Monday, October 15, 2007

The man with the lantern - a short story

The walk was around nine furlong away and Thomas ettan wanted to get there before the 9pm movie. Hard luck, I thought. He must have had at least two servings of full plate rice with the usual delicacies which Amma made. Personally, I hated this walk trips from one house to other; perhaps they would not have done this if my Mom and her siblings stayed a bit further away from each other.

"Look out for the weeds down here" shouted ettan. He was the man with the light and our guide for the night. He appeared to have changed from a brother to the lead when amma gave him the larger-than-life lantern. He knew that he was the responsible and his stern voice now appeared to confirm this. I would have reverted with a "Yes Big-Boss" if he wasn't in charge today. Everyone seemed to obey him.

I could have travelled back by the 6pm bus with Uncle, but then I would have missed this beautiful view. The houses with lanterns far across the horizon appeared like fireflies, while the only sound other than ettan was the field-crickets. It never looked this beautiful in the broad daylight with tens of men in loincloth across the fields.

There was nothing consistent about the pathways here in Haripad. If you got lucky, you get to walk on these pavings built centuries ago by some considerate. If you are left behind the pack in this pitch dark, you could end up knee deep in clay or left in the thorns. The beautiful lady in white Saree with long hair which Akki used to be afraid of, was a different story altogether. "Nearer,My Lead, to Thee" for the moment; I thought.

Most of the days, us kids had to sleep at our uncles place since there wasn't any place at his sister's. Moreover, this ensured that he got his dinner packed in plantain leaves from Amma everyday, delivered efficiently by the kids. We loved this job and to see his face when he received the packet from ettan. "Did Sethu come your way today ?" he would ask indirectly to find whether any fresh fish was delivered today. This assured him of a fry to go with his brand.

It wasn't until Akki started with the song that ettan's mood lightened and he took the song ahead. It didn't matter that he couldn't sing. We loved our lead and his song. It was sometime after the third song and giggles that we heard the bark. It was Kichu, our favorite dog who came first running towards us. Ettan had lead us home once again.

Someday, I would be the man with the lantern.

ettan = big brother
Amma = Mother
Akki = Younger sister