The Lantern5 mins 301 5 mins 301
Ambika was only 13 when she became an Antharjanam as they were addressed in a Namboodiri family. Divakaran Namboodiri was 50 when he married her which was quite common. Hopscotch was her favorite game though she loved it to play it all with her cousin’s whole day. Her long curls touched her back and she was proud of it. No one dared to pass a comment on it leave alone touch it except her mother. But the life of Antharjanam was not what she expected in her wildest dreams. She was a free bird until the Veli (Marriage). Ananthan was her first cousin with whom she would go along the Bharathapuzha, pluck on Amla, wild berries, mangoes, Java Plums (Jamun), and Cashew fruit depending on the season and loafed around with the little calf Amminikutty along paddy fields near her Illam. Her dreams were little and this meant the life for her. She never understood why Ananthan could not join her to Plakurrissi Illam after the marriage. Her mother had promised that she could come after one or two months back for some time if her Namboodiri blessed her.
The marriage night Divakaran Namboodiri was missing in the Illam. Everyone knew where he would be except Ambika. This did not bother her neither she enquired into it. She was all the more happy to sleep with his sister Chandrika Chechi. She narrated a good bed time story and this in turn led her to a good sleep. The rituals in the marriage had made her weary and Ambika could feel the sunlight in her eyes only when Chandrika Chechi woke her up. She woke up with the wailings of Chandrika Chechi. Her bald head and white loin somehow did not frighten Ambika as it would do to others. Chandrika Chechi had defied the social norms of staying in her husband’s house till death. She cared a damn about the society. But why was she wailing? Chandrika chechi embraced her and poured her heart out and soon other ladies in similar attire gathered around her. Divakaran Namboodiri mortal remains lay in the courtyard for the final rites. Snake bites were common and people who brought him said he would not have moved ten steps after the bite. It had to be a deadly cobra as per experts.
It was 8 pm on the night of Divakaran Namboodiri’s first death anniversary. Ambika’s sobs were heard as wails outside the Plakurrissi Illam Ettaketta (A residence with two inner courtyard). One year has passed and she still longed for nothing else but her long curls. The Annual rituals had been conducted for over 3 years now and she was in her later teens. The buds had blossomed to beautiful flowers and trees bore fruits all around. Seasons changed and naturally the effect was visible in Ambika too. It was more so when Ananthan came to meet her in Plakurrissi Illam. She had entered her room and was startled to find him seated in the arm chair. Her eyes gleamed the moment she saw her. The wetness in her body after the bath had made her body outline visible. This was probably the first time Ananthan really noticed her beauty. Her pink lips resembled the colour of the juicy chambakya fruit ready to be plucked. Her hips resembled the hour glass yet her eyes were innocent and honest. The bald head disfiguration done to identify she is widow and now covered with the edge of the loin cloth did no harm in subjugating the radiance in her face. Just then Chandrika chechi entered her room.
Widowed women were harassed, abused and denied basic rights even in a matriarchal society. Namboodiris followed the Makkathayam or Patrilineal Inheritance. This made Ambika’s plight even more vulnerable. She had been living a life of a recluse for three years now. The social moral code were biased negatively towards a woman than to a man and it continues. The disfiguration of a widow to the extent of shaving her head is justified by saying that she should not induce carnal pleasures in another man. Whereas even a tottering old man tries to marry and remarry as soon as his numerous wives he had die. This looked more atrocious than “Sati” carried in other parts of the country during those days. Though remarriage is not forbidden in the religious books, Rig Veda has a direct connotation on widow remarriage. As in many cases the heads of such a society conveniently skip it and same was the case in Plakurrissi Illam.
The Vrischikam (Nov – Dec) cold breeze was shuttering the back door of the Ettaketta of Plakurrissi Illam. It was Thrikarthika and the houses around were lit with traditional oil lamps. The full moon showered the grace of fertility which it represents all around the dark blue sky. Ananthan and Ambika embarked the sole boat lying in the banks of Bharatapuzha. Kunjamon started the rowing as they bade good bye to the banks and a person standing there with a lantern who showed them this path. The moon does not have its own light but rather reflects the light from the Sun. A full moon is enjoyed only when the earth moves out from the path of the Sun. As the full moon in a clear sky reflects radiance around, self-realized human beings do the same and touch upon others life too. Self-realization is a metaphor for the journey from total darkness to a full moon. Chandrika Chechi was one and she stood by them with the lantern. As I read somewhere and it goes well to reproduce here. You Asked “Shall I reach the beloved or not?” The reply came “Between you and the beloved there is nobody, but yourself”.