I was 5 years old then, I think. Amma and I used to stay in our ancestral house along with my grandma and two uncles (Amma’s brothers) and their families. The house was big; I wouldn’t call it typical Kerala style, I think it had a contemporary take of its time. Also it had acres of land surrounding it, the front being vast paddy fields and the back a huge farm of vegetables, mangoes, jack fruit,coconut, tapioca etc. It was truly amazing when I think of it now.
One of my two uncles at home, I called him Mattimama, used to be a farmer and used to work hands on in the land surrounding the house along with others who used to work for him. I was Mattimama’s darling and used to take me along with him wherever he went. My favorite playtime after I got back home from school was to go out with my uncle to the workplace and hang around with him. Also may be help a bit in whatever they were doing and then return home mostly to hear Amma screaming at me for not doing home work.
That evening as usual I went with Mattimama and Sreedharan, who was the helper that day, to the vegetable farm. The vegetable farm had to be watered daily and hence there was a large pond at one end of it. A pond normally is used to have bath in our place and so it will be nicely paved with stone. But this pond was only meant for irrigation so it more or less was a huge pit of water. Mattimama and I went to the other end of the farm doing something and Sreedharan was doing something somewhere in the middle. The farm was huge as one had to really shout their lungs out for the other to hear from one end to other.
I don’t remember what made me drift, may be because that day I didn’t have anything meaningful to do to help. I walked and came to the end where the pond was. I think I had something that I had imagined as a boat in my hand and I decided to put it in the water. I threw the boat in the water and took a long stick to control it from the shore. I waved the stick two three times at the boat and it fell into the water. I looked around to see if my uncle can help me in getting the stick back. I could only see Sreedharan at a distance and not my uncle so I decided to get it myself. There was a ditch on the side that’s cut deep into the pond to make the water overflow into the paddy fields during rains. I slowly dragged myself into the deep ditch and then tried to reach to the stick. It was still far and so I kept my foot a bit more closer to the water. I kept my foot on the loose mud and it caved in and the next second I fell into the water drowning.
I didnt know swimming then and I was drowning, going up and down in water. I had kept my eyes open and could see yellow water when I went down, water gushing in through my mouth and nose. But the moment I came up I tried shouting Mattii… and then I went down. This happened almost 5-6 times I think and I couldnt shout anymore. I was losing hope but then I saw Sreedharan jumping into the water and swimming towards me.
Soon I was pulled to the shore and I saw Mattimama had also reached there by then. They pushed all the water out of my body, dried me up and made me rest for a while. It was almost dark they decided to call it a day. I was scared if Amma would shout at me, so I told Mattimama and Sreedharan not to tell her about this. As usual that evening too I got the customary screaming from Amma for not coming back on time for home work.
I dont remember much from those days but this is one incident I haven’t forgotten. Mattimama is no more with us. We moved to a newer house. Our ancestral house and the farm is now owned by a distant relative. Sreedharan learnt carpentry and switched line of job. He comes home even now as Achan gets some work done through him. Amma might have come to know the incident somehow later but I don’t think Achan knows about it yet. Even now when Sreedharan comes home he smiles at me and I smile back, silently renewing the promise he kept for almost 30 years.