The early eighties in Kerala villages had darkness falling on it by dusk,
with the rare few low voltage bulbs hardly dispelling them ,
but a marriage house stood out like a sore thumb lit by bright hissing petromaxes .
The evening before the marriage was importnat in Nair families as close relatives and friends would come with thier gifts to eat pazham ,mixture ,chayya combo ,
there was singing of old hindi songs late into the night ,
the youngsters of the house were all in thier own mood of enjoyment as they quickly downed thier long saved pegs in dark corners
It was one such evening in Tanalur before my cousin got married and we were a bunchful of bachanalians looking for adventure ,
Krishnettan from the gulf had arrived the previous day and was bountiful with his gifts of the best scotch for the occcasion .
Suddenly somebody asked
"has kuttan come ? "
"no he will come by the executive at 9pm and we will pick him up in the station ,
"who said so ?
he hasnt made any promise in his letter "
lets go to kocholikara and pick him up, it would be fun ."
Telephones were also rare those days leave alone mobiles
It was also another regular happening during marriage eves ,while elders were busy like ants the youngsters found some excuse to go on small trips , as there always was a car with driver available and it wasnt so all the time .
so we trooped in into the rickety ambassador the car was packed like sardines as the news spread we were going on a trip .
"chandretta let us go to otappalam to pick up kuttan "
" Entha makkale ee samayatho ? "( at this time ? )
" of course it will just take 2 hrs and another 2 hrs to return we could be back by midnight and nobody would be wiser "this from Unni doing his predegree and who never wore anything but a mundu
Gulfetan gave the go ahead "chandra varu poga kutiyalku oru rasmayirikkam "( let us go chandra it will be fun for these guys )
so chandran drove the car into the darkeness ,soon we reached the town and the railway station ,one of us said
"say why dont we wait for the executive what if kuttan comes in ? "
"if he does we shall come back so whats the problem '
this was universally accepted
the trip was a must and kuttan was just an excuse
"chandretta vitto "( right ahead chandretta )
soon rumbustous songs lifted the mood as we cruised along in the pleasant night within half an hour some had slept off and snores punctuated the converstaions the scotch was having its effect .
The outskirts of ottapalam came and a sober chandrettan woke us up
"now what where do i go ? "he asked
"chandreta kuttans house is in panamana south ask someone "
chandretan went into a tea shop and asked for directions
we had to go another 10km and turn left if it is south panamana or right if it is north panamana
nobody knew the correct way ,so we just tossed a coin and asked him to go to south panamana !
These were really remote village areas with vast paddy fields and it was rare to find anyone even at daytime and at night it was like the moon .
The junction was marked by a salooon and a teashop both tightly closed and we turned to south pananama
The road petered out after a few kilometres into a dirt raod and finally it was unmotorable
Chandretan called it a day "I am stopping here ,I feel sleepy so Iam sleeping for some time in the car ,you guys go and find out the house and bring him and we shall go back "he declared in a tone that didnt expect any arguments
"but chandretta where ?"
go ahead on the other side of paddy field there are a few lights ask someone "
By now we were all sober and a little apprehensive ,
the fields stretched into eternity and the narrow embankment we walked was thick with grass and weeds it started drizzling and we became wet and miserable ,
the lights were in the distance as pinpoints and were just glowing and later fading funny indeed ,but with no alternative we walked ahead ,
" we shouldnt have come i told let us wait for the executive didnt I "
this from the youngest in our group ,
"come baby dont be afraid it is another adventure "this from gulfetan
and we walked on and on with wary steps worried of slithering objects and snakes ,frogs were croaking and it was deathly dark ,
slowly the lights were coming closer it was from a large space with trees and looked like bonfires .
maybe someone was burning thier rubbish ,we thought but there was also a strange booming sound ,montonous and weird ,and this was increasing in intensity ,rumbling and machine like drones ,it was unearthly and we all shivered a bit ,
And then we knew ,
oh God !this was a cremation ground and it was the pyres we were heading for
we were spellbound and shocked
suddenly someone called !!!
"arathu ivide ,aradda !( who is it here ? )
nengala nengalu kocholikaraka kuttana thedi (it is us in search of kuttan of kocholikara house )
ethu kocholikara evide oru veedum illa smasanamanu po po ( no houses here get lost this is the cremation ground )
and then the voice came out of the darkeness with a chootu in his hand he was dark with an unruly beard the watchman cum dom
" get away from here those are wild pigs you hear and they kill remember "
so that was the booming sound what a place
we just turned back and walked with no aim in the rain after seemingly hours we saw some houses and managed to rouse the locals and asked for our house
we were told to go in the same direction and in 10 minutes we reached the house ,only to find kuttan had left long back in the executive and to be tiraded to have made a foolish trip to such a place in midnight .
we trudged back to a much relaxed chandretan who drove us back we reached at dawn and quitely slept for some time to wake up and attend the marriage with red eyes
"where were you idiots last night why you didnt come to station to pick me in the station ? "
this from kuttan !!!!
( This anecedote was recounted by my cousin recently I wasnt there at all )