As we were granted an unexpected permission to go outside and pluck Onam flowers, we sprang up, borrowing two pookkundas from neighbouring guys. ”One for Mohan and another for her sister Parvati”.The narrow passage idavazhi crept between two hedges laced with moss that had grown soft, and bulged a little with dampness that seeped up from the ground. We darted through the gravel-strewn Idavazhis to the slope of the hill, that seemed like a vast flower bed . Overhead, Onam dragonflies sallied forth into the afternoon sun.
The sky was nascent blue with a few wispy white clouds. We walked beneath the canopy of little wings. Thenamkunnu lay dreaming all around us evoking awe with the vastness of space as we looked down a picturesque village nestled amid the foothills..
All-round countryside turns an unnatural green. Boundaries blur as thumpas take root and bloom. Compound walls turn moss green. Only a few rocks remained there punctuating the green silence.Wild vines snake up the dark shaded trees. Kannanthalies burst through laterite banks and spill across flooded creeks.
Thumpas spring up and blooms rustling flowery syllables in the Onam wind. There came Cheeru’s tender white lamp frisking on the slopes of Thenam kunnu along the gravel trail that crosses Nayidippara, a flat granite rock where once Nayidees, a folk nomadic tribe used to camp a few days once or twice in a year.
We heard the distant rumbling of the passing train from Perassanur across Bharathappuzha. Mohan tore a part of twig with leaves and fed it with leaves one by one,as the animal grazed his fingertips while nibbling greedily at the leaves he held forth.
Parvati came to the goat. She stroked its neck, gently he pressed his head against the goat’s and crooned consolations. There are herds of sheep up in the evening sky.
The grazing herd of clouds were gleaming in the afternoon sky .”Look there, Parvathi,incredible painting on the sky.””Three of us were at Nayidipara.An aromatic smell of the oil she smeared marked her presence.”Grazing sheep”, I would like to paint .”.Can you paint anything ”;I argued .”Then how can you draw the picture of the wind?”
”I am sure if you can sketch the smell of these Thumpapoos .” she retorted .the black waxy eyeliner that rimmed her eyes echoed her retort.
Parvathy minced with power and confidence.Mohan pinching out Thumpa flowers paused his work.. can you face another challenge.?””who will gather more thumpappoo…””one condition nobody shouldn’t pluck the neck of the plant. ,, that’s reckoned with as a fowl!!
I will win..” Parvathi snapped.”.Lets wait and see.”.I challenged. Mohan also staked a claim. If you win, I may obey whatever you say” Parvathi answered mockingly to Mohan.,” Don’t swallow what you have said at that time.”
Her wide gaze was hemmed by lushy lashes darkened with eyeliners The eyeliner mark was extended beyond the borders of the eye to almost up to the shell of the ear. They were outshining the Kannanthali blooms around her. The limitless expanse of thickets..bushes and verdant green mat grass..under the shimmering blue sky.
We used to gather Thumba flowers in the morning.They are Arithumba,, they are smaller than this. “”This Chakkathumba..flowers slightly bigger than this.” The milky white thumba is directly attached to the base without a stalk. The flowers are held together in dense terminals. It was not so easy to pluck flowers fast..””I want to win “
She chanted repeatedly as a mantraand settled near excessively bloomed Thumpa thicket.Her tapering fingers were nimble as a sunbird..The cool Onam wind skirted around the Thumpa bushes..The plants stood smiling nodding their heads affectionately casting charm.
She squated near a thumpa grove close to me.
whiffs of her oil perfume drifted towards me.
“” No intrusion …parvathi..its fowl, Its my territory.. you seek another..”..a smile tugged at Mohans lips.
” Rules obey her”.Narayanetta. Mohan ridiculed .
Her silver anklets chimed when she moved from one Thumpa grove to the other. She stooped above a Thumpa bush her pookkunda dangled in the air she was trying to tend the incipient haughty curls. The grazing cows started to return home along the downward the gravel trail.’
‘l can no longer pussyfoot around the bushes.Lets see who is the winner..” ”Theres a challenge from Paru””.Call parvathy..where has she gone?”’;Just been at the bush close to the rock where she had been petting the lamb.”””.We called her aloud..Parvatheee Parvathee..the sound echoed in the valley.Nobody was there only the western wind swept across the Kannanthali thickets.
.””The wild, overgrown bushes were full of the whisper and scurry of small lives. In the undergrowth a snake rubbed itself against a glistening stone “”. Shepherd Manus words flashed through The fear of cobras snaked up to my head baring fangs and incisors.l felt helpless””!!! There , ..you may move to the northern side ..l may search this southern part .””we were in frantic..Ii
I used to go to Malamakkavu school since last June along this way. The familiarity failed to lessen the panic that was swelling inside me..these ways always sported a deserted look except the cowboys or shepherds and a very few who ran errands. I dashed along the rutty narrow passage.
Parvathy is a stranger to this locality. She has come to our village since last June, as her father got a transfer to Malamakkavu govt school. She must not be acquainted with the ways of the remote village..the endless maze of idavazhis.
As I looked I could trace the human footprints on the newly created patch of sand by the flowing rainwater of the last night.I, followed the footprints..the trail along the foot of the hill leads to Mukkutta road after crossing Kunhapputtikkas jungle. I observed that the footsteps disappeared where there appeared a recent slide of the earth on the hedge..when I peeped into the jungle through the creek I found her looking under a Jamun tree close to a ..thicket brooding over something.
“Parvathy what brings you here? As she heard the sound she came glaring at me. The day warmed, the winds were blowing..”” I won’t be coming back unless I win the bet!! why are you here for that ? while dropping over the thicket I lost my balance and tumbled. Much of my flowers were strewn into the thicket. Her eyes overbrimmed and she started to weep. I should win. Last year he won..the bet. He wins all the quizzes.. always placed first. nobody cares me ”
” It’s my pleasure that you win the bet. That only made the sobbing worse. Tears brought the surma down in patches over her cheeks, and
Its getting late.Mohan is searching you on the southern part..come back..
No..no no..She was firm as the rock that back dropped her.There were sweat beads on her forehead..A strand of hair that had escaped from behind her ears lay stuck on her cheeks wet with perspiration.
“”oh Parvathy then I may share you half of my pookunda flower that I plucked.””
The unexpected offer shook her.She looked upon me in disbelief..She gazed me for a while.”It’s disgraceful to accept your flowers free of cost..You may just grant it as a loan ,.on credit basis.Then you give a cupped hand ful to me,before ettan comes.””.I emptied almost half portion of coveted thumpa flowers that nobody dared.
It was unbelievable to her..Her existence was limited to the Her wide gaze that was hemmed by exuberant lashes darkened with eyeliner. She has planted, the twin black seeds into me, watering them with tears.The sky overhead throbbed and pulsed in light.
The last flight of parrots receded over the horizon . The wind swept down and the infinite Thumpa thickets…that was first and last of my deal..she returned to her native place after the march exam in the peak of summer, when mirages swelled..without clearing the debt that compounded intermittently.Many Onams have filled the hillside with thumpa blooms to feel that Onam days would never cease.
The aromatic smell of the oil she smeared marked of all over the period along with her presence. The infinite gaze of that hemmed by exuberant lashes well as mirages along the wheeling Onam seasons…
Ari thumpa. Lucas Aspera
Chakkathumpa. Zeylanica Aspera
Pookkunda a marvelous case woven by narrow strips of screwpine leaf for holding flowers especially Leucas Aspera ..used during Onam days.