An unlikely friendship
In the heart of Ooty, seventy-year old Achamma lived in the middle of a huge estate. Today she was relaxing on the swing in the courtyard and smiling to herself. She looked at Neeta standing in a corner and felt as if she were her own daughter. Achamma felt a great bonding with Neeta and wanted to take care of her well, for the few days she was there.
Achamma’s own son moved to the city for higher studies, got married there and now lived there with wife and daughter Ramya. He was not a bad son in any way and doted on his mother on the contrary, but moving to the village house and taking care of the huge estate was something which he would not consider in his wildest of dreams. The family returned to the estate twice every year for a week-long holiday and they were clearly Achamma’s favorite days in the year. She visited them in the town once every two years or so and never so much as entertained the suggestion of moving there permanently, leaving the place her husband built with heartfelt love.
Neeta looked at Achamma who seemed to be lost in her own world of thoughts. Achamma noticed her present stare. “Would you have tea, ponnu? You must be so tired after a long night of relaxing sleep?” She laughed at her own joke. Neeta smiled, “I will make it, pati. You sit here.” “Hell, no! You are our guest. Wait, I will get some tea and bhajji for you, instantly. Or would you have instant coffee?” She laughed at her comic word repetition. Neeta saw her getting into the kitchen. No wonder Ramya was upset with her grandmother for not employing any help for the kitchen.
Achamma was the caretaker of the estate more than its owner. She loved tending to the plants, working in the kitchen, nurturing the farm animals and everything else that went in to the place. Neeta was a traveler who heard that sometimes the estate was open to taking guests Achamma agreed as soon as Neeta called her and now there she was.
As Achamma went into the kitchen to get her something to eat, Neeta reveled in the beauty of the place. Soft instrumental music was playing in the background. The amalgamation of the flute and the santoor made the place come alive with serenity. Achamma loved this kind of music and it had been playing since the time Neeta had arrived. She wondered how Achamma had thought of the name ‘ponnu’ for her. It was sweet and endearing from the moment she had heard it first. She wondered what her life would have been here while growing up, how she has her husband would have tendered to the estate as if it was their child.
In the kitchen Achamma was wondering about how Neeta’s life was in the city. She never liked it there, in the sound and pollution, and was surprised more people did not want to live close to nature. She poured some coffee into two tumblers and started walking back to the swing.