hour. I am not practicing any black magic. Don’t heed to witchcraft or delusion, tell your mother to give proper treatment to the poor animal.” He returned the dakshina (donation) I had offered.
Kannan Kuravan accompanied us back home waving an ignited long palm leaf torch. The barely clad lean immaculate man’s lovely words and the bright light from his country torch made our return journey easier and cozier. Without canvas, paint, or brush, those pictures hold close to the heart and soul. This urge to eulogise, to look on admiringly at a bygone figure frame, stand out, still shimmering in my memory.
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