The Curse of Eve

The child was perched on the parapet, swinging her legs and watching the road below crowded with cars, trucks, buses and pedestrians. An aeroplane flew low across the sky. The child laughed and swung her legs faster. The grandmother who saw her said, ‘Annie mol! Don’t swing your legs. It’s a sin to do so.’

The child laughed, ‘What’s sin?’ The grandmother said, ‘If you swing your legs, you’ll have to go beyond the sea. You’ll never be able to see your homeland again.’

The child asked again, ‘So did my mummy and daddy swing their legs when they were young? They are away beyond the seas, aren’t they?’

The grandmother said, ‘Georgekutty used to swing his legs. I don’t know about Mary; she too must have done. Isn’t that why they had to leave? If you too go, who will be there for grandma?’

The child laughed, ‘Then why don’t you too swing your legs? We’ll go abroad together.’ ‘Why, you sly little one! So that’s what you think, isn’t it? Your parents are abroad. You also want to be with them. Yet, I’d like to know who’ll hold you safe when you scream during nightmares. . .’

‘No, grandma, no. I’ll not swing my legs. I don’t want to go.’ Annie mol climbed onto her grandma’s lap and huddled there. When her grandma kissed her, she wiped away the tears.

Her grandma asked her, ‘Annie mol, who told you this nonsense?’ She said, ‘Selinamma teacher told me when I was in the convent. She said that it is heaven to be in America. All children there are angelic. Mummy and daddy are earning a lot of money there. They have a huge bungalow, a car and a plane. Why are you clinging on to the old woman’s petticoat? I told her that my grandma is living here. Then she said she’s the mother. You are the daughter, aren’t you? They’ll take you. They won’t take her, however. Is this true grandma?’

The grandma was surprised at the truths that were thrust on the child. She knew that even if she protested Annie mol would be taken to America if her parents wanted it. She was after all their daughter. She was only the mother. Love always grew forward, not backward. She remembered that her sense of responsibility to Georgekutty was greater than that she had felt for her parents. She remembered the sacrifices she had to make to send him to medical school. But when he passed out, he chose to leave his land behind with his wife, also a doctor. Marie, his wife didn’t leave with him for she was pregnant. When she gave birth to Annie mol, she gave her baby to me and on the sixtieth day following her delivery, flew out to America. She said, ‘We’ll be so busy that we will not have time to get back from the hospital. It is very difficult to get a reliable ayah there. If we get such a paragon at all, we’ll probably have to pay her all that we earn. Let Annie mol remain here. When she is around six and old enough to be sent to school, we’ll take her. Before we take her, she could be sent to the convent and taught some English and some manners. You too will have a companion.’

It was Annie’s mother who decided what was to be done. At first grandma was upset. She felt that she was too old to bear the burden of rearing a child. Yet there was Maria, the girl who had looked after Georgekutty. Didn’t he grow up to be a doctor? A highly respected one too. ‘OK. You can set your mind at rest,’ she said.

Mary knew that if her mother-in-law agreed to do something, she would do it well. She went away free of tension.

After that, oh, the hustle and bustle! She knew that it was difficult to bring up a child. But that was at a time when she could nourish her child with her breastmilk. It had been when she was healthy.

Samyukta: A Journal of Women’s Studies (January 2008) Vol.8.No.1

Georgekutty’s father was alive then. But now when she had but the Holy Bible, the Church and prayers alone, in her old age, she had acquired the care of a small child to be looked after as one would a capital amount that needs be returned when the time was up. Ah . . . It’s God’s will, Jesu, Maria, mother of God.

The grandmother gathered her granddaughter close and petted her. ‘Smile, my darling, smile . . . ah . . . like that . . . you’re your father’s daughter . . . the same features . . . the same color, the same type of hair.’

Thus she reared her darling. When Annie was three, she was sent to the nursery run by the convent. She was taught to speak English with an American accent, she was taught etiquette and good manners; she won the first prize in the children’s competitions and earned the praise of all who would say, ‘Look at Annamma teacher’s granddaughter. What a nice child she is! How beautifully she behaves!’

Yet Annie mol had, unknown to all, a weakness. After dusk she needed her grandma to be near. She needed her while she ate her supper, when she took her bath and when she was sent to bed. For everything she required her ‘Mamachi’ as she called her grandma. The grandmother could not attend the vespers. When Annie mol became unreasonably demanding, her grandma would tell her, ‘Annie mol, if you are bent on troubling me, I’ll send you to America. When you are there with your daddy and mummy, you’ll learn a lesson.’

