Childhood days in Perumpuzha

The rattling sound as the sliding grilles are prised open wakes me up. The radio is being turned on and “Vande maatharam” is recited across the nation’s radio waves in time to wake the populace. Achan is getting ready with his outside chores. I lie awake wondering whether to get up. The room is dark and windows closed. Asha is still fast asleep. The noise of the traffic gets louder as the road gets busy. The constant whirring of the fan adds to the background noise. I toss and turn but cannot get comfortable. I might as well get up. 

In the kitchen Amma is busy making breakfast. I sit on the bench and watch her wait for the dosas to be cooked before turning them over. She is juggling two wood fire ovens at the same time. The sambar to accompany the dosas are simmering in the adjacent oven filling the air with the aroma of fenugreek, cumin and coriander. The kitchen windows are both wide open and the gentle early morning breeze wafts and dances with the scents. 

Achan is getting ready for his morning shower. He has tied the dogs and finished his outside work for the morning. The dogs are protesting and letting out the occasional moan and whimper, while they wait for their breakfast. 

The milkman arrives to milk the cow. The weather beaten leathery skin from years of walking in the sun shimmers as the early morning rays bounce off him. He collects the aluminium pot and walks to the cowshed. I follow him. The cow and her calf are already up. He washes the cow’s udder and starts milking. Sometimes he lets me have a go if I ask nicely. It is not as easy as he makes it out to be. The rope tied to the cow’s nose always fascinate me. It is tied with some leeway, long enough for it to feed from the feeding tray but not long enough to pull the straws into the shed and make a mess. 

I sit quietly trying not to disturb them. He doesn’t completely milk the cow but leaves some for the calf to feed on and walks back to the house to hand the vessel back to Amma. Once he is gone I give the cow a gentle rub over the forehead. The black hairs on the hard skull is soft to the touch and it makes her shudder and shake her head. The calf who was feeding peacefully jumps as her mother steps back. I leave them and look for something else to do.

The hen and it’s brood are out searching for food. The tiny yellow chicks follow their mum around. They look like tiny fluffy toys. I look closely and see that some have light and dark brown down feathers and some are spotted. I try to catch them, but they are too quick for me and scurry away. 

Omana, the maid, is busy drawing water from the well. The well is not too deep but it is still hard work. I try to see if I can do it. My hands are too soft and after a couple of goes they turn red. She tells me that my palms will go rubbery if I carry on doing it. I am not too sure if  I want my hands to feel rough. I like the soft feel and so let her carry on with collecting the water. 

The mill employees arrive and get to work. The copra is evenly laid out on the concreted court to dry. The surface of the court is not even so that water can flow off it when it rains. It is a pity as we cannot play games on this surface when it is not in use. The tarpaulins are ready to cover the haul if it starts raining. The mill is humming as work for the day starts. I peak in and grab a handful of fresh warm coconut cake, the residue which remains after the oil is extracted from the dried fruit. It is sold as animal fodder but has a creamy powdery taste when freshly prepared. 

I munch on my snack as I follow the chicks to find what they are getting up to. The dogs have started their morning nap, tired after their exploits from the night before and a heavy breakfast. The sun’s rays are getting warmer and my breakfast is waiting. I need to eat a proper meal before deciding what I am going to do today. It is the first day of the school holidays. 

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