On a balmy night,
I settled beside ammama
Inside the ancestral taravaad,
Surrounded by abundant grounds and fields beyond.
Dressed in spotless white,
Her tresses flowing over her spine,
She sat on the veranda,
Crushing the beetle nuts, preparing the evening round of paan.
Pulling her pleated tail hanging beneath her chatta,
I pestered her to tell me a tale,
Like the one she told the day before,
Of the river monster or of the evil magician who swore.
Straining her forehead,
She looked ahead,
Recollecting a fearful tale,
That would leave me tailing behind her for the rest of the night.
"Tonight I will tell you a tale of old.
A story that never bores,
If you see in your head,
The events unfolding through my words".
In her matronly tone she began the story
Of her grandfather,
And of his lush fields,
Streaching beyond the farthest corner the naked eye could reach.
Veliyappapan as she fondly recalled,
Owned both land and men,
Was a man who found prosperity and contentment,
In his labours on the land.
Once when the yeild was ripe and ready for harvest,
The caretaker reported unrest,
In his precious plantain grove,
Yielding succulent fruit.
Anger fuming on his face,
He walked into the fields,
To see for himself the destruction bought on by wild beasts.
In disbelief he stared at the dear plantains uprooted, rotting in a heap.
Instantly he deployed men,
To take rounds around the field,
To guard and protect the borders of his farm,
From a repetitive harm.
And yet again next morning, he heard the same!
The farm attacked once again!
"How so?! How so?!" screamed the old man in despair.
"When the night guards retreated after the rounds at dawn" came the reluctant reply.
Velliyappapan took his spear,
And marched to the fields himself,
With a swear under his tongue,
To roast in fire, the beasts that ruined his prized plantains.
He took his post atop the tree house,
Watched with pride the land ahead,
Saw the sun set and darkness envelop the terrain.
The village fell asleep, but not he and his men, awaiting their prey.
The generous moon gifted the light they needed,
To spot any movement in the lands below.
But nothing stirred that night,
And just when they were about to call it a night,
The winds carried to them,
The distant grumble,
A sudden rubble,
From the far north end of the farm.
Velliyappapan woke his drowsy men,
And ran where his ears took him,
He saw in the moonlight,
Two mighty bullocks rampaging his precious plantains!
Seething with anger,
Pointing his spear, the bulls he chased,
Like a mad man possessed.
He ran and ran with all his might
Behind the bulls.
Behind the bulls he ran,
Like a hunter determined.
And just when Veliyappapan thought he could run no more,
He saw the bulls ahead of him,
Coming to a halt!
Lo! Ahead lay the mighty stream they could never cross!
He closed in on his prey,
Saw diabolic pairs of red eyes,
Staring as he raised his spear,
To plunge into their flesh.
But as he descended the sharp shiny ends of his weapon,
The beasts vanished from under his sight, Ayyo!
As if by magic or a devil's spell,
Leaving in its stead two cold rocks instead!
Perplexed I stared at my Grandma as she ended her tale,
Her face gleaming in excitement,
As if she saw the mysterious disappearance,
Of two full grown, wild beasts herself!
Seeing me at a loss,
She explained wide eyed,
"The bulls were evil spirits dear,
Possessing power to transform form as they desire!"
Scared I shivered at the prospect of such evil.
"Do the bulls across our fields hold such power?"
Panic stricken i cried.
Laughing, she reassured with confidence,
"Don't you worry child,
The advent of electric power,
Has roasted to hell all the evil spirits,
That dwelled in the dark and ruled the nights of old!"