I went back to the church, became a church-going Christian, with all its freedom from rigidity and Spartan discipline of the J.Ws. If you ask me what I gained in my spiritual life by this switch over, I would say,” That is a different question.”
34) Natasha and George
It just happened; love at first sight and no logic behind it. Natasha loved George. It was no secret either. We neighbours knew it. No doubt she loved him tenderly. Natasha was an affectionate girl. She showed no hesitation to shower her devotion on him, both by endearing words and soothing touch. We wondered where it all will lead to. Whenever she was at home she insisted that George stayed close to her ; but occasionally he would take a break and go out for a round in the neighbourhood only to find, on his return, cuddled in her arms, looking deep into her eyes as if responding to her tenderness.
But true love never runs smooth. Natasha had to leave the locality for good, in her own interest but George wouldn’t like the idea of going to a new, unfamiliar place. He loved his accustomed surroundings and decided to stay behind, love or no love for Natasha. But Natasha had to go; she had no other option. It was a sad parting but Natasha took it well.
George was left behind to fend for himself amidst a hostile neighbourhood, until he became a wild cat looking for scraps of food here and there or foraging for an occasional mouse or a bird. George was Natasha’s pet cat , a good looking feline, grey with black striped body, light green glassy eyes and a tail of grey and black rings of fur. Perhaps you too would have loved George had he been your pet.
STATUTORY WARNING: If you touch a cat, wash your hands twice; its fur can cause allergy leading to asthma.
35) AMMU of “The God of Small Things”
Ammu was Arundhati Roy's creation. A person who might be real and living and walking through the streets of her Ayemenem (native place or ancestral home). But she died, instead, unnoticed, unattended. It is sad the way Ammu died alone in a hotel room in Alleppey. Neither her mother nor her brother, not even her children, Estha and Rahel were near her when she died. Arundhati Roy says Ammu was “not old, not young, but viable and die-able age.” Estha, her son had been sent earlier to Calcutta to his father. Rahel was in Ayemenem when her mother died. Arundhati concludes, “The sweeper found her in the morning. He switched off the fan.” So simple as that. Of what use was the fan for a lonely woman who lay dead in a hotel bed?
The church wouldn’t bury her. She had had illicit relation with Velutha, an untouchable worker in her mother’s pickle factory. Velutha paid for it. He was arrested by the police on some charge or the other. He died in police custody. The death of a low-born untouchable under police custody did not make any news. Velutha disappeared unnoticed. Ammu has now to pay for her sin. The church refused to give her decent burial in the Church cemetery. Her body was wrapped in a dirty bed-sheet and transported in a van accompanied by Chacko, her brother and Rahel to an electric crematorium where beggars, derelicts and those who died in police custody were incinerated. No one else of the family was there. The steel door of the incinerator went up devowering the body of Ammu, the red fire roaring inside. The door of the furnace clanged shut.
Arundhati says, “Then Rahel’s Ammu was fed to it (the incinerator). Her hair, her skin, her smile …….her voice ……… her goodnight kiss. The way she held knickers out for Rahel to climb into. Left leg, right leg. All this was fed to the beast.” The fire consumed not only Ammu’s body but also her entire personality, her cheerful disposition, her affection for her children, her smile and all.
Chacko and Rahel remained to collect Ammu’s remains, her ashes, “the grit from her bones. The teeth from her smiles. The whole of her crammed into a tiny pot. Receipt No.Q498673.”