Many-Splendoured Love/Colour of A Dream

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Colour of A Dream

Could there be a lake behind the eyes? Water is constantly overflowing. Tears start spilling the moment I wake up. Sleep comes with difficulty. Thoughts, thoughts. It is good that, for now, I am alone in the room. In the middle of the night I am able to sit up, turn the light on. In the other room Julie was with me. There, oh, I had to be so careful. Could not move at all, could not make even a slight noise. Just lie around like a dead body.

No, no, should not say such inauspicious things.

Now, by myself, when suddenly sleep breaks up, I quickly turn the light on. Sister Cara believes that I read Bible at that time. She has not asked me about this, and I have not said anything either. I have not stopped her from believing what she does. Is that wrong? I think that it is not. Even then, next time there is a chance, I will tell her.

Switching the light on, I start looking at Michael’s photo. I take it out from under the pillow, hold it close to my heart, kiss it repeatedly. My tears have also stained it so much. But they are tears of love, and also of joy. After I lost everything, the Lord blessed me, and gave me the gift of little Michael.

Now I have to wait for just one thing - when Michael would come to stay with me for the whole time. I have to be patient a little longer. Till my health gets better, and the weakness is gone. Sister Cara keeps saying that it was a very difficult pregnancy. And Michael also just barely survived. He really is a gift from Gods.

Is that what the Gods do? Giving something only after taking away something precious? Or could it be that Miguel himself pleaded for me from Heaven? There is no doubt that Miguel has gone to Heaven. He is the one who saved me. Gave me so much love. And then he left.

No, Gods snatched him away from me. They could not bear my happiness.

Miguel, my love, Can you see Michael? Our child. See, I have given your own name to him. But your Mexican name - Miguel - will be very different, and strange, here in Kerala. I felt that it might attract unnecessary notice. I am right about this, don’t you think?

And look, I did reach Kerala. All alone, totally by myself. I kept thinking of you, remembering you constantly, and that is how I gained confidence. Look, dear, your Kairali has become strong now. But remember how I was when you were taking care of me?

Time itself turned in such a way that -----


I remmber everything. From beginning until the end. That day I was very hungry when I came from school, and threw a tentrum as soon as I got home. My elder sister got fed up of me, and gave me a slap on my back. So, crying loudly, I went out to the front room, to complain to my mother. There always would be people eating, but they would generally be the regular local ones, so it is all right to behave like this.

But I stopped just at the door. Amma looked very pleased. Right in front of her a heavenly goddess was standing - beautiful fair skin, smiling face, eyes the colour of the sky, golden hair, and oh, the goddess had made our little eatery very special by appearing to us. I was just about to run back inside to tell my sister about this, when Amma’s eyes fell on me. She called me closer, but I stayed half hidden near the door.

No, no, can’t go closer. What if she disappears? Let me just look at the goddess from a distance, I was thinking. But Amma came to me, took me inside by the hand. and said, “Look, Baby, This is Madam Rodriguez. Show her what they have taught you in school.”

We had been taught in school to shake the person’s hand, and say, “Hello Sir, Hello Lady, How do you do? And thank you, I am fine too.” I could certainly say this clearly and fast, but how can I touch the hand of a goddess? But then, why was Amma calling her Madam? And not Devi?

Amma was saying, “This is my youngest one.”

As if the musical notes were playing, Devi had said, “ So she is your sixteenth child, right?”

Oh, Amma had told her all about the family? I felt embarrassed, but Amma was laughing heartily. Oh, Amma was laughing so loudly. I felt embarrassed about that also, but Amma? She did not feel bashful at all. On the contrary, she gave added explanation, “That is right, but five babies died, so this one is the youngest and eleventh now.”

In a warm voice she had asked me, “What is your name, my girl?

I was staring at her, and it was as if my lips were sewn together. Right away Amma had started saying, “Her name is Kairali.”

“No, it is Kelly”, my words came out in a shout.

Without stopping Amma had said, “In our family she is the darkest, and she has only one desire at this time - to become fair-skinned.”

‘So totally bad is Amma, she says whatever comes in her head’, I was so irritated. Getting my hand out of her grip, I was trying to run away inside, but just at that moment she - the goddess - had extended her hand, and said, “Hello Kairali, How are you?”

I felt angry towards Amma. Because of her Devi also had said my name wrong. Holding my right hand she was saying to Amma, “Your daughter may be dark, but she is very sweet. And that is exactly how her name is too.” With her other hand she had patted my cheek lightly.

There was no irritation, and there was no anger any more. Wrong name is all right, but after all, the goddess-like Madam had touched me, and slowly my skin was definitely going to become fair.

O Miguel, when I met your mother that first time, I was not even ten yet. Later when you heard about that meeting, you had laughed, I still remember. But before that, seven years had passed, and so much had changed in my life. I had understood that my dream of becoming fair was never going to come true - it just could not, but that desire was not totally forgotten. Still, I complained to the Gods about it only once in a while.

