Muthamma the Grandmother of the Village

by K Jambulingam

Muthamma the grandmother of the village

( KJambulingam)

I was born and brought up in a big city and after my graduation I got into a college as a Tutor in English. I was always busy with students composition notebooks correction work and occasionally I was teaching poetry. After my work I used to go for a game of tennis in the evenings. I used to discuss with my father the current affairs that we read in the newspaper. One day I received an invitation from my friend who had gone after college studies to his native village to look after the farm he had inherited. He had asked me to go over to the village during winter vacation to spend sometime with him.

I went to his farm, which was in a remote corner of an isolated village. I was happy to be there with the natural surroundings and far away from the madding crowd. I could breathe fresh air and there was no pollution of any kind, which I always experienced in the city. Living in the second floor of an apartment we always faced acute problem of scarcity of water. In his farm house water was plenty and I enjoyed taking bath in the pond. My only regret was that I did not see any daffodils, which William Wordsworth described so beautifully in his poem.

One fine morning I was sitting on coir cot under the huge mango tree bearing flowers that was sprinkling honey all over the place. A few yards away from it was a big Jackfruit tree and it was a sight to see the fruits hanging right from the bottom trunk of the tree till the top 'The coconut trees were up to the sky and were swaying beautifully. At a distance stood the country apple tree with full of thorn and it was holding the weaverbirds' nests. It was a thrilling experience for me to be in the farm.

Meanwhile, a villager came in search of my friend and he told him that the grandmother of the village was dead. My friend told me to go with him to the house of the grandmother of the village. When I interrupted he told me that he would tell me everything in detail later on.

We parked our bike on the mud road and walked on the footpath that was in the middle of the green fields dotted by small and big mango and jackfruit trees. I saw a huge crowd of villagers in front of a small thatched roof house. Everyone recognized my friend. He introduced me to Rev Father Erhard from Evangelic Church. Secondly Mani Iyer, the temple priest and Mullah, the Mosque in-charge. The village headman came to talk to my friend and I introduced myself to him. The small fire kept in front of the thatched roof house to show that a death has taken place was letting out more of smoke than flame. The village drummers standing near by the fire beat rhythmically and very softly. There were oil lamps and candles kept by the side of the dead body, which was placed on plantain leaves. Someone in the crowd was paying rich tributes to the departed soul. I could see all religious heads of the village were present. They were discussing about the funeral. They decided to criminate the body once her relatives from the nearby village arrived. I took a break and went to the mud road where we had parked our bike. I met an old woman in a hurry to go to the grandmother's house. I stopped her and told her that it would take at least two more hours before they took the body for cremation. After asking my whereabouts she was ready to tell me the story of the grandmother of the village." You know", she started in her own way of narration.

"Muthamma came to this village after marrying a farm worker of this place. But unfortunately she became a widow. She went back wearing the white sari. According to their customs wearing a white sari is a must and she will be looked down upon as a bad omen. After a year she came back and started living in her husband's hut. She was working in a farm as daily wageworker and stayed away from all the functions of the village since she was a widow and was forbidden by villagers to take part in any auspicious functions arranged in their house.

The village people only knew her merit when she attended a co-worker's delivery. She acted as a midwife. She also advised the lady and gave her some instructions to follow. People started to go and take her for delivery cases. She did it without any charge. People were so happy and as a token of gratitude gave her white saris and food materials for her service. Almost everyone born in this village for the last forty years was born under her supervision. The grateful village called her the Grandma of the village. She was only a farm worker but she used to help the village in many ways. Whenever a newborn child fell sick, she was there to help by giving medicines prepared with medicinal pants. The government staff planted trees on the roadside and went away. It was Muthamma who nourished the trees you are seeing on the main road. Now no one can fill her place". The old lady went away.

I started thinking about the great soul. She was not a politician; she was not a woman of letters, not a Government employee; not a rich lady but the entire village was there to do her last rites because she lived a purposeful life helping others at all times. The same people once reused her entry to their home functions now accepted her as their Grandmother. I realized how true it is the saying that it does not matter how long you live but how well you live helping others that matters in the end.

(K JAMBULINGAM)

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