“It is good,” a goonda commented as he sniffed his stuff. I sniffed it from a distance, and retched; it could make even the ancestral elements in your genes throw up.
“Aniya…”Here they call me again.
“What?”I was right before them like lightning on legs.
“Aniya, please sing a song to entertain us.”
Danger. “Ayyo, I told you that I am a teacher, not a singer…I don’t know.”
The goondas never take no for an answer, I learnt that truth, when I listened to my fourth song in a row.
“Aniya, that was ‘Alliyambal kadavil…’ right? Wonderful”, one said.
My eyes welled up. First time somebody was recognizing my song. And more, he said I was good at it.
“Iriyaniya, we love your company. Let us have fun tonight,” komban meeshakkaran said.
“Er…I wanted to, but I have to attend a marriage tonight,” I tried to smile.
“Irikkaniya,” another said as he took a long knife as if he had a sudden urge to polish his nails. I saw the business end of the tool pointed at my belly button. You don’t know how courageous I was then. I sat.
“Ozhikkeda, nammude aniyanu orennam,” a shudder went through my spine, as I saw the black concoction going around.
I thought about the Irish drinks in Aji’s room.
“Pidiyaniya ithu,” a man who looked like Keerikkadan Jose shoved the first glass of concentrated hell at me. No ice, no soda, no snacks. I pleaded on the ground that I was the great great grandson of a man who attended the salt sathyagraha and hence a congenital Gandhian. But when I saw the goonda turning into Godse by degrees, I abandoned my pedigree.
“I have diabetes.” I gave it one last try.
They rolled in laughter. “Ee aniyane kondoru rakshayumilla…(you’re impossibly funny) you are the funniest person we have ever seen, you will kill us all by making us laugh,” guffawed the tallest among them.
I was forced to take my first swig. Hot tar + drainage water + ink + rotten flesh + wedded to raw spirit. I found my head reeling. The goondas were also reeling in their worlds. Soon I found myself tossed around like snacks in the party.
“Aniya, tell us a joke,” one said.
I told them hotelanennu-karuthi-barber-shoppil-kayariya-vridhan (representation of all stale jokes) kind of jokes. And man how they laughed their heads off listening to them!
Meanwhile, things were not happy for Aji as well. The first night programmes were regularly intercepted by the goondas who kept on knocking at his maniyara door. He would open the door only to find a goonda in an inebriated state assuring, “Aniya, be bold and continue. We are here to protect you.” Aji replied impatiently, “I know that, I brought you here for that, eh?”
“Damn.” The goonda leader was irritated by midnight. “Shall we go there and beat them up?” Beat who? “Her parents.” For what? I couldn’t understand the logic of parents being beaten up for losing their daughter. Another round of the black concoction settled his spirits, and soon I saw him snoring.
Everything went black after the second round of drinks for this writer. But the next morning I woke up to a new world.
“Anna, enthayirinnu innale? (What a performance yesterday)You are a kidu, braver than all of us, eh?” a goonda asked tipping his imaginary hat to me.
“What did you do yesterday? They are all talking about you,” Aji was curious.
I am still in the dark. After one glass of that black concoction, I thought I passed out. But all that respect I got next morning tells me I didn’t.
I did something wonderful and brave during a night which went unrecorded in my life.
“What a lily-hearted man you are! That is only a cockroach you are running away from,” says my wife, as my daughter and I stand on top of the dining table staring at the black little thing crawling on the floor. Someday, I will get the 80 rupee stuff for my home as well.
You haven’t seen me all, dear.
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