We had recently been to Talkad – my cousins, their parents, my family and ofcourse, the I 🙂 Talkad – hmm.. kind of brings up images of paths of sand, Alumelamma’s curse, those small temples along the path that leads up to the Kaveri at which you will find yourself casting double and triple glances to make sure if that indeed is Kaveri. Dont’t ask me why. The whole water body seemed to be covered in dirt. And there are people everywhere. No, it is not the people I have a problem with, but their bathing, brushing and spitting acivities. They treat it like a shower. It really gets to you to see people getting soap and shampoos to Kaveri. Wasn’t that supposed to be the “dip” that one had to take? I’d prefer the non-polluting version of water-play. Talkad to me meant that. Atleast till our trip. Talkad to me was water and temples and sand.
And that’s when “Mahadevamma” happened. We had hired a tempo traveller and once we reached Talkad, we got down at the entrance so that we could have a nice chattery walk and look at everything at our own pace ( nice walk in the sun is a little oxymoronic, eh?) Anyways, after having gotten off, we began walking, reminding each other to take as many snaps as possible ( With the present-day schedule of anyone, even that of my 7th standard-cousin, it is not often that you go on family trips and we were all excited).
After like around 20 steps, we stopped to look around. We saw a a huge rectangular shaped construction below us. It was hollow with nothing inside. Our divergent thinking paved way for various creative answers and suddenly we heard a voice behind us – ” That king take bathing there.” We looked around to see who had said that and saw a quirky elderly woman, very lean but with bright eyes doing the most of communication. One of my aunts asked her as to who she was. “My name is Mahadevamma”, she said. “Wow! She speaks English”, one of my younger Bishop Cottons- cousins exclaimed. “Yes! I know English. Butler english”, she blushed. Thinking that she was there for money, one of my “cautious” uncles asked her what she wanted. “We don’t need a guide, please”, he said.
” Waaaaa.. yaakang aaditra budhi (why do you act like that Saar?)? I only helping. You seeing”,she said. “How sweet”, I felt for she surely had the courage to come up and be confident about whatever she knew and what she wanted to do. Now, my dear mother just cannot stop herself from “interacting” with people. ” How do you know english?”, she asked seriously. “Oh, many people coming. I talking talking talking talking. Bidiyamma adenu dodda vishya ( leave it, what’s so great about it?)”, she replied. No, my mother wouldn’t stop at that. ” You know ABCD..?”, she asked. “Yes yes. I know”, she said. Can you recite it?”, my mother asked. I wasn’t surprised. She makes sure she knows them in and out and then gives them those “tests” to test the veracity of their claims. Moms are like that. “oh.. thatuu very simple. Bidi”, she said adding that she may have forgotten it as she doesn’t get a chance to revise it. By this time, I must have wandered off in amusement, towards the edges of the path when I heard her call out to me ” chinnu.. hey, you chinnu.. orange. come this side.. follow me.” I turned back so astonished and saw her looking at me. ” you only, chinnu.. orange chinnu”, she said looking at my orange top. Phew! I smiled at her and asked her if she works anywhere and her family. She told me that she had 2 sons, one in college and the other in 7th standard and she worked in a few houses as a helper to make ends meet and on weekends she would go around with tourists. “My name is Mahadevamma”, she added after furnishing all the above details. “eh?”, I wondered but later on realized that she has the habit of adding ” My name is Mahadevamma.. mm.” The “mm” was always with an air of attitude that said ” Am Mahadevamma. Don’t mess with me” kinds. Soon, she had a name for all of us. All my cousisn were guys and soon they all became Kannada actors. One became Sudeep, the other Darshan, Ganesh, Vishnuvardhan, Uppendra (Uppi, to be precise) and what not! My cousin who she nicknamed “Ganesh” didn’t really like it , not after she told him that he is plump like Ganesh. Even our boxer Rocky who was with us became Ravi ( Ravichandran, remember?) “Hey, Ravi! Come this side darling”, she called out and I had a strong feeling, Rocky blushed though he did not really follow her.
“Going river, temple half hour”, she sudenly shouted out of nowhere and I wondered if she was trying out a poem with rhyming effects ofcourse. Naa, she was only telling us that we are going to the river and that we can finish seeing the temple in half an hour. Atleast that’s what her kannada translation meant.
She also let out strings like ” Don’t care, don’t change”, ” ok, have a good day”, at anyone she saw and we were so amused by her behaviour. Finally, when she left us by the river, we felt so sad that she wouldn’t accompany us for the rest of the journey. Those few lines of English were her livelihood. Not just hers but quite a few people there who would show around foreign tourists. The foriegners would laugh everytime they heard a ” come this side. Follow me”, but little did they know that these people have learnt the language for reasons that go beyond communication – their food. When Mahadevamma saw a few foriegn kids laugh at her English, she looked at my mother and said- ” avru chikkavaru. en gothilla. munde nan thara doddavaradaga avrige gothaguthe. avaga naguthara? ( they are small. They don’t understand anything. When they become as old as me in the future, they will understand. Then, will they laugh at me like this?”). More than the river, the sand, the stories behind Talkad, Mahadevamma was the interesting find. I will never be able to describe her in words. There was something about her. Something beyond the language she had learnt. Maybe the confidence. Or maybe the rappport she instantaneously built wth us – a few of us. She signed off with, ” Next time you come here, you must come home. Just ask for ” english mahadevamma’s house” and they will tell you”, she smiled and waved a quick english-bye before running of to another tempo traveller that had just arrived.