“Theru Koothu” and the Drama in the Street – My Childhood Nostalgia Series – Chapter-8
Updated on November 5, 2014
[ Continued from My Childhood Nostalgia series Chapter 6 (Theru Koothu-Part A) and Chapter 7 (Theru Koothu- Part B) ]
As Theru Koothu was such a non-mundane thing that ever happened in our village, naturally, all the boys used to discuss about all that they saw.
Sahasru was my friend, doing his seventh standard in the high school, but he was a year or two senior to that class. He was a bit over-grown for his age and his curiosity was always more on what grown up boys and girls were doing in the street.
“You know, Pattu came with her paatti (grand ma) for the drama, and our hero promptly presented himself there too. Both were eying each other all the time. I’m sure they never saw the drama and I was watching two dramas!” quipped Sahasru.
I knew Pattu and her paatti. Pattu must have been doing her tenth standard in the high school and I believe she would have been much senior to the class too, by virtue of her failure to pass exams in previous years and in lower classes. She was very short (hardly 5 feet) looked very petite and coy. With a cylindrical body and a featureless face, the only attraction she held for boys was her attractive smile and an extremely fair skin color that had an unusual tint of yellow, like a Chinese girl. She knew the art of dressing herself up attractively with very bright coloredPavadai-dhavani (a traditional village dress for teen age girls) and a large bright-red kumkum at her forehead, she had the attraction of a golden doll to the youth in the surroundings.
Pattu lived with her paatti who was a widow and there were no male members in the family. I don’t remember anything about Pattu’s parents. I did not know the family circumstances that lead Pattu live alone with her grandma.
But I was dumb enough not to know who the hero was.
“You don’t know? It is that Sekhar, Nadu Gopal Iyer’s grandson, who studies in college at Madras and comes here for every summer holiday…”
I got it. Nadu Gopala Iyer’s house was next to Pattu’s. Sekhar must have been around 20 years that time. He was average looking, but he had the smartness of a city-bred. Even though he visited village every summer, he won’t mingle with the village boys of his age. Actually, village boys avoided him because he spoke English fluently and he obviously displayed an air of superiority. Most of the times in the mornings and evenings he would be sitting in the thinnai built common between his house and Pattu’s house, reading an English novel.
Oh! I could connect now. I too have seen him going religiously to the Shiva temple in the evenings, whenever Pattu goes there, perhaps following her with some 10 meters of gap!
A typical village house with entrance door and Thinnai. (The elevated platform where people sit)
Practically most of the villagers in the street were attending the Theru koothu every night for the past 2/3 days. Deprived of regular sleep, practically the entire village populace used to remain in siesta in the whole of the hot summer afternoons. For want of ventilation, many villagers sleep at their thinnais.
On the last day of Theru Koothu was Nallathangaal Kathai. It was a folklore about an all suffering village woman by name Nallathangal, who had seven children and all her children died one after the other. That drama was too famous for its never ending Oppari scenes and our family opted to skip attending that drama. Actually, we all children got bored of Theru koothu after watching it for 2/ 3 days, except for my second elder sister who had an insatiable attraction for dramas and cinemas (though we had very little opportunity to go to either of them in practical reality). For her, M R Mangalam became a “hero”(!) . She would entertain us in the evenings by mimicking M R Mangalam’s style of walking, speaking and singing!
I heard the next day that Nalla Thangal drama actually ended at 4:00 AM in the early morning. Those who had the patience to sit through the end naturally would have lost a whole night of sleep. Consequently, the entire street was virtually devoid of people who were normally seen outside, sitting in thinnais and chitchatting.
Since I did not go to the drama nor did Sahasru, we did not feel like sleeping in the afternoon. We were sitting in our thinnai in the hot after noon, thoroughly bored, having nothing else to do as the climate was not conducive to engage in playing any games. Naturally, we were engaged in idle talk and Sahasru, ignoring the fact that I was hardly a 11 year old boy, was reeling out self-concocted stories of who was in love with whom in our street, neighboring streets and in the high school.
Pattu’s house was in the opposite row of my house some 3-4 houses away. Pattu’s patti was sleeping at her thinnai. She must have been asleep there at least for 4 to 5 hours. At one point of time, we saw her getting up and she was trying to enter into her house through the front door, which seemed to be locked. She knocked it for a while, then shouted aloud “Pattu, Hey Pattu! Open the door!”
