“So what do you think of that magician fellow?” asked Komalam thampuratti.
“He’s alright I guess. I really don’t know him that well” replied Saraswathi.
“Alright? Is that what you say? I think he is brilliant and very handsome too” said Rema thampuratti, who was known for her excited and outspoken nature.
“Isn’t Shankaran Nair who brought him to Nellur?” asked Komalam.
“Yes, father likes these sorts of people and I believe he has a good eye for it” replied Saraswathi, a bit irritated.
“So does he stay with you?” asked Komalam again.
“No, he does not. Father has arranged accommodation for him with the temple devaswom” replied Saraswathi.
“I hear he is a big flirt and has got lots of beaus in every village. They say he’s already got a few here. Have you heard anything Saru?” asked Rema.
“I haven’t and I really don’t care. It’s not my concern. I must get going now or else I will be late for the evening pooja at the temple” said Saraswathi, who had completely lost interest in the company of the gossiping thampurattis.
“But I thought you will join us for the kathakali show in the evening here” complained Komalam.
“Some other day” said Saru as she picked up her umbrella and made her way towards the exit.
As she walked back home, she thought of her foolishness for having chosen Rema and Komalam as her company. They were nothing but leeches that fell upon each juicy bit of shameless gossip, after all with a treasury filled with money that could sustain another five generations and husbands who spent more time with Nair women whom they had legitimately bought at the mere exchange of a piece of golden bordered cloth known as pudava, the thampurattis had far too much time to spare as well as to be bitter about. Saru decided to reconsider her social company in future, perhaps she could do some social work but unhealthy gossip was a definite no for her.
Back in the house she freshened herself and dressing up dashed to the kadavu. In the crowd arriving at the home end she saw the smiling face of O.G.
“Is your father home?” asked O.G.
“No, I don’t think he is.” replied Saru in a hurry.
“Do you know when he will be back?” asked O.G.
“I am sorry I don’t, uncle. I’ll talk to you once I get back. I have to go now lest I miss the boat.” saying which Saru got into the boat without casting another look towards O.G.
Not thinking much of her indifferent demeanour, O.G walked towards Ullas Villa. Having reached the house he waited in the veranda for Shankaran Nair or the boys to return. Janakiamma, who had seen O.G from her easy chair in the hall, got up and gave instructions to Janu to invite him inside and show him to his usual room.
“Thampuran, Amma has asked you to come inside and wait while I make the room ready for you” said Janu to O.G.
“Its fine, I’ll wait here. Please call me when you have made the room ready” replied O.G.
It was always like that. Ever since Janakiamma had stopped conversing with her husband she had done the same with O.G. But she never forgot her duties as the lady of the house and perhaps considering O.G as the only genuine one of Shankaran Nair’s friends, never behaved badly towards him. His brief repartee into the past was interrupted by the shrieking sounds of joy that came from the gate of Ullas Villa.
Kannan and Chinnan had obviously seen O.G and were excited to have him back. It was only now their vacation would be complete.
“When did you come, appoopa? We were waiting for you. So did you bring us the surprise gift? And have you got some new haunted stories to tell?”
The questions just seemed to overflow from the mouth of the boys that O.G felt it difficult to keep up pace with them.
“Calm down boys. We have all the time in the world. I think my room is ready. Let me get my clothes and go into the river for a dip. You can join me if you want or you may sit on the steps while you tell me what has been happening so far. Meanwhile, go and get yourselves something to eat” said O.G
The boys agreed and finding crisp banana chips waiting for them in the kitchen, grabbed a handful and stuffed their pockets. They then waited for O.G on the steps of the private bath area of the river. They began with a morose tone as they narrated the sad demise of Pisharadi master but soon the conversation was interspersed with the circus trip, the skit, Janu’s comic episode etc etc.
Back at home, O.G showed them the surprise gifts he had promised. They were two plastic water guns and the boys had great fun splashing water at each other. Though it looked nothing like an authentic revolver they decided to use it in their skit. Having got tired of playing with the guns (and also severely reprimanded by Janakiamma for accidentally splashing water on her) the boys decided to keep the guns aside for a while. They now began to pester O.G to tell them haunted stories. O.G decided to share a fictional story borrowed from western literature – one on a vampire with blood sucking fangs and a flying cape and how the hero kills it by shooting it in the heart. The boys who literally had their hair standing at their ends gave out a shriek as they suddenly heard a deep guttural laughter from behind. The boys turned around to find Shankaran Nair along with another young man who had long curly hair up to his shoulders and lips so red from chewing paan. It was this young man who had laughed and it was a laugh Kannan had heard before.
“Hello boys. Did I scare you? I am Chandrahasan, the magician friend of your grandfather” said the young man in the most jovial of tones that the boys lost their initial apprehension and fear they had on seeing him.
Chandrahasan soon became good company with the kids and together they gathered in the entrance hall, where Chandrahasan had more interesting stories to tell while the boys seated on his either side craved for his attention. He amused them with card tricks, disappearing coins that seemed to appear always from behind Chinnan’s ears while O.G and Shankaran Nair got involved in serious discussions about the ruling government.
It was a great evening and time began to fly by. The pleasant environment was suddenly interrupted by Saru’s appearance at the door. Kannan looked up at his mother who was now staring at him with such intense anger and accusing eyes that he felt himself melting in her presence. Perhaps she found out about Pisharadi master…Yes she had found out. Saru walked to her room and shut the door with a loud bang as the perplexed group in the hall watched her. Only Kannan could make some sense of it due to which he rushed outside her door and pleaded, “Mother I am sorry, I did not mean to harm anyone. Please forgive me.”
There was no reply and the magic of the night was suddenly lost in remorse, guilt and tears.