Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kuttan

Kuttan Danieljeeva( short story) I leave for work early morning by seven and return home by six in the evening. Sometimes I come home early if it is not busy. It is almost five years since I moved to this house. The street is full of Tamils and you get the feeling of living in Jaffna. This December I will be completing fifteen years since I left Jaffna. My landlord is the owner of two houses. I am living in his house in Scarborough. He bought the other house is in an area where there are no Tamils in Markham. He has rented this house to a Tamil familywell known to him. Both husband and wife spend most of the time boasting about these two houses. I listen to all their bragging without any comments and nodding my head. Before moving into this house. I saw an advertisement in the Tamil papers as a furnished room for rent. But since moving in I have to take antibiotic, which you may not believe.The four corners of the bed were tied by rusted wires and the ends are protruding. My legs are very frequently injured by these ends. I had a feeling of dropping into a shallow ditch when I lay on the bed. A table with only three legs, an old chair and a stool are all the furniture in a 'furnished room for rent' advertisement in Canada. I have gradually changed my attitude about my landlord, since moving in and now the owner Kumar has become my close friend. He killed every Friday night by drinking. I am in one room and there is another person in the adjoining room.He has also turned into a friend of Kumar and me. His name is Moorthy. But we never called him by that name.Instead we called him Kuttan. Reason for this is because he is very short in height. He felt uneasy about this nickname at first, but as time passed by he willingly or unwillingly accepted it. Kumar's two children are very active and talk in English between them. Kumar's wife was very proud of this. Kumar's wife is Santha and we call her as Santha akka (older sister). Even though she is not fluent in English, she took pride in talking to them in" broken English". The house has four rooms. I occupied one room, another by Kuttan and the other by Kumar's parents and the last one by Kumar's family. It was like a lodge in Colombo. I am paying four hundred dollars with food. I hope Kuttan must be also paying the same amount. Kumar's parents were receiving social assistance payment. I am not aware as to the amount they are paying to Kumar. Kumar's mother is about sixty years. But she appears as a stylish lady. She has many golden bangles on both hands.Three fingers has rings .She never forgets to paint her eyebrows daily. Applies lipstick too. She wears always western style dresses. She stands in front of the mirror frequently and looks at herself. She is worried about her black skin color. But never showed it to others and may be looked stylish to offset that problem. Today is Friday. It is an unusual day since it is the day when every occupant meets. Kumar's parents were seated on the Italian leather sofa. It is around half an hour, before the arrival of Kumar from work. Kuttan returned from work, had a shower and was doing something in his room. Santha was busy cooking with nice smell coming out of the kitchen. Usually when I come to have my meal in the dining area, Santha will be on the sofa and Kumar's parents will not sit in front of her. When I returned home after work yesterday, there was no one exceptSantha. She made use of that opportunity and came out with her problems and told me all what she had in mind all these days. She was complaining about her In laws and I listened silently just nodding my head. In between without hurting her I asked a few questions too. I never approved her accusations of her Inlaws, since they were all baseless. Her answers to some of my questions were silly. "Akka, (sister) it is a common talkthat elders who brought in here on a sponsorship program are being abused. But from what you told me it appears that your In laws are abusing you." I told her. "Look, they are asking you why youhave not married yet. It is your personal problem. Why they are unnecessary digging into it? See their nature from this". She said. "Sometimes they may be interested inmy life". I replied. "What ,do you think they are interestedin your life? It is not true, It is their acting. They are not worried about their own son struggling. You think they are interested in your life. It is their nature to dig into others problems. Look, when I return from work and sit on the sofa, they act as though they are busy in the kitchen and converse between them hinting indirectly at me. How long I can withstand all this humiliation." "Look brother, at this age they locktheir room and behave like newly married couples during the day time. If this is their behavior after getting grandchildren, imagine how they would have behaved those days. On top of this both consume liquor too. In our family I have never heard ladies drinking. These people have no shame, no self respect or no dignity. They drink with my husband, their son. I can't understand them. It is a sin I came into this