A long-awaited happy Saturday arrived for Reenu. Her Uncles son’s wedding would be on Sunday. She with her older sister and mother reached her mother’s brother’s house on Saturday morning. It was a very happy occasion for Reenu and all the children of the family, who met only once in a while for celebrations like this. Their enjoyments were climbing trees, running and playing in paddy fields in the heavy rain, swimming in ponds and rivers etc., since it was the non-digital age.
Reenu enjoyed the Saturday to the maximum with her cousins and their neighbor’s, while older people were busy preparing meals; some men got busy with killing and dressing bulls, pigs, chicken and goats for the next day’s wedding party. By the way in those days there were no catering services or fridge and freezers, so everything was made fresh at home. A wedding in any house in the village would be a feat for all in the village. Lots of people to do various works; all cooperated and made the marriage function very grand. Reenu liked to see the wedding hall being prepared at the courtyard with betel nut-tree barks and bamboos. Roofing was done with coconut leaves. Inside sealing and around were covered with white clothes and beautiful saris. On the whole the wedding hall (Panthal) was really grand and unique. Reenu loved to help in hanging decorations made of tender coconut leaves.
On Sunday morning Reenu got up early and wore her brand new dress which her father bought for her. After the wedding ceremony everyone came to the wedding hall and had a grand feast of variety foods served on banana leaves (Sadya). Reenu loved to eat payasam and pani (sweet made from sweet toddy) as well as boiled beetroot bits in coconut milk and honey.
After the sadya people began to leave. Reenu and other children again got busy playing while older people were putting back things in order and chatting. Some uncles were drinking some toddy too.
The next day was a Monday and a day which Reenu didn’t want to come soon, because she had to go to school. She was a student of 4th grade. After dinner her mother told her to go to sleep early and get up in the morning so that they could catch the earliest bus to leave for home. Reenu knew that her mother wouldn’t spare her from going to school.
Next morning her mother woke up Reenu and her sister, they brushed their teeth, had a bath in the small stream near Uncles house and picked up the new dress which was put on the palm leaf railings of the wedding hall. Reenu wore the dress and got ready.
Now her uncle and some others were in the sitting room talking and discussing various things. Reenu went and sat on the arm rest of the settee (huge arm-chair)on which her mother was sitting and after few minutes something bit her on the thigh, so she told her mother something bit her and her mother said, “ it must be some bed bug, don’t carry it home”. Reenu was not a fussy child, so she didn’t say anything. While they were having breakfast, again something bit her under the arms and she told her mother, “Amma, something bit me”; again her mother scolded her and said, “Don’t simply fuss over and try to remain here, you don’t want to go to school, that’s why you are trying from long back to find excuses”. Again Reenu kept silent and had her breakfast.
After the breakfast they wished everyone and left for the bus stop. While they were waiting for the bus, again something bit her stomach and this time the bite was more painful and Reenu said, “Ah! Something bit me here”. Then her mother felt that there was something wrong and she just lifted her skirt and saw on the white petticoat just below the skirt, at the center of the stomach an 8 inch long, huge red and black colored centipede sitting in a circled position. Her mother took a small stick from a plant and pushed the centipede down and killed it. Reenu was really amazed to see that and said, “Amma, the bed bug grew so fast and became such a big centipede?!” By the time the bus came and they went home.
On reaching home her mother removed Reenus dress, saw dark blue swellings in 3 or 4 places of her body. She ran to their property took a hand full of the tender leaves of
panchakam (Hibiscus surattensis a wild plant common in Kerala), got some fresh milk from the cow and ground it with milk and applied it on the bitten parts every now and then.
Though there was lots of pain and itching, Reenu was very happy because she did not have to go to school that day. After few days the swelling and the pain all disappeared.
Moral: Never take anything for granted, even if it comes from a small kid, otherwise you may have to regret for it later.
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