Pallanguzhi—-Symptomatic


Confined in a modest room
for sixteen days. I drink sesame oil
munched palm jaggery.
I stay bored.

I tiptoe, a deceit anyhow
My watchful aunt stops me.
Back in the room, I remain
doleful.

I call her names. Not aloud,
she would flog me if she picks up.
I stretch out on my rough bed.
I am penalized for no reason.

She reads through the papers,
One eye on the news
while another on me.
I make faces at her.

It is half past nine
she appears at the door
with a board game.
Something unfamiliar to me.

It s a conventional one
with fourteen pits.
The rosewood board glitters.
I listen to her directives.

She fills the pits with cowry.
distributes the white shells
going counterclockwise.
Says repeated playing would
turn me a arithmetical wizard.

I follow her. She commits
mistakes knowingly.
Makes way for me to win.
I undertake with intensity

The game goes on for hours.
A trick she indulges to keep
me occupied. I enjoy, the motivation,
the technique and the skill.

The girls when they attain age
have to be in seclusion.  Isolated.
Overseen by aunts and  grand mothers.
A time to strengthen the physique.

My affable aunt expresses discipline
and love all the more, prepares
protein rich food. The prescribed diet
makes the young girl’s body strong.
A nourishment for the future.
The prospect of child-bearing years
intercepts.

I contemplate as how to honour the guests.
who would grace to my granddaughter’s ceremony?
The good old days and the memories
of my aunt inspire me. I decide.
Order Pallanguzhi and Palm jaggery for chocolates.
Substitutions  unheard off!

How will be the response?
I dare not deliberate.

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