“Do you know about the seven virgins?, that one, is virigins’ woods, they say”. Kutti showed me the other bank of the gully. Looks ghostly to me. Scary. There are seven stones standing erect. “What is the story”?. “Well, I don’t know the complete story, but they say when there were heavy rains up in the mountains, water came roaring down the gully, which carried the girls who were harvesting and collecting grass for their cattles. They went straight to heaven. People from the village saw that and they erected stones here to remember them and to worship them". Hmm, I nod. Looks ghostly. I know the rains. They are capable of such thing. I have seen the gully full, washing away the huts and small houses that existed on the banks. Whenever it bore full we got holiday, as we have to cross the gully to go to school. It is the same gully there, by my school. Small but same water. In the west it looks magnificent. It is small and like a vaikkal close to school. But same water they say. “So, they worship the dead? Do they do puja here like in temple”? “No. They do puja alright, but not like in temples. Only once in a while”. Looks true. The stones have dried garlands.
“Ok, let us run for some distance”. “okKKEEEYYYYY”… we run. “Let us see who touches that tree first”. we are running, and hearing the instruction from kutti. “Which tree”?, we still are running…”that tree” we still are running..” which that tree”? we still are running… Kutti is athletic. She is running ahead of us all and she stopped by one tree and said, “this tree”.. huh u huh u huh u… breathing heavily.. “that is cheating”.. “No it is not, it was me in the front anyways”.. “I will be the one who decides next time, let us run baAACCKK”.. “you idiOOTT, COME BACK”, I stop running and listen. “The whole objective of running was to reach the west soon. Running back east, what are you trying to achieve”? Focussing on an objective is never my strong point is it? Anyway, we all follow kutti. "Look there is a shop. Let us buy some thenmittai”. After a long stretch, there is a shop. “This is the last shop, so we have to buy whatever we want before we go”, Kutti the knowledgeable behind the mission, lets us know the information at this point.
Oh boy, so many questions that woman asked. Last shop you see. We couldn’t afford to skip. We had to reply all her questions. We needed our thenmittai. I love thenmittai. It is juicy, semisolid and sticky inside, but crunchy outside. Pink in colour. We love it. I don’t like viral appalam (like hoola hoops) . Many like it. I don’t. We bought some anyway. We run again.
“Let us go to the Gounder thottam and drink some water”. Yep. We are in there now. There he is, shouting.. “We are just drinking some water goundare” Kutti shouted back. “Who is that?” “It is me, Kutti, goundare”. “Ah, you, is it. Ok. Who are they”? “My friends. We are going to see chevaththa puliyamaram”. “Oh no. That area is very lonely and you girls shouldn’t go there”. “I go there everyday goundare. The grass there is lust green and healthy. I get good harvest there. I go there everyday. That is how I know where the maram (tree) is”. “You poor girl” “We have many bulls and cows, you know that don’t you. We have to feed them you see. Poor those cows and bulls. If I don’t get good green grass they will have to eat rice-hay or cholam stalk. Very dry you see. They love it when I give them some green grass. One of our cows, the black one with white patches on its face, it has given birth to a calf you see. Small little fella. He just loves to eat green grass. I give him very young/tender grass. I keep it separate for him. I cannot let him eat dry straw or cholam stalk”. “Take care of yourself girl. Take some older women with you when you go there”. “Are you mad? If I go with other women, how will I get good harvest day after day? If those women who sell grass start going there, it won’t last for a day. Am I mad to let everyone know that area”? “Take your mother with you at least. Take care of yourself girl. It is a very lonely area”. “I know. But, my mother has to cook at home you see. If she comes with me then how will I get hot food when I go home”? “I can never win you, can I”? He laughs. We drink water. “Stay there. I will be back in a minute”. Gounder asks. OK. He disappears for a minute. When he comes back, he has few papayas. “Take it. Nice and ripe, take it”. “Thank you goundare”. We thank and depart.
The dreamy chevaththa puliyamaram is not exactly in a pradaise looking place. It is by the bank of a dry sandy gully. A farm on the other side. Thin, like a old lady. It looked sad to me. A lone tree. Well there are several karuvela trees there. But, only one chevaththa puliyamaram. Taller than all other puliyamarams I know. Little difficult to climb, but we have experts in our team.
We came back home with a bag full of chevaththapuliyanga and few papayas that was left after catering our hunger. We also brought few roses from another farm. Mother was complaining that I might get fever the next day. I thought it was worth it, even if it is typhoid that I am going to get tomorrow, it was worth it.