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After the kathara (dagger) was scraped vigorously on the rock its blade shined like diamond dust and was equipped to kill even with an effortless swipe.
Gritting her teeth, she clasped the herbs together and butchered them into tiny bits mercilessly. Sweating and breathing heavily she did not stop; until she took a deep breath and plunged the kathara into the Jathikka (nutmeg) tree closing her eyes tightly to sniff the blood oozing out of the potbelly. She stabbed ruthlessly again and again — pieces of wood that chipped off, hit her face like squirting blood. Back of her mind, she remembered Thondachan’s mild voice, “Let’s go, God will help her out”.
Tears rolled down her eyes wetting her lips that burst out in anger, “Nattal Illathavan [a man with no courage]”. She opened her eyes to find Thondachan gazing at her with concern; in return, she glared at him and repeated “Nattal Illathavan!” and stormed out with her Kathara. Thondachan stood there stunned with his bleary eyes watching Kathyani disappear into the lonely walkway. With a heavy heart, he returned into the house and got his sons to pack all the required paraphernalia for their grand annual theyyam performance at the temple the next day.
Kathyayani cursed herself to have been so helpless that day when she saw her little Devaki kutty in the forbidden thicket. It had been a week, yet the picture of those little sunken eyes and the pale face remained afresh in Kathyayani’s mind. The only beautiful eyes at Theeloot Mana which eagerly waited to catch a glimpse of Kathyayani were bluntly avoiding her on that fateful day in embarrassment, concentrating to button her top that was opened up till her navel. The little girl just didn’t bother to dust her skirt nor adjust her messy hair. She lacked emotions and walked off as if controlled by a spell to follow the pot-bellied man she disgracefully called –‘Acha’(father). It seemed like a dreadful routine!
Kathyayani was shattered, and in a state of hysteria dug her teeth deeply into Thondachan’s arm for suppressing her with his conservative ideologies and stopping her from reacting.
Kathyayani still vividly remembers the day when she pulled tiny Devaki out from her heavily bleeding mother (Dharmendran’s first wife) who succumbed to death during childbirth. From then on, she was entrusted as the caretaker of the little one. Even though Kathyayani knew she could never own her; she held her close to her heart for the intense love she had for a girl child. Kathyayani taught her swimming,self-grooming, and entertained her with old fables. As years passed by Devaki kutty had blossomed to be a kind-hearted independent girl who was prettier than her biological mother. She had mastered reading the Puranas without making any mistakes too. Sadly, after she reached her puberty, Kathyani’s work as a caretaker ended. The stupendous caste system never allowed a young Brahmin Namboodiri girl to touch anyone from the lower castes. Yet, Kathyayani visited the Theloot Mana to take a look at the little gem that she had fostered.
After the incident, Kathyayani often hallucinated little Devaki kutty’s eyes begging constantly for a helping hand. She couldn’t forgive herself for letting helpless Devaki walk away in silence that day. She knew any hasty decision or a misstep could wipe away her own family along with innocent Devaki kutty too. Her thoughts accelerated when she clenched the kathara tighter and tighter… finally she let out an ear-piercing shriek!
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