Yes, much had changed - everything for the better, and all of that was because of Madam. That day she had come to our eatery just by chance, but from then on, she kept the connection with us very well. I was the most fortunate. Just a little girl, so she would sit me close to herself, and would talk to me about many things, and would bring books in English with colourful photos for me.

Once she took me out for a ride in her big car. I had felt afraid to sit inside, for the first time, but she had held my hand. I missed her when she went back to Mexico for holidays - of course I never told anyone about it. What if they laughed at me?

After I finished High School, she took Amma’s permission and took me to Rangoon to stay with her. Such a big bungalow. Also, she gave me my own room - nice bed, a window with fluttering soft curtain, and also a ceiling fan. I felt like just staying in that room all day. But Madam was working and working.

To see her always so occupied, I started feeling ashamed of even thinking of being lazy. So some times I would help Daai and Abu in house-work or cooking; or I would sit and read, or listen to the Mexican music with Madam. She would talk about her experiences as Ambassador from Mexico, and I learnt about so many things that way. Madam would talk about you also, Miguel, just once in a while, but from that I did get to know you.

Miguel, Now I will tell you a secret. I had liked you the moment I saw you - tall, slim, smiling face like Madam, blue eyes, golden hair; staying in the sun you had tanned a little, but the original skin-colour remained light. You do remember, right, how shy I used to be in the beginning? You had been persistent in making me lose that shyness. I was the one who had to show you the whole of Rangoon, but you were the one who knew all history, so it was as if I was seeing all those places for the first time.

Besides, you had told me from the start, “I am not going to call you ‘Kelly’. That is a Western name. Why don’t you like a name as lovely as ‘Kairali’?”

To myself I had said, “And what if I don’t find it lovely? What if I want to be Western?” But I was too shy to argue with you. Then you had explained my own family’s history to me. You had said, “Your grand-parents must have come to Burma from Kerala in India, and that is why your parents must have given you this name in that reference.”

You had opened the map of India to show me where Kerala was. I had heard that name from Amma, but I had no idea what that place was, and where it was. Miguel, before you, nobody had shown me that place in the map.

When Amma was very small she had come to Burma with her parents. Here is where she grew up, got married, started the eatery, had children. At times she would muse about Kerala. “I do want to go back to Kerala once at least, before I die”, I had heard her say this, on rare occasions. But I had not understood anything - what was ‘roots’? What did ‘going back’ mean? And ‘intense desire’ means what?

All the understanding about life I got from your mother only, Miguel.

I will go on thanking you, my love. You are not with me physically, but even now, and always, you will remain my only support - you and of course, our Michael.


So much happened in last two years. When you went back to Mexico I felt all alone. I became totally alone, as it were. But I did not understand that those feelings were called love. Madam gave me the greeting card you had sent, and then she had smiled and said, “Miguel seems to be thinking of you a lot.” Her words had flooded me with bashfulness.

But thinking about it now, I feel that she knew a lot about us, our feelings. Perhaps that is why, so that I do not sit around quietly and sadly, wasting time, she had sent me to learn typing, and had also admitted me in accounting classes.

You finished your studies, and came back to Rangoon. Holding both my hands, you had said, “I was missing you a lot, Kairali. Tell me that from now on you will stay with me.”

Your mother did not stop you when she learnt about your wish to marry me. It is possible that she may have talked to you about that in my absence. And really, there were so many differences between us, in our lives. But you had thought about all those matters already, and you were firm in your decision.

Then, taking us both with her, Madam had gone to take Amma’s permission, do you remember? It was like Amma had gone mad - one moment she laughed loudly, and next she wept. Putting her hand on your head, she had said, “We do not have anything else to give you, my son, but this black gem of mine I am giving to you willingly. May you both live together in much happiness.”

I was not able to go out of Burma - I had no passport. For my whole family it was not possible to leave. You and Madam had no problem with the wedding in Rangoon. Only your sister had to take a lot of trouble to get to Burma from America. At the airport, as soon as she saw me she had blurted out, “Is this your future wife, Miguel? She must merge completely in the dark”, and with a frown, she had shaken her head in derision. She had said it in Spanish, but still I had understood her words and the expression on her face. Right away you had reprimanded her, “Stop it, Matilde; that is enough.”

I knew that something like this was definitely going to happen often. For eighteen years I had complained for this to the Gods. Why did they do this with me? Made me so dark? I had cried constantly also. But then I got you, Miguel - or did the Gods send you to help me? You made me yours, and it was as if your love changed my colour altogether.


Look, my love, in the middle of the night - or may be at early morning now - I am going on and on talking to you; but mainly I want to tell you how I reached all the way to Kerala. I will say it in short, because if I start giving all the details I will break down. All the hard work you did to get a passport done for me, after we got married, was all worth it at the end. We did have to face a few more obstacles, but still, it was a passport as a wife of a foreign National, so I was able to leave Burma with you.

