THE PUPPETEERS OF PALEM by Sharath Komarraju

Book: THE PUPPETEERS OF PALEM by Sharath Komarraju Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sharath Komarraju
from now on, whenever we do something like this, make sure you tie yourself to one of us, okay?’
    Chotu nodded.
    ‘Come and eat now. I am hungry.’
    Aravind rubbed his eyes with both his hands and groaned. Chanti was grimacing at the water. Chotu looked ready to cry. By the looks of it, none of them had had any sleep last night.
    Aravind faced Venkataramana. ‘What about you, Ramana? Here we have been waiting the whole morning and you take your own sweet time to come. So that is how it is going to be, is it?’
    ‘He stopped in Thatha’sfield to get us these,’ Sarayu said. ‘So don’t go on with him now. Sit down and eat.’
    They all sat down by the slab and started plucking at the roots. Only Chanti stood away from them, looking into the water.
    ‘Oye hero,’ Sarayu called out to Chanti. ‘You don’t want to eat? We are not going to leave anything for you if you don’t come and get it.’
    Yes, Venkataramana thought, watching her erratic movements, her bleary eyes and uncombed hair, she had definitely not slept well. And Aravind was closing his eyes as he sat leaning against the slab.
    ‘I had a dream,’ Venkataramana said at length.
    ‘Me too,’ Chotu said immediately.
    Aravind opened an eye and said, ‘Great, now we have to listen to these donkeys go on about what they dreamed of. Guess what, I had a dream too. I have a dream every night. But do you hear me tell you all of it? Do you?’
    Venkataramana looked away at Chanti. Another flick of the wrist. A perfectly flat stone left his fingers and flew into the river with a plop. It did not jump. Not once. ‘A different sort of a dream,’ Venkataramana said. Chanti was looking down at his wrist with a frown. ‘Yes, a different sort of a dream.’
    Chotu nodded. ‘Yes, yes, different.’
    Sarayu played with her hair and stared at the roots in her hand. Aravind did not say anything but his eyes were now half-open.
    ‘I… first thought it was just me,’ Venkataramana went on. Chanti was walking towards them, still looking down at his wrist intently. ‘But it looks like… all of us…’
    ‘No,’ Aravind said, and closed his eyes.
    Sarayu said slowly, ‘Yes.’
    ‘You did too?’
    ‘A different dream?’
    ‘Yes… I was able to…’
    ‘Control it?’
    Sarayu looked up at Venkataramana. ‘No, not control it. But it was clear. You know? Not like dreams usually are. It was like I was watching a movie or something. And I was able to make him do things.’
    Aravind asked, ‘Him? Whom?’
    ‘My father. I made him write a letter.’
    Aravind laughed. ‘Your father doesn’t know a single letter of the alphabet.’
    ‘I know, but I made him write. And he did write. I know.’
    Chanti was now standing right next to them. Still looking down at his hand with a frown on his face, he said, ‘I had a dream too.’
    Venkataramana looked at Aravind. ‘Are you sure you didn’t have a dream?’
    Aravind leaned forward and stared back. ‘Yes, Ramana, I am sure.’
    ‘Maybe you’ve forgotten?’
    ‘I don’t forget my dreams.’ He leaned back and closed his eyes.
    ‘But we all went to the Shivalayam together, Aravind,’ Sarayu said. For the first time ever as far as Ramana could remember, her voice carried a tone of anxiety. Sarayu was a girl only by appearance. She did none of the things that the other girls in the village did. She never played with dolls, she never painted rangoli in front of her hut for Sankranti, her wrists were bare, she did not wear a nose ring; it was a surprise to Venkataramana that she wore anklets. Her favourite pastimes were to fly kites and ride bicycles and climb trees—things that boys enjoyed doing. The only feminine trait in her was her ability to boss people around with minimum effort.
    Given all of that, the tone of anxiety in her voice came as both surprise and relief—surprise because Venkataramana didn’t think she was capable of such an emotion, and relief because he himself was feeling

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