She gazed at him through the door that was slightly ajar.
Poor thing, how I long to touch his soft face. But I shouldn’t, I couldn’t, what if I am accursed, I don’t want to malign him with my misfortunes.
Just like my Mahendran, he looks just like him. Only if he knew it is my pain at seeing that face so close to my heart that forces me to avoid him, to love him openly, even as he longs so eagerly for his grandmother’s love.
These were the thoughts on Janakiamma’s mind as she stared at her grandson Chinnan who lay asleep beside Kannan. She had lost her most loved child years ago and now as she looked at Chinnan it was a painful reminder of the tragedy, the resemblance was that obvious.
He had promised her that he would win the medal for being the best singer in the district. He had been such an intelligent and talented child and he accredited all his luck and fortunes to his mother. Now as he came back in the boat towards Ipparakadavu, he was filled with immense excitement staring at the medal in his hand, imagining his mother’s face fill with happiness when he gave her the medal. He had so much wanted his mother to be present at the award giving ceremony but Shankaran Nair had been away on a long trip and Janakiamma had to stay back home to take care of Saru who had contracted the pox.
The river was furious that fateful day and the large ripples cut across the boat, rocking it to the sides so violently that one such sudden jerk caused Mahendran to drop the medal into the river. He panicked, he did not think about the raging waters or the fact that he couldn’t swim, all he saw was his mother’s face when he showed her the medal. He jumped without another thought to save his medal, even as the people in the boat tried to hold him back.
The undercurrents had been strong that day and no one in the boat could save the ten year old Mahendran. The body was found floating the next day tightly clutching the medal in the right hand. Janakiamma did not know whether to hold onto it or throw it away. She finally decided to hold onto it as it was the precious thing for which her son had sacrificed his valuable life. Instead she chose to hate the river which had so mercilessly taken away the only ray of happiness in her life. Everything that reminded her about Mahendran was taken away by Shankaran Nair, who put his old dresses, pictures and certificates into a trunk and dumped it in the attic, except for the medal that Janakiamma kept under her pillow, close to her; it was what helped her sleep every night.
Following the death of her son, Janakiamma became quieter and bitter by each passing day. She even stopped taking bath for she wanted to have nothing to do with the river. So eventually a small kucha bathroom was built near the kitchen, where water from the well was brought for her to bathe. She would silently cry as she poured water over her body for it still reminded her of the cruelty of the river. To her the water felt like fire against her body.
She regained some of her mental stability only when she became pregnant with Lakshmi.
For Janakiamma, a part of her soul died the day the Mayillatam devoured her son. The only way she would go into the Mayillatam was when her ashes would be thrown into the river after her last rites - the day she would become one with her son.