It was 26th Dec 2004. Githamma had asked me to come early for work because her brother had come from abroad and they were to go out. Githamma was very kind. I was working at her house for the past ten years, doing household work like dusting, sweeping, mopping, washing clothes and vessels and helping her in cooking. She was a very good cook. Her sambar, rasam, potato curry would smell like heaven. I was fortunate to get a job at her place. Every morning I would get to eat the previous day’s leftovers. I used to love her rasam.
On that day, I left for Githamma’s house early even before my drunkard husband and two lazy sons woke up. The previous day Githamma had cooked pineapple rasam, murungakkai sambar, cabbage poriyal and rice; she must have kept some leftovers for me. I walked fast to reach her home thinking about the delicious food. Thank God, there was some rasam and rice kept away for me.
The food at Githamma’s house was the only sunshine in my life. Every morning I used to bless her for that leftover rice. I was very fortunate to get to work at her house. Those women – Meena, Mala, Shokamma – my neighbours would always ask me what I got to eat at Githamma’s house. When I told them about the delicious rasam and rice they would be jealous of me. Sometimes there would be more leftover rice from the previous night so that I would take back for my husband and sons as well. That day my husband would not beat me. He would be nice to me. After having rice, he would shut the two boys out of the hut so that he could make love to me. My life’s happiness, my entire family’s happiness was the leftover rice from Githamma’s house. I was so content eating that rice.
That day as I mixed up the rice and rasam siting on the floor of the balcony, I saw my neighbours from the beach kuppam shouting and running madly in all directions. They were just shouting as if some giant had come to swallow them and they were running to save their lives.
“God, save them from the giant or whoever or whatever it may be – and see that I always get leftover food at Githamma’s house.” I prayed as I chew in haste.
I saw some more kuppam people running madly. I saw my husband running and behind him ran my sons. I finished my rice hurriedly and went out to check why there was this commotion outside.
Oh God! There were mountain – like waves in the sea. There was no kuppam any longer; the kuppam’s huts were swallowed by the sea. I could see the ruins floating on the sea, going up and down with the waves. The waves were rising higher and higher and roaring like a thousand tigers. I saw boats, cars, people…and maybe what looked like my broken hut going up and down in those wild waves. It was so scary…I was sure that the sea was going to swallow up Chennai. I too ran to save my life. I didn’t know where and which side I ran. I just ran. When I got tired of running, I sat on the road and slept off. Next morning when I got up hungry, my legs took me back to Githamma’s house. I was a little worried about my sons and my husband, but more than that I was worried about the rice. Whenever I got late for work, Githamma would get angry and she would throw away leftover rice in the dustbin. I would stay hungry the entire day without those.
I started running towards Githamma’s house.
“Kannimma…Kannimma…” I heard Meena call out to me from the gate of the government school. She was smiling and looking very happy.
“Come here…Come here….” She was waving her hands madly and calling out to me.
I went to her. I saw the kuppam people, they were standing in queues. I saw my sons and my husband in one of the queues.
“School people are distributing coffee and idli.” Meena told me.
“Kaapi and Idli! Why?” I was happily confused.
“Tsunami. Tsunami.” Meena said.
Tsunami?! I didn’t know who that was or what it was. Must be someone good and kind.
I joined the queue for Kaapi and idli.
I had hot kaapi and hot idli. Meena and I were so happy. We talked and laughed while consuming the hot kaapi and idli. All our neighbours from the kuppam were there, having kaapi and idli. Everyone was looking so happy. It was like a big party. I decided not to go to Githamma’s house when the school people announced that later at 10 o’clock they would distribute meals.
That day for the first time I had a freshly cooked meal of rice, sambar, curry and curd. It tasted so good, much better than Githamma’s leftovers.
I saw some people putting up a notice board.
“Tsunami Relief Camp”, the notice read.
While having my first freshly cooked hot meal, I thanked God for Tsunami and wished that God sent Tsunami every day.