Monday, February 16, 2009

Malgudi days

A New Arrival

MOTHER had been abed for two days past. Swaminathan missed her
very much in the kitchen, and felt uncomfortable without her attentions. He
was taken to her room, where he saw her lying dishevelled and pale on her
bed. She asked him to come nearer. She asked him why he was looking
emaciated and if he was not eating and sleeping well. Swaminathan kept
staring at her blankly. Here seemed to be a different mother. He was cold
and reserved when he spoke to her. Her appearance depressed him. He
wriggled himself from her grasp and ran out.
His granny told him that he was going to have a brother. He received
the news without enthusiasm.
That night he was allowed to sleep on granny's bed. The lights kept
burning all night. Whenever he opened his eyes, he was conscious of busy
feet scurrying along the passage. Late at night Swaminathan woke up and
saw a lady doctor in the hall. She behaved as if the house belonged to her.
She entered mother's room, and presently out of the room came a
mingled noise of whispers and stifled moans. She came out of the room with
a serious face and ordered everybody about. She commanded even father to
do something. He vanished for a moment and reappeared with a small bottle
in his hand. He hovered about uncertainly. The hushed voices, hurry,
seriousness, agitation, hot water, and medicine—preparations for ushering a
new person into the world—were too bewildering for Swaminathan's
comprehension. Meanwhile granny kept asking something of everybody that
passed by, and no one troubled to answer her.
What did it matter? The five carpets in granny's bed were cosy; her
five pillows were snug; and granny's presence near by was reassuring; and
above all, his eyelids were becoming heavy. What more did he want? He fell
The Tamil Pundit, with his unshaven face and the silver-rimmed
spectacles set askew on his nose, was guiding the class through the
intricacies of Tamil Grammar. The guide was more enthusiastic than his
followers. A continual buzz filled the air. Boys had formed themselves into
small groups and carried on private conversations. The Pundit made faint
attempts to silence the class by rapping his palms on the table. After a while,
he gave up the attempt and went on with his lecture. His voice was scarcely
audible. Sankar and a few others sat on the first bench with cocked-up ears
and busy pencils.
Swaminathan and the Pea sat on the last bench.
‘I say, Pea,' said Swaminathan, I got a new brother this
The Pea was interested. 'How do you like him?' 'Oh, like him! He is
hardly anything. Such a funny looking creature!' said Swaminathan and gave
what he thought was an imitation of his little brother: he shut his eyes,
compressed his lips, folded his hands on his chest, protruded his tongue, and
tilted his head from side to side. The Pea laughed uncontrollably. 'But,'
Swaminathan said, 'this thing has a wonderful pair of hands, so small and
plump, you know! But I tell you, his face is awful, red, red like chilly.'
They listened to the teacher's lecture for a few minutes. 'I say, Swami,'
said the Pea, 'these things grow up soon. I have seen a baby that was just
what your brother is. But you know, when I saw it again during Michaelmas
I could hardly recognise it.'

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