Sunday, April 22, 2012

A tribute to Koran and Mundi

I always wanted to write a simple story set in rural Thrissur with Koran and Mundi as the protagonists.

They are a well-recognised poor couple from the so called lower caste in my neighbourhood in Thrissur. Koran, the blind husband and his almost-deaf, fully-mute wife Mundi. Coal dark, short and bent over with age and dressed in threadbare white mundu (the traditional mallu attire), sans any footwear, the two regularly combed the houses in the locality for dried leaves of coconut trees (called patta) and coir that served as fuel for cooking. They earned paltry amounts for cleaning up our backyards.

There is nothing grand about their personalities, nothing complicated about their lives, nothing prominent about their ways. Yet as a teenager, who loved my traditional hometown, rife with local myths and brimming with interesting gossip, I longed to explore and know in detail about Koran and Mundi. They were the first characters to provide fodder for an aspiring writer, who idolised R. K. Narayan and Rabindranath Tagore.

As a little girl from Chennai, who vacationed every summer in the then-small town Thrissur, I was always intrigued by Koran and Mundi. Their black tobacco-stained teeth and deep red paan-stained tongues had instantly caught my attention. Amma told me how the two would retire to their homes late in the evening and finish off the day with long swigs of local toddy. How they managed to communicate to one another, lead a long married life
and produce children remains an enigma to me! Sorry for this reference, but seriously, factors such as compatibility and chemistry go for a full toss in their case:)

Today Koran is no more. But Mundi hasn’t changed a wee bit. She still stops by the roadside whenever she sees us, with a smile for Mayini and a questioning look reserved for me. I hear that their children are decently educated and doing fairly well in government jobs, even as Mundi continues her ramblings. With almost all trees and backyards gone from most houses, she hardly earns anything these days.

But the scene shall be etched in my heart forever. Koran at the back lead by Mundi, both holding on to two
ends of a long stick, walking by the corner of the narrow lanes. Swaying coconut trees, lush green banana and mango trees, lovely shrubs in full bloom and two ghostly dwarfs ever-so-silently and slowly sprucing up our backyards.

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