In the following extract Annakutty proudly reminisces about her life at the Murickan family.
“I am now what I am because my mother brought me up under strict discipline. She used to punish me severely even for slight offences. She would not allow me to defend myself or to explain my stand even when I had a genuine reason for doing what I did. I would be punished if I answered her back. It is this training at home that keeps me from answering back even playfully when others speak harshly to me. Mother did not allow me any kind of freedom. I had to confine myself to the back rooms and the front of the house was out of bounds for me. I must not speak up either. I must speak in soft tones and slowly too in keeping with the modest behaviour expected of a girl like me. I spent my time mostly inside the kitchen pacing up and down. I never came into contact with the world outside. I was to speak only to two or three of my class-mates. On my way to school I was not to look at everything my eyes met. I never talked to any one. So my school mates would call me teasingly the silent girl of the Murickan house. Every now and then, mother would scold me and her scoldings gave me a lot of pain.
Actually I lived in fear. I feared her probably because of my motherless condition. If I said anything by way of an explanation when she scolded me, she would berate me the harsher for it saying that I had the temerity to answer back. If I remained silent, she would say that I was a hard-hearted girl whom no amount of correction could reform. When her work was over, she would lie down on the brick-slab after sweeping it clean and would ask me to lie beside her. Then she would smother me with kisses. There would be a shower of kisses and all my sorrow would evaporate. When this short respite is over, she would get up again for work and there would be another round of scolding and fear and that would bring the clouds back to my mind. “How timid this girl is” she would say. ” She has not learnt it from me. I want my children to be smart.” Despite all this scolding she really loved me.
She insisted on a very high standard of discipline in the matter of food. We were not allowed to eat at any time other than the regular meal times. Nor were we allowed to show any preference for any particular food items. Most of the things which she thought,were harmful to children like oily foods, fruits etc happened to be our favourite items. In all matters she subjected me to an unrelenting discipline. Once I ate a papaya fruit in the company of my cousins. As it was her belief that eating papaya was not good for health, she reacted to this breach of the food-code rather sharply. She caned my cousins and turned me out of the house. Where would I go? I sat outside the wall on a piece of palm leaf. I remained there for quite some time. I was determined not to go back to the house till I was called in. Mother had turned me out and there was no question of my going back to her uninvited. A little past noon, mother called me in and fed me and the stand off was over.”
Annamma and her sons, that is Annakutty’s cousins, liked to see her clad in attractive clothes and bedecked with jewellery. The following is what Annakutty has got to say about this matter: “Mother would take me to church with her, decorated like a bride. My dress consisted of a brocade shawl and clothes made of delicate silk. The clothes mother bought for me were always expensive, being of high quality. At church mother would look around to see the shawls the other women were wrapped in. If any particular shawl caught her fancy, she would give a description of the silver bordered Kavani and urge her sons to get one such kavani for me. My cousins were at that time either working or studying at Trivandrum or Kottayam. (Annakutty’s cousins were M. P. Mathew B.A. B.L., M.P. George M.A. B. L., M.P. Luke and M.P. Joseph). If for any reason my cousins failed to bring the kavani she had ordered, they would face the full blast of her fury.
She would keep on talking about this lapse on their part, giving them no peace of mind. She would say that she did not think they would look after her daughter when she was gone. “Some brothers you are! At this rate you will let her starve when I’m gone.” This sentence used to climax the noisy session. Mother insisted that I should go to school dressed in silver-bordered mundu and wearing all the traditional ornaments such as pathack, corbel, and anklets. My dress provoked my school mates into calling me ‘the bride’. I would often wear a plain white mundu for fear of the class-mates, teasing remarks. Mother was sure to rebuke me if it came to her attention. When I went to the Bharananganam convent wearing the silver bordered mundu and kavani, they were not impressed and asked me to wear plain clothes, if I wanted to join the convent. Accordingly I bought a plain, white kavani. Mother showed her displeasure by shouting at me.”