Nila never thought the night would last this long. Silence of the night and the darkness filled room made her uncomfortable. She stretched her arm as far as possible to touch her sister Anu, sleeping on a rush mat laid on the floor beside her bed. The sound of the pendulum swinging seems to have slowed quite a bit, may be Appa, her dad forgot to wind it last Sunday. The old clock always reminded her of Appa as Amma jokes about him saying “Your Appa is like the clock always busy running around and talking, either to himself or to some one else”. Restlessly, she kept twisting, and turning hoping to see a tiny grin of light through the crack of the wooden window that was always shut to keep the mosquitoes away.
The moment she heard the rooster crowing to announce the night has ended, Nila swiftly flung the blanket and jumped out of the bed. With out waking any one else, quietly she removed the latches to open the front split doors, stepped in to the portico. The freshness of the morning jasmine scented air made her feel she was still in a dream. The shoe flowers bloomed in the night have covered all its leaves in red velvet making the dew drops turn reddish gems all over it.
‘Ha…i!, a big green grass hoper on the pillar! This should be a lucky day”. She wore the flip flops laying on the steps then jumped out in to the front yard, walked towards the cow shed.
“Good Morning Lakshmi!”
Lakshmi twitched its ears and stretched her head then swung its tongue as if she wanted to lick Nila’s hand. She massaged it’s forehead and played with it’s tiny hones. With it’s dark brown eyes and the softest skin Nila thinks Lakshmi is the most beautiful cow in the world. Her black beauty spot on the golden skinned face makes her even beautiful than ‘Kamadenu’ the divine cow that grants its master’s every wish. She wished if Lakshmi was a real girl, in that case, she would be the most beautiful girl, probably better looking than Aishwarya Rai. The most good-looking one in the world. She walked slowly to the chicken cage, looked for the eggs lifting each sleepy hen and placing them carefully in the small round reed basket stored under it’s roof and walked over the cobble stones that separated the court yard with the cattle shed.
“Hey girl…, Be Careful don’t jump around and sprain your angles. They are coming today to see you.” Anxious Amma watching her through the kitchen window reminded her of the boy’s family coming to see her in a jovial voice.
“If they really like me, they shouldn’t care if my leg is sprained or broken Amma.”
“You Naughty one don’t display your silliness before them, they may think you are crazy. If you didn’t get married before you turn 22, you have to wait another 13 years to pass the Saturn. There is only a year left for you”.
“Amma, I don’t care, I will stay single if I don’t find the right man, I don’t believe in the horoscope”
“Nila, don’t forget your parents won’t be here for ever to take care of you. We are getting old”.
The Parrot in the cage hanging outside the kitchen on the tip of the rafter kept on saying “Nila Be Careful”. On her way climbing the steps she angrily looked at the parrot and screamed ‘SHUT UP!!’ and it echoed her ‘Chut-up’ ‘Chut-up’.
Nilla laughed loud and placed the egg basket on the half wall close to the pillar that surrounded the portico. With her left hand around the pillar she leaped herself over the steps and in to the portico. She turned, looked at the misty hill behind the fields in front of her house. The round black rock covered with dry moss on the hill with dark green grass around it looked like an eye on the hill. She though that laughed with her and wept with her when she cried. The magnificent cloud layers that switched colors every moment stole her mind and started to paint her dreams yet to be unleashed.
With her eyes glued to it, and with her golden anklets chiming to the rhythm budding in her heart, she walked back and sat on the wooden long arm chair. She always loved to sit on the huge arm chair made with Sandalwood that was passed to her Appa from his father, a symbol of power passed from generation to generation. Nila felt she controlled everything she could see including the hill and the clouds above it. Appa doesn’t like any one else sitting on it and reminded everyone to stay away from it. He claims it is the symbol of authority his forefathers were bestowed by the Chola King who designated them as his representatives in this land after the war between Chera and the Chola kingdoms. The first thing Appa does after he wakes up in the morning is to sit on the armchair for an hour, and read the news paper from one end to the other. She wished, if Appa slept for another hour so she could flirt with his imaginary power over the relics of the lost kingdom from past dreams.
She looked at the beautiful world in front of her and waited for the picturesque sun rise. The paddy field in front of her stretched for at least 20 acres. Its other end reached close to the foot of the hill. Behind that hill is where her brother Arun thinks the sun waits in the morning for him till he wakes up. He always wanted to get up early, and climb the hill to see the hiding sun. He could never wakeup that early, and the Sun always beat him. The green carpeted paddy field is turning gold with the ripening rice flowers weaving golden thread over it. The clouds above the hill looked magnificent like a master piece painting with each color competing with one another to surpass.
Two sparrows flew close to her and said something to each other and disappeared in to the paddy fields. Although they sounded like Appa and Amma quarreling, she wondered if they were exchanging their love for each other in a birdly manner. Nila felt the chill of the morning breeze hugging all over her making goose bumps all over her. She went to her room quietly with out waking her sister, opened her trunk box and took her black diary, held it close to her chest and walked swiftly to the armchair. Opened the outer cover and removed the black and white photograph hid in its sleeve pocket. She looked at the face in the photo and tried to replace the hero in her day dreams. His smile and the innocence on his face made her to fall in love with him right away with out even waiting to seeing him.
“This is the fourth person coming to see me; my mind is telling he is the one!” It is not her superstition, but her previous experiences have taught her that a successful outcome can come only after three failures. When the first person with a job in Saudi Arabia came to see her, he liked the paddy field and the hill behind it more than her. He was more interested in it’s worth if sold taking advantage of the booming real estate market and the tourism industry. The other two were not much different from each other. One was looking really creepy and the other was too nervous and clinging to his mom’s sari.
Without her knowing, Nila’s mind was dancing with the waving golden rice flowers along with the first rays of the rising sun. While her eyes kept staring at the photo; she drifted with the gentle morning breeze to dissolve herself in to a sweet charming melody that engrossed her.
“Nila aren’t you done sleeping, get me a Coffee”.
“OK Appa,” she stood up instantly and ran inside with the diary.
“Nila..”, she turned back.
Dad picked up the photo from the floor and gave it to her and said,
“Keep it safe, Incase this doesn’t workout we have to return it back to the marriage broker”. While she went inside, the parrot kept saying “Nila Be Careful”, “Nila Be Careful”. She looked at the teasing parrot and winked at it with bit shyness that blossomed on her face and ran to the kitchen.
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