Darsana Mohan | April 2023
Sasheendran looked up at the Sarbath shop and wondered if he was making a mistake. His wife, Ammini, had not brought him his lunch on time today and he had stormed out of the house with a bellow of rage. His baritone voice and the obscenities it set forth, had bounced off the walls and into the ears of the neighbour’s Pomeranian who then proceeded to lead the other canines in the vicinity in a series of howls. Not to be outdone, all 4 babies in Shakti Lane had registered their protest through the well-established medium of wailing.
“Ah, Ithaaru? Shashi Maasho! What are you doing here?”, queried Kurup, the owner of Kurupzz Sarbath, as his many assistants sent glasses of lemon soda whirling and fizzing around him.
“He probably heard about the new Kurupzz immunity Sarbath”, joked one of the patrons conspiratorially to the other.
“Uvva, Between shouting and lovemaking, Maashu has Katta Immunity”, was the counter remark offered.
Sasheendran didn’t know why he was here. He had been pacing in the hot May sun for a good twenty minutes and had stopped short when he saw the glint of the soda bottle.
“Kuruppe, Give me a kulukki sarbath, maximum ice, some salt, chilli, pepper, and mint. I don’t have any money on me now but I’ll give it to your son when he comes to school tomorrow”, he demanded as he removed his mask and sat down on one of the benches. The unusual sarbath request was presented to Sasheendran, who downed it in a single gulp, much to the detriment of his throat. The sarbath shop would later rename the kulukki that took down the Maashu’s voice as the Thonda Kulukki, the throat shaker.
During that first night of Sasheendran’s illness, all the residents of Shakti Lane slept soundly. It was only when Ammini purchased Paracetamol and Strepsils from the pharmacy, that they realized why a sudden peace had been gifted to them. It was not Covid, just severe laryngitis as per what John Doctor in the government hospital had told Ammini. Bolstered by this scientific advice, she had promptly gone and burst open seven coconuts in the local temple for Sasheendran’s speedy recovery.
The coconuts, for their part, each claimed a day to heal him.
“Ketto? Bhargavi and Rajappan have finally reconciled.”, said Annamma, the fisherwoman to Jomson from House No. 10 as she cleaned the fish while a legion of stray cats lay waiting for her to make a mistake. Elsewhere, The Shakti Gold 500 gym flourished as members began showing up on time, after a good night’s sleep. Sasheendran’s students also managed to finally ask their questions without being admonished or called Good-for-Nothings in class. When twilight descended on the seventh day of the week, the government school teacher’s voice began reverberating across the lane, arriving like the dense thunderclouds of June.
Post-recovery, Sasheendran found himself being surprisingly welcomed by the community. He was being gifted lollies and sodas by his neighbours and fellow teachers. A student had attempted to hug him, although, much later, he recollected that the child was sniffling.
“Hmph, they all see what I am worth now.”, he said to himself after the principal kindly asked if he would like to be granted more leaves, to rest. One night as he walked past Kurupzz, he noticed the bright flex board for Thonda Kulukki with its mute symbol logo and rage called on him again, like an old friend.
“Ejase, you are the secretary here and you need to fix this. That man needs to behave or get out.”, said Jayan of House No 3 at the monthly meeting of the Shakti Lane Residents Welfare Association. Sasheendran had filed a complaint against Kurupzz Sarbath, asking for a food inspection. The community whose collective aversion to healthy confrontation had bordered on tomfoolery now showed up at their RWA meeting for the first time in months.
“Please calm down everyone. I will find a solution to this. Do not worry”, Ejas announced to the incensed audience. The secretary had been hoping to start his political career and here was an opportunity to practice his campaign tactics. When Aysha Teacher asked about what was happening to Ammini, the RWA unanimously agreed that her plight was indeed tragic and went home to eat dinner.
Sasheendran’s complaint was thrown out and he found himself getting written up at school for what he thought was absurd reasons. Ammini would later cry to her sisters about how no one had talked to her at the temple festival but by now, her sisters had learned to tune her out to the whistles of their own pressure cooker lives. Power cuts had also begun plaguing the couple’s house, almost always during the ending scenes of Kattadi Thanal on Asianet.
Sasheendran and a tearful Ammini left on a rainy Sunday night, at the end of the academic year, after he was issued a transfer order. The petti vandi that transported their goods was arranged by a very mournful-looking Ejas who declared, “I tried my best, Maashe, to help you but nothing worked out. Not to worry, this new school you’re going to is adipoli!”
Come Monday morning, Kurup would discover the tattered ruins of his expensive flex board strewn across his gate.
Years later, the homes and businesses of Shakti Lane would change as trees began to be felled and roads were made to connect to other roads. The sarbath shop changed many hands and names but the local delicacy of Thonda Kulukki refused to budge from the menu, only to be brought up when the occasional outsider asked ‘Why is it called a Thonda Kulukki?’ and no one really knew the answer.
Darsana Mohan is a poet and writer from Kochi, Kerala.
Her writing has been featured in The Alipore Post, Feminism in India, YourStory, Four Seasons Magazine, Tint Journal, and Bengaluru Review.
In her spare time, she enjoys reading books and scrapbooking
You can find her on Instagram @darshreads.
Photo via Unsplash
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