Thursday, 24 April 2014


Nandini is Darkilayna’s daughter. Darkalaiyna - hard working, generous to a fault, much loved father, landless, living in a one roomed tiny hut is one of the very few habitual drunks in the village. Nandini has grown up seeing her father frequently drunk, and seeing her mother get beaten up when he is drunk. The mother, petite, cheerful has kept the family going ... But Nandini, understanding the situation, has a seriousness beyond her tender years. 

When she was six years old, she would light the firewood stove after returning from school, cook the evening meal before her mother returned from coolie, do other chores, and then come for tution at our place before dusk. She has a younger sister whom she dotes on, and whatever she is given - a biscuit or a toffee - she stows away to give her.

Now she is eleven. She is the apple of her father's eye and now she is taking him on. When he got into a drunkn brawl last month she completely stopped talking to him. The mother and other sister also stopped talking to him, and they would just cook for him, and place the meals aside. After the fourth day of this, the father came to Nandini and wept, and said he would leave drinking ... and that he could not bear to be isolated thus. This is satyagraha ...

Those childhood years …
When i was walking with all the kids, across the fields, to the well for their afternoon swimming , Nandini was six,  the age when children do not stop talking. She held my hand and prattled as the other children raced on ahead. Finally there was a moment's pause in her prattle -  which she found deafening. She started again, 'Madam, do you know what I ate in the morning today' ... and I told her, 'Nandini, keep quiet !'.
For a long time the children and I used to look at the skies in the nights for constellations. Orion was a favourite constellation. After some years, on a starless night, six year old Nandini pointed out ‘Orion’ on the Malleshwaram hill. There were some street lamps up the hill on the path to the temple at at the top, and the pattern they formed from a distance was what she meant as Orion - and we had discussed Orion for years, both of us living in our own meanings.

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