You got a job in Thailand, so naturally I had to go there with you. It was difficult to have to leave my parents and my siblings, but even then, the very thought of staying without Madam was scaring me. Fortunately, near our residence in Bangkok there was the Notre Padre Church. That is how I came in contact with Father Ruben. I helped out at the Church just for one year, and he helped me to last a lifetime.

And remember that rikshaw-driver? His name was Mukechu. An ordinary man, but there was so much ampathy in his heart. He and his wife stayed close by me - after I was separated from you.

O my dear, if you did not have to go to Mexico we would still be togehter. I never got all, or enough details about your death. That news itself came to me a month after it happened. I had fainted that very moment, and then had gone on weeping and crying for days. You were given to me for not even three years. After marriage, the Gods did not give me even a whole one year with you.

And see how cruel they can be. They snatched you away from me, and put in my womb a new little life. Yes, Miguel, those who uprooted a lovely plant put a new seed - in that very space. What would have been enormously joyous news for us - you did not even get to know.

I did not want that child in a life without you. I would have got it removed from my womb, if Father Ruben had not prevented me. First of all, he took me to stay in the Church - in their guesthouse, and he got our house closed. Every day, besides daily prayers and sermons, he went on talking about Love and Mercy of Lord Jesus and Mother mary for everyone. He went on wiping my tears. For the child inside of me, it was Father Ruben who nurtured a feeling of love in me. Could I ever forget that kindness?, my eternal debt to him?

I did not see any point in staying on in Thailand. Father also advised that I should return to Rangoon. Miguel, you taught me to look forward, to go forward. How could I go back now? No, no, even within so much sadness and pain, the Gods had one signal for me. They took my companion away, and now they were showing me the right path through his memory.

It was as if they knew that without you, I could not live in all those places that I had become familiar with, by being there in your company, My boat was in the middle of the vast ocean. It was better that it reached some other shore across. I just had to find a different way to live now.

I was barely twenty, and just see, Miguel, how much wisdom I had acquired, and how much daring. Father Ruben and Mukechu helped me with everything - selling the household things, closing the bank account, buying a ticket for Kerala. Yes, I had made a decision to go to Kerala. There, from where Amma’s family had come. If my child is born there, then it would complete a circle of my personal history, I felt. Do you agree with me, Miguel?

Father Ruben managed to get the name of the Sacred Heart Church and the nunnery attached with it, a short distance away from Trivendram, the main city in Kerala. I got out on to the road without any luggage - just like a nun too. I did not want to keep anything familiar with me - except for your memory. When Mukechu came to drop me at the Bangkok Airport his eyes had tears in them. I was prepared for all the struggles, and at that time my eyes were dry.


From Bangkok to Madras, from Madras to Trivendram, and at last, by taxi when I reached the nunnery I was totally exhausted with fatigue and hunger. Nobody asked me a lot of questions - not that night, and not even afterwards. I told them about myself briefly. I told them that I was in my seventh month of pregnancy. Mother Superior accepted my request to let me stay there. Two-three other needy women were also staying there. Like them I also started helping with daily chores, as much as I could.

They were all so caring towards me. If they saw a tear in my eyes, they would start asking, What happened? What is the matter? That is why I always tried to hold my tears back, but when I was alone the dam always broke up. Now I have got my own room, so there is no one to see that flood.

After the delivery there is still a lot of weakness, and I mostly stay resting in my room. I keep looking at the photo that Sister Cara took when Michael was born. I get to see him just about once a day. He is also very weak. Perhaps, after some more days I will be able to feed him my own milk. Then you will see, Miguel, how fast he starts growing.

After leaving Bangkok, I have not given my news to anyone so far. Surely there are about four people who would worry about me - my Amma, Madam, Father Ruben and Mukechu. I am going to write nice long letters to them soon. I will tell them, “Just see, I have survived the drowning. My Michael has saved me.” And you have, my love. You are there, Muguel, in each breath I take.

And listen, after I get well I will find a job. When Madam sent me to the typing and accounting classes, how bored I used to get, and now that knowledge will come to my aid. It might take some time, but with my income and savings, I will fulfill Amma’s dream. I will invite her to visit Kerala.


At first, my love, nobody could believe that Michael has come out of my own womb. The colour of his skin is just like yours - white. Fair. And the colour of his eyes is also like yours - blue. But his hair is black. like mine. Sister Cara had even asked, “You do have proof, right, Kairali?, because every one will be suspicious.”

Let them be. I have no fear - but still, I do have the photo of the two of us, at the time of our marriage. You are in my memory constantly, and you are alive in my heart, my love, but I could not keep myself from taking one photo of you along. And that is good after all, Miguel. When Michael grows up, he will get to see the face of his father.

And only then he will understand this colour-difference between us, between mother and the son. You see, Miguel, you touched me, and that satisfied my innocent desire also. In the form of our child. You made me complete, my love.

All right, now let me wipe my eyes, and get ready to hold Michael in my arms. Do not go anywhere, Miguel. If you are around, we will become a family. Just wait a moment. Sister Cara will come in, just now, with our Michael.

May God Bless us All.