One of my favourite books is The God of Small Things, authored by Arundhati Roy (1997). This book has exhilarating parts, that you want to read them again and again and again. One of those parts is when Estha went to the cinema, all together with his twin sister – Rahel, Ammu, and Baby Kochamma to re-watch The Sound of Music. To be honest, this scandal of molestation should not to be laughed at – and for sure is not considered as something funny. For him, obviously, it was an almost insurmountable moment. But, still, Roy’s narrative is very interesting. Enjoy.
“Shhhh!” they said together. It was Estha who was singing. A nun with a puff. An Elvis Pelvis Nun. He couldn’t help it.
“Get him out of here!” The Audience said, when they found him.
Shutup or Getout. Getout or Shutup.
The Audience was a Big Man. Estha was a Little Man, with the tickets.
“Estha for heaven’s sake, shut UP!!” Ammu’s fierce whisper said. So Estha shut UP. The mouths and mustaches turned away. But then, without warning, the song came back, and Estha couldn’t stop it.
“Ammu, can I go and sing it outside?” Estha said (before Ammu smacked him). “I’ll come back after the song.”
“But don’t ever expect me to bring you out again,” Ammu said. “You’re embarrassing all of us.”
But Estha couldn’t help it. He got up to go. Past angry Ammu. Past Rahel concentrating through her knees. Past Baby Kochamma. Past the Audience that had to move its legs again. Thiswayandthat. The red sign over the door said EXIT in a red light. Estha EXITed.
In the lobby, the orangedrinks were waiting. The lemondrinks were waiting. The melty chocolates were waiting. The electric blue foamleather car-sofas were waiting. The Coming Soon! posters were waiting. Estha Alone sat on the electric blue foamleather car-sofa, in the Abhilash Talkies Princess Circle lobby, and sang. In a nun’s voice, as clear as clean water.
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say?
The man behind the Refreshments Counter, who’d been asleep on a row of stools, waiting for the interval, woke up. He saw, with gummy eyes, Estha Alone in his beige and pointy shoes. And his spoiled puff. The Man wiped his marble counter with a dirtcolored rag. And he waited. And waiting he wiped. And wiping he waited. And watched Estha sing.
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
“Ay! Eda cherukka!” The Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said, in a gravelly voice thick with sleep. “What the hell d’you think you’re doing?”
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
“Ay!” the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said. “Look, this is my Resting Time. Soon I’ll have to wake up and work. So I can’t have you singing English songs here. Stop it.” His gold wristwatch was almost hidden by his curly forearm hair. His gold chain was almost hidden by his chest hair. His white Terylene shirt was unbuttoned to where the swell of his belly began. He looked like an unfriendly jeweled bear. Behind him there were mirrors for people to look at themselves in while
they bought cold drinks and refreshments. To reorganize their puffs and settle their buns. The mirrors watched Estha.
“I could file a Written Complaint against you,” the Man said to Estha. “How would you like that? A Written Complaint?”
Estha stopped singing and got up to go back in.
“Now that I’m up,” the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said, “now that you’ve woken me up from my Resting Time, now that you’ve disturbed me, at least come and have a drink. It’s the least you can do.”
He had an unshaven, jowly face. His teeth, like yellow piano keys, watched little Elvis the Pelvis.
“No thank you,” Elvis said politely. “My family will be expecting me. And I’ve finished my pocket money.”
“Porketmunny?” The Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said with his teeth still watching. `First English songs, and now Porketmunny! Where d’you live? On the moon?”
Estha turned to go.
“Wait a minute!” the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said sharply. “Just a minute!” he said again, more gently, “I thought I asked you a question.’
His yellow teeth were magnets. They saw, they smiled, they sang, they smelled, they moved. They mesmerized.
“I asked you where you lived,” he said, spinning his nasty web. “Ayemenem,” Estha said. “I live in Ayemenem. My grandmother owns Paradise Pickles & Preserves. She’s the Sleeping Partner.”
“Is she, now?” the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said. “And who does she sleep with?” He laughed a nasty laugh that Estha couldn’t understand. “Never mind. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Come and have a drink,” he said. “A Free Cold Drink. Come. Come here and tell me all about your grandmother.”
Estha went. Drawn by yellow teeth. –
“Here. Behind the counter,” the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said. He dropped his voice to a whisper. “It has to be a secret because drinks are not allowed before the interval. It’s a Theater Offense. Cognizable,” he added after a pause.
Estha went behind the Refreshments Counter for his Free Cold Drink. He saw the three high stools arranged in a row for the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man to sleep on. The wood shiny from his sitting.
“Now if you’ll kindly hold this for me,” the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said, handing
Estha his penis through his soft white muslin dhoti, “I’ll get you your drink. Orange? Lemon?”
Estha held it because he had to.
“Orange? Lemon?” the Man said. “Lemonorange?”
“Lemon, please,” Estha said politely.
He got a cold bottle and a straw. So he held a bottle in one hand and a penis in the other.
Hard, hot, veiny. Not a moonbeam.
The Orangedrink Lemondrink Man’s hand closed over Estha’s. His thumbnail was long like a woman’s. He moved Estha’s hand up and down. First slowly. Then fastly.
The lemondrink was cold and sweet.
The penis hot and hard.
The piano keys were watching.
“So your grandmother runs a factory?” the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said. “What kind of factory?”
“Many products,” Estha said, not looking, with the straw in his mouth. “Squashes, pickles, jams, curry powders. Pineapple slices.”
“Good,” the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man said, “Excellent” His hand closed tighter over Estha’s. Tight and sweaty. And faster still.
Fast foster flies: –
Never let it rest
Until the fast is faster;
And the faster’s fest.
Through the soggy paper straw (almost flattened with spit and fear), the liquid lemon sweetness rose. Blowing through the straw (while his other hand moved), Estha blew bubbles into the bottle. Stickysweet lemon bubbles of the drink he couldn’t drink. In his head he listed his grandmother’s produce.
Then the gristly-bristly face contorted, and Estha’s hand was wet and hot and sticky. It had egg white on it. White egg white. Quarterboiled.
The lemondrink was cold and sweet. The penis was soft and shriveled like an empty leather change purse. With his dirtcolored rag, the man wiped Estha’s other hand.
“Now finish your drink,” he said, and affectionately squished a cheek of Estha’s bottom. Tight plums in drainpipes. And beige and pointy shoes. “You mustn’t waste it,” he said. “Think of all the poor people who have nothing to eat or drink. You’re a lucky rich boy, with porketmunny and a grandmother’s factory to inherit. You should Thank God that you have no worries. Now finish your drink.”
And so, behind the Refreshments Counter, in the Abhilash Talkies Princess Circle lobby, in the hail with Kerala’s first 70mm CinemaScope screen, Esthappen Yako finished his free bottle of fizzed, lemon-flavored fear. His lemon too lemon, too cold. Too sweet. The fizz came up his nose.
He would be given another bottle soon (free, fizzed fear). But he didn’t know that yet. He held his sticky Other Hand away from his body.
It wasn’t supposed to touch anything.