After one or two minutes of knocking, we saw the door opening and the Patti getting inside. As Sahasru continued with his stories, our conversation got suddenly disrupted. Pattu’s paatti came running out of her house, shouting “Aiyyo, Aiyyo!!” (Oh hell! Oh hell!) at the top of her voice.
Naturally, we got interested and started running towards her house. A couple of neighbors who were sleeping at thinnais at adjacent houses too got disturbed, woke up and came out to help old lady. A couple of laborers engaged in wood cutting in front of another house came running with some wooden sticks in their hands.
“What, paatti? What happened? What happened?”
Paatti who seemed a bit dazed, seemed to hesitate to give a cohesive reply for a moment and then she said “Pam…, pambu… pambu….(snake) inside the house…”
The workmen with sticks in their hands started to advance into the house to combat the snake, but the paatti frustrated them. “No.. don’t go inside, it is dangerous, it is huge and is lying near the entrance door…”
The workmen stopped, but they started hitting the entrance door with their sticks to make a huge noise. Just to scare away the snake, if it were hiding somewhere behind. By that time, typical of the village culture, more and more people gathered there with sticks in hand, most of them talking all at one time, some giving advice, some giving directions, some issuing warnings, some goading the workmen to march inside.
After pushing the door wide open and peeping inside for any snake, several people entered into the house, ignoring loud objections of Paatti.
* * *
After some 15 minutes, myself and Sahasru were back at our thinnai. Sahasru was smiling, laughing and jumping… “I know, I know. Did you notice? Did you notice?”
“What? Snake? There was no snake, despite all the search”
“That’s it, boy. But did you notice our hero, I mean, Sekhar there?”
“Yes. When we all came out of the house not finding the snake, I too saw him coming out with a stick in hand”
“That’s it, boy! Did you see him entering into the house along with all of us?”
I started thinking. “There were so many people. There was so much of hurry-bury. Perhaps he too was there. Perhaps he came there like most of us, after hearing paatti’s houling”
“No my boy, he was not there when we entered into the house! But he was there when we came out of the house; he mingled with the crowd and escaped. The snake was HE!”
I was not too sure. I was not all that smart to notice everything in such a detail. Seeing my doubtful look, Sahasru became more and more emphatic about his idea. He became 200% sure of his theory.
“Aha! What a calculation! The whole street was in deep slumber thanks to Theru koothu. Paatti was sleeping like a log; So, our hero was perhaps invited by the heroine into the house to have a jolly good time together; Who knows how long they were spending time together inside the house. I am sure they will not be just talking sweet nothings. May be something more. Who knows? Unfortunately Paatti woke up at the wrong time. Hahaa. Poor “snake” was seen by paati and she got rattled!” Sahasru seemed to run riot with his imagination.
“I can’t believe it” I said with hesitation.
With a broad grin and an air of super-confidence, Sahasru started explaining: “You dull headed idiot! Re-run the whole drama in your mind’s eye and you will understand. Point one: Paatti did not shout ‘snake, snake’ at first. She was only shouting ‘Aiyo, Aiyyo!’ It means she was shocked to see something inside that she should not have seen! Point two: When everyone asked what the matter was, she was initially hesitating, but later said there was a snake inside the house. Point number three: Patti did not like any of us entering into the house. Point Number four: We did not find any snake. Point no. five: Our hero escaped from the house with all of us”.
Till date, I am still wondering whether Sahasru’s theory of snake was true or not!
Post script 1: After one or two weeks of this happening, Pattu’s parents reportedly came from Madras and took their daughter with them, to get her married off.
After two months, Patti went to Madras to attend the marriage of hergranddaughter.
After about 5 months, Pattu and her husband visited the village and stayed with Paatti for a few days. Pattu was in bright sarees, had become more roundish, more yellower and appeared very pleasant and joyful. Her husband looked very handsome and tall. Contrary to the culture of the village folks, Pattu and her husband were seen walking side by side holding hands, laughing and gigling. They were going to cinema and temples religiously every evening.
Post Script 2: In the next summer holidays, a bright young girl, by name Prema aged about eighteen came to my neighbor Ramani Iyer’s family for holidays for the first time. Our hero Sekhar, who visited the village as usual for the holidays was seen going religiously to the Shiva temple in the evenings, whenever Prema goes there, perhaps following her with some 10 meters of gap!