Annie mol looked upon the threat of being sent to America as a great punishment. Whenever she was threatened thus, she would grow quiet and drop gently off to sleep nestling close to her grandmother. This gave the grandmother an incomprehensible delight. Annie Mol obviously loved her more than she did her parents. She would write to her son, ‘Annie mol can hardly bear to be parted from me. She wants me for every little thing. If I am not there for her, she cries. She is my child. We’ll live like this, peacefully . . . ’

It was not that she did not realize the truth that Annie was growing up and that she herself was growing old. But she told herself, ‘Does this little one know her father or her mother? Her mother only gave her birth. I was the one who gave her nurture. I, I alone. Can Annie mol ever forget that?’

Samyukta: A Journal of Women’s Studies (January 2008) Vol.8.No.1

But nowadays she wondered if Annie was forgetting that. She had begun to kiss the photographs of her mother and her father. She had begun to keep apart her best frocks and toys to be taken away. When she returned from the convent, she would ask, ‘When will I be five grandma? When will daddy’s plane arrive?’

Then her grandma would start. Next December, Annie would be five. Annamma teacher was one who prepared herself for the future. Even when she retired after putting in thirty-five years of service, she did not weep. But now tears welled up in her. She felt that though Annie mol was near, she was somewhere distant. Deliberately she set about putting a distance between herself and her beloved grandchild. She gave up feeding Annie rice with her own hands. She wouldn’t allow Annie to nestle close to her at night. She gave up telling her stories. At night Annie would start awake from nightmares and jump up on to her bed sobbing. ‘I am scared, grandma, I’m scared. I’m so scared.’ Clasped in her grandma’s loving arms, her face pressed to her grandmother’s bosom, she would say, ‘This is so safe and comfortable. Even if the devil comes here, he will not get me.’

Her grandma, running soothing hands across her forehead, would murmur, ‘Your daddy too used to say the same thing, my child. But, now . . . Well, leave that. If you go, who’ll be there to sleep with grandma?’

Annie mol would say: ‘When it’s time to sleep, I’ll fly down here.

I’ll take you away. Like the prince in the fairytale.’

‘My child, my little treasure!’ Her grandma would kiss her forehead over and over again. ‘My true lord Jesu Messiah. Mary, mother of God. Guard my child.’ Annamma teacher moaned, ‘If she too goes, how’ll I live? How will I live?’

Caution whispered: ‘Let her go. Let her prosper. She has to go sometime. Then let it be at the right time. It’s best that the new generation is reared by young people.’ She wrote to her son.

‘Annie mol is turning six, the coming January 10. I have arranged a small party at the convent and special mass at the church. I don’t know if I will be able to celebrate her next birthday . . . Because . . . ’

Samyukta: A Journal of Women’s Studies (January 2008) Vol.8.No.1

As though she had jogged his memory, the reply came quite soon. At first the telegram arrived. Then the ticket, and then the detailed letter.

‘I have booked tickets for Annie mol on the afternoon flight of February 15, at 3 O’ clock from Cochin. A friend and her family will be on the same flight. They will see that she reaches here safely. Don’t worry Ammachi. You just have to see that she is at the airport in time.’

‘It would be great if you can get three or four pairs of shoes that fit Annie mol, shoes are expensive here.’

Annamma teacher did not cry. She did not start. She didn’t act as if anything unusual had taken place. With her own hands, she packed all the things that Annie mol would need. She dressed her in a silk frock. Put a bindi on her forehead. Carrying the bag, she took her to the airport. When it was time for the takeoff, Annie mol lifted her tiny hands in farewell and reminded her grandmother. ‘Grandma, you must swing your legs, swing them fast.’

When the plane was about to disappear among the clouds she sighed. ‘Yes my child, grandma has begun to swing; I’m so dizzy that I might fall.’

Annamma Teacher returned home, pulled out the drawer of the table and took out the ancient Bible. Dusting it, she read:

‘Woman! The children you bring forth in pain will leave you.

They’ll have other women. You’ll have no links with them . . . ’

Lifting her eyes to the sky, sighing, she muttered, ‘The curse of


“Aadhimathavinu Kittiya Shapam” (Mounathinte Naanarthangal. Ed. N.K. Raveendran. Thrissur: Haritham Books, 1993: 13-19), translated by Hema Nair R.

Samyukta: A Journal of Women’s Studies (January 2008) Vol.8.No.1

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