Into the abyss, they drove as he and I stood at the gateway, teary-eyed. No, there was no Amma, not even a soft whisper as I had hoped; none in the last decade.

The monsoon downpour created havoc once again. Like her adolescence, it is wild, alluring and burdensome at once. A random crevice overflows with sludge.

The overlooking cliff has lost a part of its silhouette. The remains flow down steadily- reflecting the colour of her skin; rich with muck- down the blue hills entrapping everything in the vicinity, off to a distant land, lush with purpose, like her.

The dribble that remains, like her stubbornness, will hold on. And then, will abruptly abandon at a fortune moment. 

Amma’ (Mother) I hear the echo of her cries, holding on to the folds of my saree, those tender toddler fingers, afraid of the appalling deluge.  Ammmaaa!,’ it is a sharp cry at the odd dark hour. Now a difficult elementary child; a haughty head, and constantly intrigued by the wild world.

Amma’ (Mother) I hear the echo of her cries, holding on to the folds of my saree, those tender toddler fingers, afraid of the appalling deluge.  Ammmaaa!,’ it is a sharp cry at the odd dark hour. Now a difficult elementary child; a haughty head, and constantly intrigued by the wild world.

‘Ammmmaaaa,’ those are the happy cries, like the first drops of the monsoon that hit our western slopes after the tropical summers that diminishes our semi-evergreen forests. She would have just arrived from the creases of the jungle, those happy cries announcing her ecstasy.  It is probably a plump hen from the hunt or sight of the pug marks of a carnivore or just a collection of cones from a pine tree. Everyday sights at the woods rang in elation- that tiny, yet strong body barging towards my hut sliding down the narrow lane, skin tanned, beautiful pearls of her mouth ready to throw tales aplenty.

‘Maaaa,’ it is a grunt rooted in disagreement camouflaged as dissent, like the recurring monsoon that dumps its wrath with a vengeance held deep within. The deep-throated address of the older kid is in response to my chiding, which on occasions rises to a higher pitch. 

The earliest autumn showers that arrived in the lazy afternoons, a kind of a curtain raiser to the easterly winds that created a spate later, were the peals of her laughter. Those days she ran in early from the neighbourhood school, rushing down the dense hill in a long skirt and blouse, her now blossoming features conveying a mix of anxiety and delight. The drizzly afternoons were spent in the company of her giggles that grew sparse as she embraced the dreaded girlhood.

The festive showers were a delight in her company. As I went about scurrying with the endless chores these occasions demanded, she followed my every step. Sometimes assisting with the pots of water and washing and at times a distant preteen lost in her thoughts lying outside the hut, gaping at the brimming clouds. On those unexpected rain-lashed nights her body ready to burst forth clung to mine, burying the apprehensions of the pre-teen mind in the depths of my collar bone. On those rain-induced clamorous nights, ‘Maaa’ was just a feeble cry.

Like the brutal easterlies, her adolescence bought in wreckage, admonishing everything in its path. On those lethargic, damp days and nights, her rage spread in all corners of the hut that until now echoed only with the sounds of her laughter. Her giggles prevailed outside the confines of our home. 

On those days, she trod the familiar narrow lanes that gradually disappeared with every spell, with utmost caution, holding her long skirt in one hand and a  large umbrella on the other.  Guilt reflected in those big, dark eyes and it stole the spirit off the perfectly chiselled brown face. On those nights, I depended on the stormy downpour to wash away my mounting miseries. I yearned for a faint call of Amma, that hardly occurred, and when it did, it was inflamed with enmity.  I drew comfort from the nights many monsoons ago when the warmth of her breath spread the blanket of contentment in our shack. 

Like the remnants of the easterlies, her early adulthood was just a mild dribble, the one that is assured of reaching a safe haven. Shambles were rare except for the occasional outburst rooted in an enthusiastic aspiration.  Sounds of Amma returned; this time more assured than ever before. They were sometimes inquisitive, sometimes interrogative and on rare instances, a yearning call for love. 

Across the fields she straddled, her right hand still holding her skirt.  Into the wild she plunged, fearless in her gait. Lovingly she coddled the two of our billy goats. With conviction she refused all of the marital matches that befell. 

One fine morning on what we presumed to be the last of the year’s shower, they came, those men dressed in boots and coats, selling hope to the young in the woodland. With her comrades gone in wedlock, she was left to lurk alone in the field and wilderness.  Our protests within the house grew louder, and she responded with cries of resistance and at times staunch silence. 

That cloudy day, when faux grey skies betrayed with a benign sprinkle, she left, baggage in hand mounting the sloppy walkway; the same one she descended excitedly as a kid on seeing me at the doorway, accompanied by strange men. A favourable land they promised- not as undulating and devoid of deluge.  

Into the abyss, they drove as he and I stood at the gateway, teary-eyed. No, there was no Amma, not even a soft whisper as I had hoped; none in the last decade. 

 

Across the fields she straddled, her right hand still holding her skirt.  Into the wild she plunged, fearless in her gait. Lovingly she coddled the two of our billy goats. With conviction she refused all of the marital matches that befell.