by Baby Kattackal
He turned a wayfarer, aimless, after the incident that shattered him, that uprooted him. Travelling on Shanks’s pony he had no place particularly in his boggled mind to settle down. But he moved on and on for a year like a nomad, unstuck anywhere. “I will move on wherever my legs take me” was his refrain. That’s how he chanced to reach Muvattupuzha. Before the gruesome incident, Always was a good place to his liking. As vendor of ground nuts, he had a good business serving the train commuters whom he could befriend, who are long fatigued to chew something to slacken their tight jaws long closed up since their early break- fast in the train. On reaching Always all the eyes of the regular commuters of different trains to different destinations eagerly searched for Rizvan and they never failed in spotting him on the platform doing some brisk business. He was quick and professional in exchanging his wares for money before the final whistle, soon followed by the chug… chug of the moving train were heard. If someone couldn’t hand over his money, for the wares he bought, from the speeding train, Rizvan was sure he would make the payment on his return. So he saw him off smiling and waving. This was a mutual largess between the vendor and buyer based on mutual trust. “So far I never had any incident of nonpayment from the customers”, He used to assert.
Martha, an orphan was living in a convent when Rizvan the vendor of ground nuts married her. The rigours of a convent life sharpened the blunt edges of her sense of quality, taste and neatness in making snacks including tasty ground nuts. It was she who taught Rizvan her precious recipe which was hither to unknown to him. To cater to the tastes of the customers his wares were available both roasted and plain.
Compassionate, Martha was a dedicated volunteer health worker too, among the Covid 19, patients. Her diligence and dedication to her work was noticed by her higher authorities and she was selected for a special training in nursing the patients, which meant she was more in demand and more exposed to the patients who were reeling in suffocation. She had no discrimination between young patients and old ones. Some days unwieldy number of patients in a very serious and dangerous condition would be rushed to the hospital and the medical staff would find it beyond their control to give immediate attention to each and everyone before they gave up their ghosts. In such situations they are prone to attend the young patients first as they have a long expectancy of life, their parameters being strong and the chances of cure are more with them. And the old patients have only shortened expectancy of life and they are more prone to death rendering their treatment often end up a waste. Then within the time taken to treat an old man they could save at least ten young patients. This makes them to go in for a policy of balance of convenience.
But Martha was different. She could not stand the wheezing of the old ones whose attack was severe and whose fragile body could not stand the thrust of suffocation. Martha couldn’t stand the sight of their eyes bulging out in extreme suffocation and their pathetic looks with their worn out faded eye-sight, all for her help. This made her dabble with their problems forgetting the guidelines and lessons she learnt for self- protection.
And Martha had to pay dearly with her own life for forgetting her self- protective guidelines. She found herself a Covid19 patient soon. Martha the nurse, who fought to save the life of many covid19 patients, and Martha, the wife who taught her husband how to prepare tasty ground nuts thereby showing him a way of successful life, had to succumb to untimely death by Covid 19.
Rizvan’s short lived wedlock was sans any issue too. This caused his leaving Alwaye for good easier, as he was alone in this world, since the death of his wife, that shattered him. “Staying back, I’m sure the familiar circumstances in which we stayed together, exchanging our loving hearts, and mutual help, and the emptiness caused by her untimely absence would bring intense memories that would make me sad and forlorn. So I need a change”, he soliloquized. This was the reason that prompted him to go away. But there was no particular place in his mind and that’s why he repeatedly thought, “I will settle down wherever my legs take me”.
Reaching Mvattupuzha, initially, he was unsettled like a nomad, sleeping at different places wherever his legs took him. Then he was lucky in soon spotting the Municipal park as his venue of business. He then fixed his night’s stay on the veranda of a bakery, whose owner was kind enough to permit him. And he kept his utensils, and other belongings behind the bakery where there was a narrow veranda too, surrounded by thick bushes. Every morning he had his morning ablutions at a public tap near by and having a single coffee from a kiosk he started preparing the ground nuts in the backside veranda of the bakery, exactly the way his wife taught him. Preparing plane ground nuts took lesser time than roasting groundnuts, which took the time to noon. During the time he never failed to pray for his wife in heaven and longed to be with her before long. Sometimes he felt bad being alone in this world to fend for himself and he even cursed God for prolonging his stay in this world, all alone ,in solitude. After a simple lunch he had a regular nap in the back side veranda of the bakery. Waking up it was almost time for him to be in the park. This was his routine. Come evening his mood changed too . He would think of those kind men who bought his wares with a smile, that made him smile too. Then he felt he was not alone in this world, but still he knew his happy mood was short lived. Then he would murmur to him ” My worry would leave me only if I’m by the side of my wife”.
Rizvan was Liked by all and sundry, who had a crush for ground nuts. For he sells quality ones. His wife Martha was always behind to ensure the quality, admitting of no slackening , till she died. His costumers thought of him as omnipresent in the Municipal park of Muvattupuzha by the side of Muvattupuzha river, till the last of the visitors had left. In the evenings the park was agog with people who wanted to enjoy to their heart’s content, the salubrious breeze from the river that wafted around, the park. And in fact those men in the park, were waiting for him while enjoying the breeze. But it’s not sure who waited for whom. Whether Rizwan waiting for the evening to come to meet his customers or the customers for Rizwan, to come. His customers were steadily increasing and Rizwan had to make double the quantity as against that of his initial days.. Then after a dip in the so called chaste waters of the river he calls it a day for him.
Days went off….. One morning , as usual, Rizwan got up , had his morning ablutions and his usual coffee and was readying to indulge in his roasting work. He walked towards the bag in which his cooking utensils were. He bent forward so low, to take out the articles when suddenly a cobra reared up from inside the bag which hit his forehead in no time. In seconds he fell dead!… In seconds everything was over too……….
About the Author: Baby Kattackal is a poet and author from Kerala, India.