Posted June 28, 2009on:
The village was just as Pillai remembered it. Rust had taken newer meanings and blanch was the new paint. ‘All that will change in a few days’ he said to himself.
‘Aunt, you have to become the village Head’ he said, as soon as he stepped into the house and washed his limbs. All help gasped. Leaves and wind did their thing and rustled and whooshed past. The patriarch’s Paan filled mouth was as ajar as Open Sesame. Vessels obediently followed gravity. The windows, who in their 350 year history had never heard anything so preposterous, made their presence felt. A bird hooted, apparently for no reason at all, but it added to the effect. Thunder and lightning were aching to join the melee, but the puffy white clouds didn’t quite agree.
‘What, son? What did you just say?’ asked the aunt in a querulous voice.
‘You have to become the village head’ answered Pillai, dutifully.
Déjà vu. ‘Oh, come on!’ said thunder and lightning, as the puffy white clouds drove them off.
That statement was so horrific that the aforementioned patriarch, who in his 85 years of life had adhered to the well known and widely followed policy of ‘The world is your spittoon’, spat the red juice right into his spittoon.
The bird outside hooted in a different manner, which in avian parlance was a whistle of surprise. It recorded the time and date of the event. The last time that happened, according to the diary passed down through generations, was 247 years ago when the chewer that time thought that the spittoon was his mother-in-law’s mouth.
‘Me? Head? Are you out of your mind?’
‘No ma, I am not. In the city, women do all sorts of things. Why, some of them even drive! ‘
I suppose that next you will be asking me to wear men’s clothing?’ riposted the aunt, to which the help laughed.
‘Yes. If it’s fine…’
‘Do you think it’s the heat?’ asked help number one, directing her question to help number two.
‘Heat? I’ve seen what heat does to people. This is way above heat. I think he should be circumcised’ proffered help number two.
‘Don’t you mean exorcized?’ asked help number fifteen.
‘Yes, that too, if it helps.’
Pillai shook his head and came to the matter at hand.
‘So, what do you think, Aunt?’
After two days of continuous coaxing, she filed her nomination. Raghu, the window repairer got an unusual number of calls the day she filed her nomination. Gravity had a full and tiring day, with an unprecedented number of vessels falling. The white puffy clouds stood their sky.
She won by one vote. The 2 opposing parties, and the 19 independents demanded a re-count. It was then announced that she actually had won by 200 votes. Post poll alliances were formed, broken, formed and broken again. Oaths were administered at the Devi temple.
The village transformed in her able hands. Little girls were inspired and women formed Ladies’ Clubs. Rust was nowhere to be seen and the village looked like a festival area. In the midst of all this, the men became jealous. After many covert meetings, they came to no definite consensus and split into three factions. Peace pipes were passed, puffed on and forgotten. Finally, one day…
‘The Head’s a witch! Monsoons were supposed to be here 3 weeks ago, and not a single black cloud in the sky!’
‘Yeah! Burn her!’ shouted a crowd, predominantly of men, ‘unless she can prove otherwise!’
As is wont with men, she was given no chance to prove herself as she was dragged out of the house and tied to a stake. A roaring fire raged beneath her petite feet.
‘May the heavens come crashing down upon you!’ cursed she, as her Saree caught fire.
The puffy white clouds relented. Rain came pouring down, shooing cats, dogs and men into shelter. The fire had abated, and so did the rain in a few minutes.
‘She can command the heavens! Do we need more proof that she’s a witch? Set her on fire!!’
The poor woman burned and the village slowly transformed to its erstwhile dilapidated state under the able hands of a man.