It’s the first time in two years, I was visiting my hometown in Kerala, Tirur – a local suburb, the majority population being Muslims.
It was late in the evening when I reached home. As the driver unloaded the boot, I noticed a flashy red in the darkness. I switched on the lights to the verandah and there, at the threshold was a lady set in her mid-forties with old, worn-out skin, draped in a ragged sari. She had a flashy red scarf for a veil on her head. She was Kunjoltha.
After the luggage was moved in, I went to my room and got started with unpacking. It was later I noticed Kunjoltha at the door.
“What happened?” I asked her in Malayalam.
“Thank God!” She exclaimed holding her chest. “I thought you didn’t know Malayalam and was wondering how to call you for dinner.” I could only smile.
“Serve dinner while I freshen up.”
Dinner was small. There were Chapathis and Eggs roasted with onions.
“I didn’t know what you like. So, I made only this.”
“That’s ok. This is more than enough and it’s nice.” I was having dinner at the table and she, on the floor. Of all I could see, her plate consisted of rice, 2-3 cooked fish heads and little vegetables. Both of us ate in silence.
“Are you new here? I’ve never seen you before.”
“I’ve started to work only two months ago. I was at your ancestral home. I came here today morning; washed and cleaned the house as I waited for you.”
“Where were you before?” She didn’t speak for a while.
Then, she started her story.
“I was married to a Marijuana Smuggler. Business was doing well. He, later, married again. In fact, he had a total of four wives but yet, he kept all of us very happy. He built a house for each one of us. We were all very happy. One day, he was caught and the police confiscated his goods. He was put to jail and ever since we are only suffering.
I have two children – the oldest daughter and son. Five years ago, the kitchen fire, while working, burned my daughter. Now, even after two surgeries she can’t move her hands freely and her face is deformed. With great difficulty, I got her married to a local fisherman which only brought more despair.”
She took a break to drink water and have a few bites off her plate. I just sat there picking on the leftover curry leaves.
“As soon after marriage, he took my daughter to a local lodge little faraway from here after Tirur. There, he runs away with all her jewellery and money leaving her all alone. Thank God, she was able to make a phone call to us otherwise…” She stopped again to eat as she reminisced.
“Ever since my son-in-law only comes home for money and now, my daughter has two sons – one, three and the other, one.
Two days ago, he broke into our house, destroying everything in it. My house is in shambles now. My daughter is after her share of money and house, only because of him. I don’t have money to give and its impossible to give the house. Apart from the house, my son and myself have nothing else. My son doesn’t even have a job; he’s only ten.”
“If you have finished, you can go. You must be tired and should be sleeping now.” I looked at her and like, as though she read my mind said,” This is life, it goes on. I can only be patient. That’s what God has taught us.”
At night, I thought of Kunjoltha. During her narration, she didn’t show any sign of pain or remorse neither did she reproach on her son. It’s just patience and a good one too. Soon, I went off to sleep now listening to Kunjoltha snoring.