Over the years, I have flattered myself, deceived myself again and again, never to finish what I started writing. This year, I have promised myself, even if I fail like every year, I will put out what I write to receive feedback and suggestions from my valuable readers.
This is a start… a beginning… ‘Hope is a good thing.’
RANGU – Chapter – 1 – Page – 1
The rubber ball hit the dusty pitch and leapt up with an intense ferocity only to be smacked by the willow wielded by Rangu. The ball was dispatched to the boundary with ease. It was a Sunday afternoon, the one day that Rangu looked forward to with guilty pleasure and umpteen expectations. Sunday mornings would be busy with Amma making murukku and coconut bolis. There would be rice, sambar and broken pieces of the murukku and curd-rice from the temple. Once the items were packed in the banana leaves, they would be wrapped with newspapers and tied with thread. At 2 PM, Rangu would start, the ground was five kilometres away, he would whistle a tune and walk, the hawai chappals had served him well and he was extremely careful. The ground was full of young miscreants who were looking to steal slippers at a moment’s notice.
By the time he reached the ground, a couple of matches would be in full swing. He would watch in awe as the bigger boys from the Engineering College would be playing, dressed in their fancy coloured pants and they had proper boots with nails that were affixed on the soles. Rangu wondered how much the boots would cost? He left the thoughts aside and proceeded to walk on the edges of the ground, hawking the murukku and boli. The students in the ground knew Rangu and his mother Savithri Amma. Savithri Amma had struggled to bring Rangu up, the agraharam and its strict rules had stifled the lives of the widow and her son; the kovil gurukkal was a kind soul whose guilt never left him alone. For was it not he – Sheshadri Shastrigal who had suggested the groom Narayanan to Savithri’s father – Neelakanta Shastrigal. The years had not been kind; to cut a long story short, Narayanan turned out to be a useless wastrel, who ended up pawning Savithri’s jewellery and drinking himself to death. Neelakanta Shastrigal died a broken-hearted man, but he had managed to exact a promise from Shesadri Shastrigal, that he would care for his daughter and little Rangu.
Savithri Amma’s culinary skills were quite famous in the agraharam and the villagers would order special delicacies on festive occasions. But it was still a tough life and Savithri Amma was saving bit-by-bit to by a plot of land outside the agraharam and move out of the claustrophobic environment that the community had turned out to be.
Rangu managed to sell the quota of murukku and boli that his Amma had packed with care. It was a good Sunday indeed, seven rupees altogether. He then tied the coins together into his anga-vasthram securing them safely in the pouch that his Amma had made for him. He then wore the anga-vasthram around his hip like a belt. The veshti was secured by the added comfort of the new belt! Now he would wait for the next match to begin. Sundar Anna and his group played in a corner of the ground. He would stick to them. Sundar Anna was Sheshadri Swamigal’s grandson and studied in the engineering college. He was a rationalist, that’s what he called himself. All Rangu knew was that he had to go to the ration-shop, the second Friday of every month and stand in the queue to buy provisions.
agraharam – A community where Brahmins live – the term is restricted to South India.
murukku – A savoury snack made out of rice flour, butter, oil and spices.
boli – A sweet flat-bread made out of jaggery, wheat flour, coconuts and clarified butter.
sambar – a liquid broth like dish made out of lentils and vegetables, staple part of South-Indian diet, consumed with rice.
Shastrigal – Term used to address a renowned vedic scholar.
kovil-gurukkal – temple priest.
anga-vasthram – cloth used to cover the torso – again a term restricted to mostly South-Indian brahmins.
veshti – traditional attire worn by men/similar to sarongs popular in the Orient, veshtis usually are white or cream in colour.