It was a Sunday afternoon and Aandal was squatting outside our grand ma’s. She was telling my granny about this mentally challenged kid in one of the homes on Alwarpet street. She was talking about how that kid was always screaming for food. “Maami andha payyan eppo paaru bun kaapi bun kaapi nu Katheenu irukkum” (that kid screams bun n coffee bun n coffee all the time). So Suren started imitating her and she lost her temper. “Ayyy chinnadhu, Koluppaa? Pichi puduven!” (something to the effect hey you small one watch it!).
Now in all the years and all the maids that passed through our home no one has ever dared to mock us. It was us! Suren and I! Whatever hesitation we had about ragging Aandal was blown away and we stretched and cracked our knuckles, sighed, and said ‘here we go!’
The next day Suren proposed to Aandal. “Aandal I – I love you… will you scrub my back?” She laughed baring her remaining, tobacco stained teeth. She was illiterate but who doesn’t understand ‘I love you’ ? She referred to ‘Love’ as ‘Labzu’ and she complained to my mom “Maami idha paaru maami Chinnadhu Labzu pannudhu!’ (Maami, see your younger son is doing ‘Labzu’)
Aandal worked in many homes in Alwarpet street and she was on a tight schedule every day. So she could ill afford any delays. We knew it and exploited it. When she came in the mornings to do the dishes and mop the house, Suren took his own time in the shower. Aandal started with gentle knocks on the bathroom door but she realised she was dealing with assholes, so the gentle knocks became explosive thumps, which were always echoed by Suren’s devilish laughter.
When we bumped into her on the street, we always blew kisses and she would spit on the ground and mutter some unprintable stuff. Within a few months Aandal was quite famous among the boys, the shopkeepers in the neighbourhood, and the jobless adults that hung about the street.
I vividly remember Aandal giving one of those guys her piece of mind.
As she was walking by to ‘Bhai’s’ provision store, the gang of boys sitting outside the store went ‘hoo hooo Aandal I love you!’ Aandal stopped in her tracks, surveyed the gang and picked one guy and said ‘Thevdyaa payya, Why don’t you go do labzu to your mother? I will chop it off!’ A roar of laughter erupted and Aandal’s voice became shrill as she started abusing that guy, but now she included his aunts, grand mom, uncles, wife… she also asked him ‘dey! do you know who fathered you? I bet your mom doesn’t know too…go fuck a dog!’
She never used such choicest abuses on us. She loved us I think and she knew we were harmless. She became quite a friend to my grand ma, probably because they were of the same age. When Suren made fun of my granny he attracted Aandal’s attention too.
The days chugged on and Aandal got used to the ass holes that we were. Actually when Suren or me went out of town and were missing, Aandal gave us a rousing welcome when we returned. ‘Take off your Saagunu! And put if for wash… take bath and eat… you need rest!’ (Saagunu meant socks in Aandalese).
She hated the girl friends that visited home. Especially those that wore shorts. “Ayyyaaa! Ennaadhu idhu! Payyanaa ponnaa!? Ippidi thodaya kaattudhu!” (“Is this a guy or girl? And why is she exposing her thighs like this?”)
But she hated drunks. She got extra ballistic on any drunk that crossed her path, including Ginny, my uncle. […to be contd]