the battle


paati looked around vaguely in her plastic chair. dusk was pleasant and the big dead banana saplings tied to the doorway of the rambling old house looked festive. her glasses hung on a chain down her chest getting hopelessly tangled with her sari, a maroon striped cotton number, soft and comfortable, as every grandchild of the house knew.

“PAAAAATIIIIIIII”

little meenu came running out of the house, and flopped next to paati’s plastic chair on the rough granite floor

“tell me a story paati” meenu fiddled restlessly with the bottom of paati’s sari. she was more attached to it that she could remember

paati peered down at meenu smiling, then put on her glasses. she gazed into the distance and started

“long ago, before even i was born, there were ten horsemen, protecters of a sacred stone …”

meenu lay back on the warm granite floor in perfect shavasana and looked up at the distant vaulted ceiling of the courtyard. she enjoyed looking at its curved cement arch, everything else was so square and black and uncomfortably rough “how long back paati, when were you not born?”

paati nudged meenu with a gnarled foot sternly “sandhya kaalam, don’t lie down”

meenu sat up hurriedly and crossed her legs, her back bending like a crossbow as she looked up at paati

paati sighed and pulled a year out of her imagination “sit up straight meenakshi! this story happened in the year 1632. i was not born then. no one born in 1632 is alive ….”

meenu’s eyes widened “you mean they were all born dead?”

paati smiled “no meenu, i mean they died many years after they were born, but it is a long time back”

“but you said they were not alive when they were born…”

“now they are not alive, do you want to hear the story or not?” paati snapped

meenu nodded vigorously, then covered her mouth with her palm and fell silent

“they were ten of them …”

meenu’s palm crept down “why ten paati?”

paati grew smarter “because the eleventh died”

meenu cocked her head sideways, her black pigtails waved gently. this was shaky ground, she was just learning numbers, and ten was as high as teacher had made them learn. meenu had a vague idea there were many many more of them, but venturing there felt uncomfortably like school. so instead she asked

“how did he die paati?”

“he was killed in a glorious battle with a demon when he saved a whole village from being eaten alive. i will tell you that story another day” paati had started enjoying herself

meenu nodded, satisfied

“there was a sacred stone”

“what is a sacred stone paati?”

“a stone that god has touched kannamma”

“how does god touch stones?”

“god is powerful, he can touch anything”

“then why didn’t he touch the other stones”

paati backpedalled hastily “he held this stone closer to his heart than others, anyway, this stone was rumored to have unusual powers …”

meenu was on a roll, she thumped the granite rock next to her insistently “did god touch this?”

paati looked at the floor doubtfully “yes …”

meenu crawled back a step “what about this one?”

paati took off her glasses, sighed louder and closed her eyes “paati is tired ma, go and play now like all the other children, why are you sitting here with an old woman like me?”

meenu stood up, skipped to the nearest pillar and started swinging herself around on it, faster and faster, her black pigtails whirling in the dusk

~Tamil
paati – grandmother
shavasana – my favorite yogasana
sandhya kaalam – dusk, there used to be a superstition that a person should not sleep at dusk
kannamma – darling

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6 Responses

  1. That is beautiful. They are so real and vivid. It was like watching it happen rather than reading about it. The whole scene is perfect, the child’s energy and curiousity and playfulness, the old ladies tender resignation, beautifully done, Ms Mist.

    ~MM – Thank you Paul :)! I will treasure this …

  2. you turned on the delight here, didn’t you…?

    ~MM – Ah Chico, I hope you’re being facetious, I diverted a lot of frustration into this one 😦

  3. Now I know that I was right to say what I said when I passed on the neno award to you that I received from Eric Richardville.
    You’re a heck of a writer.

    ~MM – Thanks Tooty, you’re a terrific writer too!

  4. I don’t think I’ve read any of your prose (or prosier?) stuff, but now I’m off to look through your archives & search for some. This is just brilliant – as Paul says, the scene just comes to life. A fanastic piece of tale-telling. Thankyou.

    ~MM – Hey Maxine, coming from you that sure makes me feel good :)!! I’ve linked up some of my old work here do take a look when happen to be by, thanks and rock on!

  5. Wonderful piece. More please :-).

    ~MM – Thanks Cocoyea, same to you :)!!

  6. I read this when you first posted it. Then today I remembered it – and your easy writing style, so I came back. You really should produce more fiction. You’re so good at it.

    Tooty

    Thanks Tooty, I will :)!

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