Stories From Kaattu Punjai: Mani’s Mother

She finds a cool place under the tamarind tree and sits, opens her pouch, takes a wad of tobacco and tucks it under her tongue. She rolls the end of her sari into a ball and lies down pillowing her head on the sari. After an hour of nap she joins the other women near the lake, she carries loads of sand to the embankment and goes to collect her wage of hundred rupees for the day from the supervisor.

On the way home she buys vegetables, rice and oil. After fixing a quick dinner of spiced vegetable rice and lentil soup, she goes out to sit with her cousins in the seat under the street light. They chat and chew more tobacco before they leave for the day.

She squints at the mobile her husband has asked her to keep; the numbers have faded with use. She hesitates and reluctantly presses the number; soon after the first ring her husband picks the call, he has been waiting for her call.

Was the garden overgrown, Mani’s mother? Take Kumaresan’s help to clean the place. When I come in the weekend I will plant tomatoes, brinjals and beans. Take rest Mani’s mother, his voice quivered.

She sighs; it is only a day since she left her husband in the city.

Did your son’s wife feed you? Or else she will take on her head the sin of killing an old man.

Ignoring the question he said, you work in the fields, do not work at deepening the lake.

I get paid better there, old man. Now, you do not worry about me.

When will you come back?

Not till your son’s wife is there.

But this is their house.

Then, it is no place for me. You come here, old man. Chuck your job as gardener in the city.

I can’t work in the fields, Mani’s mother. I am not young any more.

There is something or the other to do in the village. I am running out of balance in the phone, I will talk to you after two days.

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