Children

Shivering in the heat

May boils you; it sizzles and sweats you out. Dripping sweat and wanting to throw off my clothes and jump into a cool pool, I wandered about the house and found Grandma shivering.

“Grandma! Really! You’re shivering in this heat?!”

 “But this water’s cold!” she gasped, and continued to shiver.

“What water?” I asked.

Since Mom and Dad weren’t home, I had to tackle this myself. Was she developing some awful viral fever? Or was  this May madness? As I became more and more desperate trying to figure out this mystery, she suddenly rolled her eyes at me. “Grandpa! What did they do to the water?”

This was too much! Grandma thought I was her grandpa! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I made her a cup of hot tea, covered her with a blanket, hugged her close and made comforting sounds. “You’re so kind, Grandpa,” she said in a small, grateful voice. I smiled back in a grandfatherly sort of way.

Soon she began to speak. Half-mumbling, as if she was talking in her sleep. I listened patiently, then carefully, and finally with sudden, sharp interest.

What Kutty did

They called her Kutty in those days. Her parents would leave her and her elder brother in the small town where their grandparents lived and return home. The children stayed there for two or three weeks. Her brother Babu liked to sit inside with his books and comics. Kutty was a restless one, playing, investigating, and making new friends.

The house was big and had many servants. In summer, they would sit in rows in the open courtyard and make pickles, salted savouries and sweets under Grandma’s eagle eye. Kutty loved to play magician and make some of these things disappear. Grandma pretended not to notice but, when Kutty grew greedy, she chased her away and the little girl had to look for other things to do.

She explored the neighbourhood. People knew and respected her grandparents, so she was welcomed everywhere with smiles and sweets. She took full advantage of this and made herself comfortable everywhere. Most of all, she liked going to the house of Channi Wrestler. He was a retired postmaster who spent half the morning preparing for his bath and the rest bathing in a special pool in his backyard.

No one had ever seen Channi Wrestler wrestle. However, when he sat on the bench outside his house with a towel around his waist and oil all over his body, his muscular body suggested many a victorious wrestling bout. Kutty loved to watch him oil himself as he narrated stories of his encounters. She imagined him picking up tough opponents and flicking them over his shoulder, as if they were straw dolls. Afterwards, Channi Wrestler would dive into the pool and swim around with such a happy expression on his face that Kutty felt jealous.

That was the problem! Kutty wanted to swim as well, but Channi Wrestler was very strict and possessive about his pool. “You can have anything you want, but you can’t swim in this pool,” he told her sternly.

“If it’s all that oil you’ve left in it, I don’t mind,” said Kutty with a pleading look. But he only shook his head. She imagined herself picking up the unhelpful fellow and flicking him over her shoulder as if he was a straw doll.

One day, in the middle of his oiling session, there was a commotion in the street outside and Channi Wrestler was called to mediate. Dressed in his towel and smeared with oil, he rushed out. Kutty’s eyes glinted. At last! Here was an opportunity! She knew the whole neighbourhood. There was nothing left to explore. Except this pool!

Kutty jumped into the pool, dressed only in her petticoat. And then she knew why Channi Wrestler didn’t want her to jump in!

She gasped and screamed. She threw up her arms. The water was ice-cold! In the heat of the summer, Kutty shivered. Her lips turned pale. Her heartbeats slowed down. Luckily her Grandpa, who was looking for her, got there. He dived right in and pulled the little girl out of the freezing water. He knew that Channi Wrestler used ice in his pool. He gathered his granddaughter in his arms and laid her down under the sun. He got hot water from the house. Her lips had turned blue. But, under his care, she stopped shivering and even smiled weakly at him. “Grandpa!”

Grandma smiled weakly at me. “It was such a long time ago! But I lived through all that again today!” She laughed and pinched my cheek. “My little Grandpa!”

I laughed, moved out of her reach, and said, “My little Kutty!”


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Printable version | Jun 14, 2022 12:49:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/children/shivering-in-the-heat/article65475308.ece