Saturday, June 17, 2017

Withering Souls


"Yaadi... Yaadi... where are you? Come fast or else you will miss the bus to the town?" I said anxiously.

"Oh.. stop grumbling. Let me fill some water in the bottle" screamed Yaadamma from inside the muddy hut. 

"Water in our mudpot is frigid and refreshing. Fill your bottle with it. The sun appears to be performing taandavam these days" my daily dose of unsolicited advice continued.
"Ok ok. I am leaving now; you take care of the house. Water the plants. Feed the hen. Prepare manure with cow dung. DO NOT intake much of tobacco. Your coughing is tremendously increasing each day and it is scary" said Yaadi sounding like an old tape recorder reading aloud the list of my daily tasks. Actually it is my failure of memory. 

I promptly replied "Do not worry! I shall take care. You come home soon" 

"Well! it is not in my hands. That is directly proportional to quick selling of Jasmines. I cooked rice for you. Tomato pickle and curd is kept on the attic" saying this Yaadi staggered to the bus stop.

I stood up with great difficulty stooping and placing my right hand on the side bone. Tardily, I took bath under the motor pump and glanced at the sky. Sun looked fiercely at 45 degrees in shades of bright red and orange with rays penetrating deep on my rough skin causing scorch. Time must 10.30 roughly I thought. Hunger played pranks ejecting ludicrous sounds indiscreetly. It only grew profoundly every minute. Soon I rushed inside the hut to have my brunch. No, it is not a Sunday. But we have only brunches daily unlike the rich. The tomato pickle and wheat rice tasted exotic today. Yet, I am craving for Sambar. I asked Yaadi to cook it for me but she would say "Sambar needs lot of dal, tamarind and many vegetables". I shall prepare it for you the day I sell the whole basket of Jasmines. 

I look after Jasmine plants, take out weeds, water and manure them. While Yaadi entwines flowers to make chaplets, wreaths, garlands and carries them to the nearby town to sell it in the market. That's our summer mundaneness. The job of visiting market was mine in the past but owing to my old age, blurred eyesight and hearing impairment we have interchanged our roles. Thus, I officially became home keeper and gardener and I am thoroughly enjoying it except few times when I laze around. It is an apparent consequence of old age. I must be nearing 90 and Yaadi is somewhere in 80s. My parents were illiterate so my birth date was not recorded.  Once my Father's brother told me that I was born in the summer in Shukla Paksha two days before Amavasya in the year when Gandhiji's Salt march kicked off. Few years later a school teacher of my Village guessed my birth year as 1930.

Yaadi is my distant uncle's daughter. Her full name is Yadamma. The first time I saw her, she wore some bright coloured Paavadai and her oiled hair was kempt with beautiful jasmine maala (Chaplet of flowers) adoring her thick long hair. I instantly loved the way she looked. She was perhaps 12 at that time. An year later we got married immediately after she attained puberty. We never bore children but I promised to stay loyal to Yaadi and so did she. Yet, we have beautiful lives, few hens, our own home filled with greenery. Cruel, stoic, jobless world it is which often inquisitively questioned about our children for many years after our marriage and gave unsolicited advices. When anyone questioned about our offsprings, Yaadi would cannily reply with a grin "We have hundreds of children playing in our backyard and thousands of grandchildren who spread happiness with fragrance". 

Our lives are dependent on this flower business that is inherited from our ancestors. Albeit our efforts, it is so disheartening these days people don't buy flowers. They would love to spend thousands on Beers and Biryanis and not a mere 20 rupees on fresh flowers that spread smiles and happiness. By chance if they decide buy, they would bargain for lesser price or few more flowers. It is a rare sight to see young girls wearing Jasmines or any other flowers. Jasmines not only embellish woman's hair beautifully but also bring coolness to their head. That's what was told to me by my Grandmother. 

Our village school teacher, the one who told my probable age used to visit at times to buy handful of fresh Jasmines for his wife. He once said his wife teaches a subject on plants in town. It is called something like "Bootny" and she loved Desi Jasmines. Each time he bought flowers from us, he told us how useful these Jasmines are. He once explained "Science has proved that these will bring calmness to the body and refreshes mind. These are used in perfumes, herbal, health and beauty care and in making oils. Along with herbal uses, jasmine is also used to brew Jasmine tea. The extracts of these flowers are used in healing stress, headaches, sunstrokes, pain, irritability, uterine problems..etc and sometimes in curing breast cancer." And few I do not even recollect. You see my fading memory. I just knew and believed that Jasmines do good for the body and mind. But never understood why young girls these days avoid wearing them. Ironically, they at times pick up beauty and health products, chemical bearing, of jasmine flavor in excitement exclaiming they unstoppable love for Jasmines. When doctors said fresh fruits can do much favour to our bodies than fruit juices, people understood and are trying to follow it. Shouldn't it be applied here too?

Anyways you are more learned, educated and knowledgeable than me. So you decide. Oh.. Ghosh!! I need to cut down old Jasmine trees in the backyard. They have become old and weak. The main stem has turned fragile, delicate, stooping. Today was theirs last flowering day. Nonetheless, we have planted new trees instead. These shall be blossoming tomorrow I suppose. Yaadi has been waiting for this day. I should tell this to her when she is back. She will be ecstatic. We keep aside few flowers to offer our family goddess Pochamma whenever new plants bear flowers for the first time. A ritual followed since ages.  

The layers of darkness are sweeping in, birds flew back to their nests, farmers returned from fields but Yaadi hasn't turned up. She usually reaches home before the dawn sets in. Now, I am becoming more anxious. Body pains are creeping in, my joints are mourning. I think I should settle down in the Veranda gazing the road till Yaadi returns home.

It is more than hour I guess since I am here in the Veranda. I could hear some squabble voice approaching our hut. I could decipher only few words from their conversations "Old lady", "sun stroke", "body", "gloomy", "Basket full of jasmines". My heart beat increased rapidly and I was panting. Few seconds later I saw people carrying a body. I had no guts to know what happened. I couldn't speak or react. I was startled. Something was happening to me. Eyes starting burning, nerves pulled impetuously, there was churning in my stomach. I felt like throwing up. The last thing I saw was Yaadi lying in our Veranda (Porsche) peacefully beautiful than ever with chaplet of flowers adoring her hair bun. And my nostrils felt arousing aromatic smell of Jasmines. Instantly I remember Yaadi's words "There are only two beautiful fragrances in this world. Smell of fresh Jasmines and Petrichor. That's why both cannot exist coherently. One comes after the other and in that lies the greatness of nature."

I closed my flimsy eyes and went into deep slumber swiftly in my deliberate attempt to reach Yaadi. We had only two desires "to have three full meals with Sambar and Papad, to see buds blossoming on the young Jasmine plants in our backyard". 


By the way my name is Saidulu, no pet names thereafter. 

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