Partner, Past an Age

A fair of one or the other kind marks the nooks and corners of India. The roads laid by the governments, by a panchayat or state or the centre, are bringing out the nooks and corners of the country to connectivity.

Subbulu has heard about Gangaamma Thirunala but she never had the chance to visit the fair. Neither her parents nor her siblings nor any of her relatives ever took her to the fair but she was expected to attend to them, and their chores. She did. Yet, no one found a man for her, and they murmured among themselves, she has passed past the marriage-able age.

Since she started to live by herself in a hutment with the death of her parents, and thrown out by her siblings; she gained independence. She could work as a daily labourer in fields, or as a labourer in the road-laying or construction activity. If no work was around, there is always an assured work for 100 days under MNREGA scheme of the Government of India. She could also buy groceries at subsidized prices—rice, pulses, flour, cooking oil—from a ration shop run by the successive state government, since NTR’s rule. The schemes ensured her independence, and removed her dependence from the mercy of a relative or from the consideration of a landlord or a contractor or petty bureaucrat in the panchayat.

Gangaamma Thirunala beckoned her, she responded. The central force of the fair is worshiping the Goddess Ganagamma the local Kali the local Durga: praying for wellbeing, thanking for blessing for a boon asked for, beseeching for the fulfilment of a life’s requirement as varied as a car to a marriage, thanking for a good harvest—. The venue for annual fair is large patch of rocky land in an open-air by a side-road off the NH40 at the foothills of Seshachalam Range of Eastern Ghats. The fair lasts for a week or more allowing people from near and far off villagers to visit.

Subbulu reached the fair in the morning, and explored one by one: something to buy, something to see, something to hear, something to eat, something to drink. Towards twilight, she sensed that it was the time to return to her village but she had one wish: to buy few sticks of fresh sugarcane for it is a custom to buy sugarcane from the fair. She wanted to buy sugarcane for her neighbours’ children in her village.

With a handful of sugarcane sticks in her hand, and a snack of attirasa in another hand, she hit the exit of the fair. At the entry-cum-exit of the fair, she noticed a man. The man was fighting against a stick of sugarcane with his teeth to suck out every drop of the juice out of it. Around him, chewed and sucked out strips of sugarcane danced around him to the whistle of the wind.

Subbulu watched him. The repetitive acts of his teeth gorging into the sugarcane, chewing it, sucking it, spitting the fibre bamboozled her: the savouring of sugarcane had so much action in him. The man was utterly impervious to the world around and beyond him. Subbulu watched. As his head stirred this side and that side in sucking the fibre out of the sugarcane, he realized someone was in front of him, watching.

Venkatam coarsely addressed her, “Mei, what is there to watch, give me one cane.” But the Telugu word ‘mei’ also has a ring of endearment to it.

Subbulu could not contain her laughter, she also noticed something of him, and laughed wildly, his private parts were falling out his knickers. He also noticed the snack attirasa in her hand, and he changed his mind, “Mei, give me that one,” he demanded.

Venkatam has been visiting the fair since he was a child. Every year he visited. First, with his mother and father. After his father died, the mother and son made their annual trips as regularly as the monsoon. After the death of his mother, he continued to visit. When his mother was there, she made a basketful of attirasas – the festive snack of the occasion. With her death, the son is left alone to fend for himself.

Subbulu yielded to his request. “Rei,” she coarsely addressed him without restricting her laughter, “Can’t you sit properly, instead of showing your balls to everyone.” But the Telugu word ‘rei’ also has a ring of endearment to it. From his knickers and lungi, Venkatam’s private parts showed up. Carelessly, but feeling shy, he adjusted his attire, and shouted at her, “Sit, let me eat. I’m also going to catch the bus.”

Subbulu and Venkatam sat together, ate together, and spoke into the darkness of the day. By the following day, with the sun’s presence, they presented together at the idol of Gangaamma.

—ganapathi

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