(Blame it on blogger’s block! Sorry for the delay in presenting the final part.)
The small meal on the verandah on that rainy night changed Madhavan Namboodiri’s life forever. Malathiamma was aghast to hear his tale of penury. He stayed in the dilapidated illam in the next village which had no money but eight mouths to feed. He was the only man in the illam without a karnavar to lord over the household. His mother cooked food in other illams and looked after the family with whatever little money or food that came her way. It was literally, a hand-to-mouth existence.
Madhavan had strayed into the village because his hunger took his feet as far as they could take him. After the meal was had, Malathiamma asked him to lie down in the pathayappura (where grain was usually stored) as the rain was now coming down in torrents. Madhavan was sure no one would miss him. After a long time, he was going to sleep on a full stomach. He dreamed happy dreams – of pazhamporis glistening with oil, crispy parippu vadas and thick kaalan. (all his favourites.)
It was 4am and long before the first wisps of sunlight came into view, Malathiamma saw Madhavan coming from the kolam soaked – still in yesterday’s mundu. The shirt, obviously washed, was in his hands. She felt sorry for him and gave him Balan’s old mundu and a towel to wrap around his upper body till the shirt was put to dry in the sun.
The rest of the house was just stirring and in a few minutes, was staring wide-eyed at the visitor – Radha, Radhika, Balan, Shyamala and even little Nandu. Malathiamma told Madhavan, “Go inside and say your prayers. I will speak to you after that.”
It was now upto Malathiamma to explain Madhavan’s presence which she did, adding, “This boy will now work here. And I don’t want to hear anything!”, already pre-empting accusation of ‘who, why, where, and what if he turns out to be a thief’. But the sternness in her voice stopped them. Malathiamma took matriarchy to considerable extremes!
Well, she had this blind faith in this Namboodirikutti. Even if he was from a superior caste. She would change her ways. Give up fish. Make meals only after having a bath. And a lot of other things… And she would prove she was right in her decision.
Even if it came many years later as Madhavankutty returned to the district and village as Collector. And home to pazhamporis glistening with coconut oil, crispy vadas and a feast fit for a king with kaalan occupying pride of place on the banana leaf.
And tears streaming down Malathiamma’s face.
Faith. Belief. They do change lives!