When she was forty-three, her fun-loving elder son told her, ‘Mom, when I see you, I am reminded of a goat.’
She joined in his laughter. But when they all went out, grief stricken, she examined her face in the mirror. She felt that if her hollowed cheeks would fill out, her life itself might be richer. She wouldn’t have slept on the floor on her lone mat when she was younger and plumper. She did not have the heart to waste her thoughts and sit idly watching her reflection. The milk had begun to boil in the kitchen.
From morning till late at night, she toiled hard without rest for her family. She had a fair, slender body that looked broken in places. Yet she had never collapsed weakly nor had she wailed at her lot. So she walked with water-filled cans from the bathroom to the kitchen and from the kitchen to the bathroom without being offered help from her husband or her grownup children. She had neither education nor sophistication. They praised the way she kept the house clean, the tasty food she cooked and the immaculate way in which she washed and ironed their clothes. Whenever they praised her, she smiled revealing her chipped and worn teeth. Her younger son once brought her a gooseberry. That day, she shed tears of happiness in the gloom of the kitchen. Gradually in his eyes too, she became a phantom. When she wanted to go to his school to watch a school play, he said,
‘Don’t come, mom – I’ll be humiliated.’
The Goat 56
‘Don’t worry. I’ll wear my silk sari—the one I wore for my wedding,’ she said.
‘No, even then, don’t come.’ Slender legs moved unceasingly across the small house with two rooms. Finally that machine developed error. She ran a fever. She also had a stomachache. Neither the ginger-juice nor the concoction of pepper helped her. On the tenth day, the doctor told her husband,
‘You must take her to the hospital. It’s a serious case of jaundice.’
The children, sitting before their schoolbooks, started on hearing that. When the hospital attendant wheeled her into a room at the hospital on a stretcher, she opened her eyes and said, ‘Oh! I think the lentils are burning.’ Her husband’s eyes were wet with tears.
“Kolaadu” (Mounathinte Naanarthangal. Ed. N.K. Raveendran.
Thrissur: Haritham Books, 1993: 39-40), translated by Hema Nair R.
KAMALA DAS. She was a renowned poet in English and a celebrated short story writer in Malayalam. She is better known to her Malayalam readers as Madahavikutty or Kamala Surraiya as she chose to call herself after her conversion to Islam in 1999. Besides writing poems and stories, she has successfully tried her hand in writing novels, autobiography and travelogues. She has to her credit more than fifteen short story collections. Her autobiography was published under the title Ente Katha (My Story). She received the prestigious Vayalar Award for her novel Neermathalam Pootha Kalam (The Season When the Nirmathala Tree Bloomed). In her short stories as well as poems Madhavikutty’s style remains confessional and her basic theme is love. Her famous works include Balyakala Smaranakal (Childhood Memories), Diary Kurippukal (Diary Jottings), Nashtappetta Neelambari (The Lost Neelambari), Madhavikuttyyude Theranjedutha Kadhakal (The Selected Stories of Madhavikkutty), Manasi (translated as The Alphabet of Lust), Thanuppu (Cold) and Vandikkaalakal (Cart-Bulls). Her poetry collections in English include Summer in Calcutta, The Descendants, Collected Poems Volume 1, The Old Play House and Only the Soul Knows How to Sing. She has won several national and international awards like the Asian Poetry Prize, the Asian World Prize, the Kerala Sahitya Academy Award and the Ezhuthachan Award among others. She was even nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1984. Madhavikkutty passed away on 31 May 2009.