Years had passed. She wasn’t even sure if she could identify the correct one anymore. It was silly to believe that the chalk markings would be there anymore.. the rains that lashed the hamlet of Nelliampathi throughout the several monsoons that she was away would take away those markings for sure. It was kind of silly to even expect it to be there. When Ashwathy left Kerala, the village where her maternal familial home Valiyaveedu was, was no more than a run down village with half ruined buildings and lush greenery, a soothing sight with plantations of tea and ladies who would be working in those estates.
The passing scenery brought in a blast from the past, as Ashwathy tried to remember all she could from her younger days.
Remya had been a childhood friend who had a special place in her heart. Remya would be waiting beneath the giant banyan tree on the road leading to Valiyaveedu, just where the school van would drop Ashwathy off everyday without fail. Remya would eagerly side up to her and prod her to talk about her day at school and keep asking questions about the silliest and most obvious of things. Ashwathy would get exasperated trying to explain what a blackboard was, what a scale was and how could the world be shown on a piece of paper.
Somewhere along the line, they identified each other’s strengths and weaknesses, needs and desires and discovered how different they were. When Ashwathy went to the convent school in a van everyday, Remya would be at home cooking and cleaning before her mother Rajamma came back after her work in Valiyaveedu. The girls’ bond strengthened over time and during the summer holidays Remya was introduced to the world of letters and by the time Ashwathy was in class 8, Remya too could read. They spent hours reading books and novels during the evenings and school holidays. Remya had laughed till she had tears in her eyes while reading “Gee thanks George, you’re a brick.” She could never understand the whole concept of calling someone a brick! For her a brick had only two uses – firstly, for construction of buildings and walls and secondly to…
The bus had stopped at the bus shelter under the familiar banyan tree. She got down carrying her favourite tote bag which was the sole companion on her flight from Jaipur to Cochin and on the bus journey from Cochin to Nelliampathy.
Unsure of what awaited her at the end of this little journey she planned, Ashwathy moved confidently in the direction of that old wall, hopeful of finding the loose brick behind which as little girls they had collected various things that meant the world to them – pieces of broken glass bangles, comic strips, shiny bits of metal, earring for only one ear and many such things that were important to 8 year old girls. She was happy that the tree was still there standing regally in all its glory with its branches spread out wide.
Her gumption was that there would be no brick, maybe no wall even, leave alone the treasures she had collected over time during her childhood. The path ended near a small roughly built home surrounded by a small garden proudly displaying bright hibiscus and serene jasmine which lent a beautiful aura to the otherwise nondescript house, but there was no wall. Still undecided whether or not to knock at the house, she almost turned around to leave when someone hollered “Ashwathy ivide varuuu…” at a tiny human being that sped past her in a white petticoat and tinkling silver anklets towards the road.
Surprised, she turned around to look at a gorgeous lean woman in a saree propped up a bit on the left hip, a towel wrapped around her hair and a paste of sandal and kumkum smeared on her forehead. It took Ashwathy a few minutes to realize that this woman was her Remya.
Who cares about the small treasures behind the chalk marked loose brick on the dilapidated wall anymore, I have found my treasure chest!
PS: (i)Valiyaveedu in Malayalam means big house
(ii) ivide varuuu in Malayalam translates to please come here