By The River Pamba

The River Green always looks like a sheet of green glass, flowing majestically and serenely. It was in a small town beside the river Pamba that – my brother and I grew up fighting each other and playing in the water.

My memories associated with the river are innumerable. Every evening we, along with my aunt or grandmother and cousins would walk to the river and play in the water for an hour. Every day was fun, with us staying in the water for at least an hour, though both of us never learned how to swim, splashing and shouting, while the sun set and it grew dark. 

In the still waters, near the banks, people washed clothes and for bathing or swimming, they walked to where the flowing water was. It was an adventure to stand in the flowing currents without falling. It requires considerable practice. Once we rescued a plantain trunk from the currents and gave it to a neighbour, who had cows. It was a big adventure, something that brought a “we” feeling between my brother and me, who were like Tom and Jerry throughout childhood. 

The river was part of life there, its dips and floods, festivals like Onam, Maramon Convention or Aranmula boat race. Everybody went to the shops set up as part of the Maramon Convention, irrespective of religion. That was one time when all sorts of things came in the shops- bangles, toys, shoes, clothes, and items of food. 

Then there are boat rides across the river, holidays during floods (once we had 10 days of holidays) Onam and Aranmula boat races when the decorated boats travel across the river to the beat of the boat songs. It can be heard from a distance and all children will run to the riverbank after hearing the boat song from a distance. 

On the night of Thiruvonam, the belief is that Lord Mahabali comes to see his subjects on his boat called Thiruvonathoni. After midnight, people wait on the banks of the river with lighted torches and lamps for the well-lighted Thiruvonathoni. This was one adventure for us children to boast about. The ones who had slept that night had nothing to talk about and felt ashamed the next day. 

Now the river has changed. It is no longer clean. Clean water exists in the middle of the river and it’s a long walk. You need to wade through muddy waters to take a bath in clean water and then after the bath, through muddy waters again. Yet, with all its differences, this is one of the sacred spaces, I can reach in an instant, traveling in thoughts, to where I like to stand, on that mound of rocks (called pulumuttu), with the entire river, looking like a large sheet of green glass, clean and clear. 

No wonder, every time, I stand there in real, I step into the waters and become a child, splashing and loving the water. My young cousins are like ducks, “no getting them out of water”. Last time, on my visit to the river, I went to the middle of the river, to where the currents are, and splashed there along with my five cousins, while my frantic mother was waving to us from the shore. Short-sightedness is at times a wonderful excuse and I pretended that I didn’t see her and went back after an hour or so, drenched completely and dipping in water. 

I guess as a child, I related everything to the river. Once during a family dinner, when I was six or seven, I told my grandfather that the sky ended on the other side of the river. He roared with laughter and asked me: “Really?”

  • Mary Suneetha Joy

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