• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 05

Cauvery’s curse

“Close your eyes but don’t drift off yet. Hmm once in a while so that I know you are with me.” Kavi commanded in a soft, lilting tone and I crinkle-closed my eyes. On airless summer nights when the heat gripped us like an apparition and sucked the life out of us- Kavi let me do this walk down memory lane. Kavi called it purging but every time I could sense only plunging.  

Yet, like a coin sinking to the deep depths of a river, I confronted the darkness behind my eyelids.

“That Adi Perukku.”

Kavi let me hang in the muted expanse briefly before giving me the still-violent tug.


I could see the spread. The farmer crowd. The excitement. Platters of fruits; mango, musk melon, papaya, jackfruit, jamun, Chiku. All from the soil that they had tilled. Cuts and slices of chicken, mutton and sometimes just one shellfish- like a crowning glory. Fragrant snow-white strings of mogra. A burning bit of camphor in the middle.

“To Appa it was the only day to pray.”

“Hmm.” We didn’t have a separate prayer room in our house. The field was where he spent his time. Cauvery was his Mother-Goddess.


Cauvery’s curse

At the time of Perukku, she was full of new, frothy waters. At the edge of the banks, his checked red towel tied to the waist, Appa fell on the ground, loudly calling, “Thayi.” The background automatically filling with many other loud incantations.

I sank lower.

Appa raised the platter, letting the  camphor flame dance in the wind.

“Do mothers kill their offspring?”

Now the waters were everywhere- the colour changing from apple to vomit-green. The fruit platter was face down, floating like debris on the surface, letting the bounty reach where it belonged truly, the camphor still burning.

“Shouldn’t devotion be duly rewarded? Why did Cauvery run rampant? Why did she kill him?”

She hit where the pain was still ripe. I felt strangled; my breath faltered. I stopped hmming.
“Pappu.” Kavi panicked.

Thrashing violently, I fought to make the muddle of faces and screaming voices go away. I breathed deeper to find my own voice in the calamity.

Finally, unsuccessfully, I came up with the longest, hardest heave to Kavi’s thank-god and loud sigh.

“It is ok; we are here; we are alive.” She kept repeating.

As she pressed my chest, I gushed incoherently like water out of a leaky pump set. Gradually, the metallic weight around my shoulders disappeared and my breath flew beyond my rib cage.