Answering to natures call is a routine thing nowadays. There are attached bathroom cum water closet for every room. But in the Payyanur of the past it was another matter altogether. I remember the long queue of elders at Mundoommal School on all mornings. There were four modern toilets constructed by the panchayath which revolutionalised the practice of answering the natures call before day light breaks in. Every house had a small area covered with trees and shrubs which could be used by the women folk in times of emergency. There was palvalappu where one could frequent even at noon time. Attending the call at night time was really a night mare. Electricity was yet to emerge and the only light source was a leaf torch or kerosene lamp which will cast shivering shades on every object and will project imaginary figures on walls. The stories the elders present at night were all about ghosts and supernatural events. I had never heard a story from them which inspires a young mind. Instead they terrorized every young mind with ghost stories. Besides, there was the real danger of snakes which were in plenty at that time. The ordeal becomes unthinkable in rainy season.
Our house was a three storied structure in mud, stone and wood, the memory of which will bring forth euphoric episodes rushing up. The ground floor consisted of the kottilakam, the sacred room, were ancestors are believed to reside, the padinhatta, the abode of gods, the fuming kitchen and a long corridor which connects these rooms to the chayippu, the room for ladies. while they are in the ‘forbidden’ days of menstruation, the ladies disappears into the darkness of these rooms and at meal times they are provided with the ration from the kitchen without touching them, in separate plates. (They are accepted as human beings only on the fourth day after the holy ablutions and after wearing the washed cloths from the vannathi lady). There were also rooms for child birth and store rooms. In addition there was a raised platform facing the western side were one could enjoy the evening winds. The only problem is the smell from the aala, the cow shed. The first floor is separated from the ground floor by a horizontal wooden door at the end of the staircase. There were two large bed rooms and another room for drying paddy. A long and airy corridor was used sometimes for drying cloths. There was a wooden ceiling for this floor also. The third floor is exclusively for bats and other small animals who will make the nights horrible with their whispers and cries, mimicking the ghosts in the stories of elders.
In our compound also there was a mini forest on the southeast side which was used by the family members for answering the nature’s calls. This was a very natural affair as the shit of one day will metamorphosis into a heap of earth the next day. By the week end it will disappear altogether. Our mischievous uncle who was living with his family a few yards away will sometimes clear fell the forest all of a sudden without our knowledge putting us all in trouble the next day. I clearly remember one such day. I was teaching in a parallel college at that time and I had to take a class at 10 am . I was distressed to see my vanished forest and I thought of relieving on the way at Mundoommal school. But when I reached there, there was a queue and I had no option but to postpone the call till evening. I travelled to pazhayangadi and attended the class at Nalanda College with some difficulty as the call was frequently reminded and tension prevailed as there were no toilets in the neighborhood. After one hour the tension intensified and I feared something terrible to happen. Fortunately the second hour was free and on the pretext of taking a cup of tea, I came out and headed straight to Madaippara which was deserted at that time of the day. I was running to find out a secluded place. Once I found a corner with no eyes to peep on, I relieved myself and for the first time in my life I felt what bliss means. After that came the vital question. I have to clean myself. The tank in Madippara was a very old one constructed by the Jews in another century and venturing into it is unthinkable. I was much relieved by the sight of a small hole filled with water from rains. I returned to the college in time for the next class.
There is also a tail piece. That poverty stricken childhood appear to have taken place in another life. Now all friends who were part of that general famine are prosperous. Some have built fabulous houses with modern toilets and bath tubs. No one believes the old tale. But everyone complains of constipation. The irony is that when toilets became plenty motion has become scarce.