family." After saying this she began to weep. It was like a silence after a heavy shower. She spoke non- stop and kept silent. I could not understand her sudden silence. Her plaited hair was in between her breasts and her forehead had the kumkum(red) spot as usual. On either side of her ears were two coils of hair. May be coiled by her fingers. This custom was very popular in Jaffna, those days.She had "Thali kodi" ( necklace) and agold chain on her neck. I saw her weepingand her eyes were red. ''Why are you crying Santha Akka ?"I asked her. Without answering she went on sobbing.I repeated my question .There was no answer. So I stopped talking and went to my room. These thoughts came to me when I was in front of the computer looking at Sri Lanka news. Today I came out of my room into thesitting hall and Kuttan also followed me from his room. 'What Kuttan. Why your face isswollen?' I asked him. "No, my friend I don't have sufficientsleep at nights. The new second job I joined recently is very hard. That is why I am unable to sleep well. What to do we came here to earn money. So we are forced to work until the body is able to manage. No point in telling our sufferings to others and do you mean to say they are going to give us money?" so saying he sat on the sofa by his side. I was standing by the side of the sofaand Kumar's mother told me to sit on it. I sat. "Look at Kuttan's talk. Don't youthink we will not help him if asked?" She was in her usual sarcastic mood. Kuttan must have got angry so indirectly started attacking her. "You are on welfare---and you want tohelp me. After drinking something you don't realize what you are talking. Do not come out with all your thoughts." She felt as though slapped by a slipperon the face. She felt pain and shameand her body temperature must have risen. Her face turned red and stiffened. "You coward. Why are you worried aboutus getting welfare. You are not worth even a few dollars and you are talking big. You don't know our family background. Our's was the only two- storyhouse in our village, back home. We had two, three servants to work for us. You can't even think of reaching our standard of living." Kuttan also continued in the sametone. "You don't have to tell us your familybackground and honor. Son and parents drinking together is enough to estimate your standard." "That is our wish and style. You haveno business to comment on it. So you want us to be a coward like you. From morning till evening you are on the move working. Don't know to drink or even to smoke. You don't mix with people or go to places. You call your- self a man. You are an eunuch." she was furious. There was deathly silence everywhere. Santha who was inside the kitchenand watching everything, was busy doingsomething. After a few minutes she came with two cups of tea, gave it to Kuttan and me and returned to the kitchen. I was wondering why she came in to the hall. I thought she must have come with a purpose on the ruse of bringing tea. I noticed her face was covered with bitterness and hate. She was spending each minute withfamily responsibilities, without any time for even breathing. She had a loving husband and adoring children but because of the problems created by people living in the house, she spent sleepless nights. The grief, she got out of these situations lingered sometimes for months in her mind. During those periods she never spoke to any one, but kept her face with hate and anger. Knowing her nature well, Kumar adjusted himself to suit her feelings. The clock on the wall chirped seventimes to denote seven o clock. Since itwas Spring there was enough sunlight. The sunrays were falling on the glass in front of the house and were reflecting. Usually Kumar comes home around six. Today he is not back yet. Since today being Friday he may have gone to buy liquor. In order to break the silence in the hall I said "Kuttan forget all what happened and come we will eat". I looked at Kumar's mother and said, "Kuttan must have given respect foryour age and I agree that he made a mistake. But you also Amma, would have been nice to him". Before I could finish, as though I rekindled the dwindling fire She said "What? you want me to be nice to this fellow. He must now pack up and leave this place. If not can't say what will happen." Kuttan was silent. Santha came suddenly from the kitchen with anger and her look was so horrible. I have never seen her in this state before. "Kuttan is living in our house by paying rent. Mother in law you have no authority to ask him to go out. We are paying our mortgage from his rent. If he leaves we know how difficult it will be to pay the mortgage. He is minding his own business and keeping quiet." Before she could finish Kumar'smother intercepted and said "Why are you speaking for him you dancer. Now she has opened her mouth no one can argue with her." "I am not worried about others.Kuttan will stay her." Kumar's mother was furious. "Thenshe must be keeping him" No one talked after this. There wassilence every - where. It was getting dark. Kumar's carcame in and stopped on the drive way. He got down and walked towards the house. (all fiction)