“Chai, Chai, hot chai,” called out the vendor in his strained voice waking up a dizzy Kannan from his sleep. He looked out trying to make out the name of the station but it seemed impossible to recognise it from the distance.
“Chai sir,” asked the vendor who had now reached Kannan’s compartment.
“Yes, please,” replied Kannan.
“Which station is this?” asked Kannan taking out his purse.
“Nellipayur, sir,” replied the vendor. Kannan could not believe his ears, Nellipayur was just one hour from Manad and already three hours had passed since the train had left Manad.
Seeing the startled look on Kannan’s face he explained,
“You see sir, there have been heavy rains towards Nellur for the past two days which has resulted in some landslides along the way. There is clearing work going on and also some of the rails here are in bad condition. You can expect a delay of at least 5-6 hours.”
“Rain, really?” asked Kannan.
“Yes sir, it’s a blessing that has come after a long while, it will be raining here soon too, I hope,” said the vendor as he looked thoughtfully towards the sky.
Kannan gave the vendor a five rupee note and let him keep the change. The vendor saluted and moved away in search of new customers.
It would be at least late evening when the train reached Nellur, thought Kannan. He decided to relax a little and took out a cigarette and lit it. He inhaled deeply on it closing his eyes; the train was slowly pulling out and he could hear the faint sounds of …..A Thaiyyam unmistakably, a thaiyyam, the drums beating, bells clinking….
Splendid, he thought as he watched the thaiyyam, it was about the Raktha Chamundi, how wonderfully narrated.
“Splendid,” he said again as he now walked back towards the kadavu through the Bomanchery fields. He had a small torch in his hand that he waved now and then to make out the way. It had really got dark and he thought how the branches of the trees and the tall grass moving in the wind could easily scare someone. With the tales of the ghost lovers who appeared in Bomanchery fields at night, people had become overly reluctant to walk alone through them at night.
The ghost lovers were according to an unsubstantiated piece of history, a pair of lovers who had got killed about two centuries ago in the Bomanchery fields. It was a punishment carried out by the then ruling family, one of the lovers being their own while the other from a lower caste, a relationship that was and is considered taboo. The lovers were apparently romancing in the fields where they met frequently, when the royal guards had sprung upon them and slain them on the spot. Ever since then people had told the story about a pair of ghosts that allegedly appeared in the Bomanchery fields as their souls had not got liberation, having died an untimely and unnatural death, leaving behind unfulfilled wishes.
What nonsense, thought Pisharadi, all due to the lack of education, he said to himself, he wasn’t afraid of such things. “Ghosts,” it seems he said smiling sarcastically. A sudden movement from between the bushes startled him and he waved his torch towards the direction only to see a tall scarecrow.
“It’s only you,” he said loudly and laughed at himself but just then something happened that even the logical mind of Pisharadi could not fathom. The scarecrow began to move towards him, Pisharadi froze, it was not possible but it was happening. It was now coming closer increasing velocity, Pisharadi wanted to run but he couldn’t. His legs failed to move. The fields were filled with the endless screams of someone; though he could hear them he could not realise they were his own.
Suddenly the images began to rush in, the thaiyyam in red dancing frantically, the drums and bells getting louder and louder, he was sweating profusely and it was getting difficult to breathe; he began to slowly sink and as he hit the ground he fainted, his last words being, “Amme Bhagvathy”
“Amme Bhagvathy,” said the old woman causing Kannan to choke on the cigarette smoke and he began to cough till tears came out of his eyes.
“Amme Bhagvathy,” she said again, “give this old woman some alms son.”
Kannan would have normally not given a penny but the gravity of the situation due to the strange coincidence made him to do otherwise. He stared after her till she disappeared into the next compartment.
Had phoenix just risen out of the ashes or were the ashes of time blowing against him to suffocate him for his misgivings.