7 Nov 2011

The Tale of Paurnami

It was a dark night. The moon was supposed to be shining in the sky. But only darkness filled the night.


I quickly moved from my position near the window and went towards the bed.

“Where are the children?” Mum asked.

“They are both upstairs, Amma. I hope I did not interrupt your sleep. Do you need anything?”

“No, don’t worry. I don’t need anything. Ask the children to come down. I already miss their chattering.”

I touched mum’s grey hair tenderly before making my way towards the door. As soon as the door was opened, I could hear my children’s voice from upstairs.

“Yesotha! Kamesh! Paati wants to see you.”

In a split second, they both hurried down the stairs. Their faces were filled with contentment. They were obviously very happy to know that their grandmother who has been asleep since the afternoon was finally awake.

Before I could manoeuvre myself back to the bedside, my children were already hugging and kissing their grandmother devotedly.

“I was really scared when you fainted just now, paati,” my six-year-old son confessed.

“Are you okay now, paati?” asked the eight-year-old Yesotha.

“I am fine. There’s nothing wrong with me,” mum tried to convince her grandchildren before looking at me and asking: “Have they eaten? What is the time now, anyway?”

Mum tried to look outside through the window.

“We’ve had our dinner, paati. Amma fed us.”

I took a glimpse at mum. Her eyes were still focussed outside. Maybe she was wondering how come it was already night. I wondered if mum was aware that she was asleep for nearly eight hours.

At around noon, mum suddenly fainted. Luckily, my husband was around since he came home for lunch. Vishnu carried mum and placed her on her bed. Then, he called his friend who was a doctor.

To everyone’s relieve, the doctor confirmed that there was absolutely nothing to worry. Mum was perhaps too tired. She was given some medication and asked to take a good rest. Mum must have been really tired and she slept soundly for about eight hours.

“It’s rather dark tonight, isn’t it, paati?” Kamesh asked after taking a moment to observe his grandmother who was still looking outside.

“Amma said that today is paurnami, the day of the full moon. But why isn’t there a moon in the sky, paati? Why is it as dark as amavasi?” Yesotha asked while sitting comfortably beside her grandmother in the bed.

The 61-year-old lady slowly moved her gaze from the window towards me.

I could sense light tingling in her eyes. As if there was some delightful news that she was looking forward to sharing with me at that very moment.

But the tingling light suddenly disappeared and mum’s face was filled with sadness instead. Her eyes were fixed on my wheelchair; onto my paralysed pair of legs.

(© Uthaya Sankar SB 2011. The above extract was translated by Uthaya Sankar SB on 5 November 2011. The original “Cerita Paurnami” in Bahasa Malaysia was first published in Dewan Sastera, March 2006. The original story also appears in Rudra Avatara. Amir Muhammad calls this story “A wondrous family tale with striking imagery … achieves homespun magic” – READ MORE. Please CLICK HERE for more articles in English.)