Marthandan’s Day Begins
(Marthandan could be some child like this )
Marthandan gets up very early in the morning. With him a few others in the household also get up. But none of them walked on two legs except Marthandan. Marthandan’s friends who get up early with him regularly are two cocks, five hens, thirteen chicks, three cats, two dogs, six pigeons and innumerable crows that live on the coconut trees and other trees around.
They all had names: the bigger cock was called Angavaalan and the smaller one was called Poovaalan. Hens were Pennamma, Rosy, Ammini, Whitely and Sundari. Thirteen chicks didn’t have names but they had colours. In fact there were fourteen chicks. Mother told Marthandan as he came back from school one evening that one of his chikkoos had been taken away by an eagle.
“Eagle?” Marthandan had never seen an eagle before. He had seen smaller versions of Kites hanging out at the edges of the coconut leaves. But an eagle. “Really?!!”
Chicks became colourful after that incident. Someone told Marthandan’s father that if he dipped the chicks in colours it would scare away predating birds. Since then Marthandan could see a rainbow of thirteen colours converging and diverging like iron filings around the hens as if they were magnetic poles.
Kuttappan, Karumban and Sundari were the names of the cats. As one of the hens also got the name Sundari, whenever mother called out the name both of them reached the kitchen door expecting something to eat. Jimmy and Tommy were the dogs and they were not in good terms with the cats. But they kept mutual respect for each other mostly keeping themselves off from their respective territories. Pigeons did not have names. But they responded to Marthandan’s whistling. Crows...ah what a menace. Marthandan just did not like them. But they were there everywhere.
Once out of bed, he goes to the well, draws a bucket of water, after washing his face and mouth Marthandan drinks a mouthful of freshwater from the bucket and then goes to the stable where Neeli, the cow is waiting for him. He takes out hay from the stack and spreads it before her. Neeli chews them slowly and chases the flies away with her wagging tail.
Marthandan now goes to the field to check whether there are some mangoes or coconut or areca nut fallen by night’s winds. Jimmy and Tommy follow Marthandan helping him in finding out a rolled away coconut or in scaring away a field mouse.
On a lucky day Marthandan got four to five mangoes and two to three coconuts. Mother’s rule was that anything he got more than three from the field one belonged to him. While he ate mangoes on the way to school or before he carried the coconut and beetle nuts to a corner shop to sell them. He got fifty paise for a coconut and twenty five paise for five beetle nuts. It was very difficult to have one single rupee in hand. Marthandan often bartered such home produces for a comic book or toffees or golli soda which he had taken a secret fancy for.
Marthandan was all seven years old. And he was studying in third standard in a local primary school in Ekalokam village. Things were very smooth till he reached the third standard. But now as he is already in the third standard, life was never the same. Life became a living hell for him.
And what was the reason for his pain and misery? Didn’t he study well? Was he lazy? Didn’t he finish homework? No. None of this was the reason but his name. His name, Marthandan was the ‘thing’ that put him in such inexplicable pain. He had to do something to do away with this trouble. But how?