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Antonio Canova (1757 - 1822)

Psyche Revived By Cupids Kiss

Courtesy: Louvre

Praise The Lord, Always

(Novelette translated from Malayalam)
Author: E. Harikumar
Electronic version published in 2013
Copyright C 2013 reserved

Short story writer and novelist in Malayalam, the language of Kerala in South West
India. Born on 13th July 1943 in Ponani a coastal town between Calicut and Kochi.
Parents: Edasseri Govindan Nair, well-known poet and playwright and E. Janaki Amma,
who in her early years had written poems and stories and translated Tagores Fruit
Gathering into Malayalam. Married Lalitha. Son Ajay, married. Wife: Subha.
Harikumar was a member of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi, the foremost literary
institution under the Cultural Department of Government of Kerala, for two terms from
1998 till 2006.
Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for the year 1988 for anthology of short stories
titled Dinosarinte Kutty (The Dinosaurs Baby),
Padmarajan Award in 1997 for the best story of the year Pachhapayyine
Pidikkan (To Catch A Grasshopper)
Nalappadan Award for the book Sookshichu Vacha Mayilpeeli
(Peacock Feather Treasured) in 1998 and
Kathapeedam Award for the book Anithayude Veedu
(Anithas House) in 2006
Kerala State Chalachithra Academi Award for best story for the TV film
Sreeparvathiyude Paadam (Holy Foot of Goddess Sreeparvathi) in 2012
Books by E. Harikumar:
1) Urangunna Sarpangal
(The Serpents Dormant)
2) Asaktiyude Agninalangal
(The Flames of Passion)
3) Oru Kudumbapuranam (A Family Saga)
4) Engine Drivere Snehicha Penkutti
(The Girl Who Loved An Engine Driver)
5) Ayanangal (The Solstices)
6) Thadakatheerathu (On the banks of the Lakes)
7) Pranayathinnoru Software
(A software for Love)
8) Kochambratti (Young Mistress)
9) Ariyathalangalilekku
(Journey to the Unknown)
1) Nee Evideyanenkilum (Wherever Youre)
2) Ee Oramakal Marikkathirikkatte (Let Not Die These Memories)

1) Koorakal (The Cockroaches)
2) Vrishabhathinte Kannu (The eye of the Taurus)
3) Kumkumam Vithariya Vazhikal
(Alleys Sprinkled With Vermilion)
4) Dinosarinte Kutti (The Dinosaurs Baby)
5) Canadayilninnoru Rajakumari (A Princess from Canada)
6) Sreeparvathiyude Paadam
(The Holy Foot of Goddess Sri Parvathi)
7) Sookshichu Vacha Mayilpeeli
(The Peacock Feather Treasured)
8) Pachappayine Pidikkan (To Catch a Grasshopper)
9) Doore Oru Nagarathil (In a City Far Away)
10) Karutha Thambratti (The Black Mistress)
11) Anithayude Veedu (Anithas House)
12) Nagaravasiyaya Oru Kutti (Boy Who Lives in the City)
13) Ilaveyilinte Santhwanam (Solace of the Mellow Sunshine)
14) Vellithirayilennapole (As If In A Silver Screen)
15) Ente Streekal (My Women)
Address: E. Harikumar
5B, Avenue Crest Apartments
Avenue Road, Mundupalam
Kuriachira P.O.
Thrissur 680 006, kerala, India
Phone: (0487) 2251779


Praise the lord, always.

Shijo got up with a start from the slumber he had slipped into, when he
heard a mild knock at the door. He quickly draped the loin cloth mundu that
was kept folded at the headboard of the bed. The Tamilian who comes with a
four wheeler push carriage and irons the clothes charges Rs.4/- a piece. So
when going to sleep Shijo removes his clothing and sleeps with his under
garments on. He put on his shirt that was hung on the cloth stand. Switching
on the only CFL lamp in the room he opened the door still fumbling with the last
two buttons on his shirt.
It was Annie, in a tight chemise. She was wearing her school uniform with
blue top and white midi when going to bed. She has to use a set of uniforms for
two days. That was the rule in the orphanage.
Annie? You want something?
He joined the orphanage as a warden two days back only and so was not
familiar with the inmates needs. He marked that the children should be given
some loose clothes to wear when sleeping. It is not comfortable to see them in
this tight fitting dress. Almost all the girls in the orphanage are above 10 years
of age. Annie must be at least 14.
You need something, Annie?
Shijo couldnt understand the surprised look in Annies face.
You need any tablets?
Girls must be shy of asking. Back home his younger sister Liji used to whisper
in Moms ears when she gets pain in the abdomen. Most of the time it starts in
the night and he will take out his bicycle and go to town to buy painkiller tablets
from the only medical shop that opens in the night.
Do you have stomach pain? Shijo asked once again.
She nodded in the negative.
Sir, it is Jisys turn tonight. I came because shes not well.
She nodded.
Turn for what?
Today is Tuesday, and it is her turn to come to you, Sir. The old Warden Sir
had made it like that. Tuesday it is Jisy, Thursday me, Saturday Deepa and if in
between he wants somebody he will tell it.
What for?

The moment it was blurted out he understood the absurdity of his question.
In a moment a lot of things rushed into his mind, like standing in front of a
bursting dam and being swept away with the torrent. He was tired. He was
thinking of the hapless animals that are forced to go to the animal king one a
day as his prey. Today is the turn of this fawn, or she is substituting for a fellow
You sit down, pointing a stool that is kept near the wall Shijo said. The girl
who was about to sit on the edge of the bed changed her course and sat
instead on the stool.
Now tell me what made you to come here.
The old warden didnt say anything to you, Sir?
No, he only said that all of you are good girls. Then your routine matters of
study and things like that.
Nothing else?
No, now you didnt say why you did come. The old warden has gone already.
He had said even when the new warden comes we shouldnt break this
She ended up in a burst of sobs. The tension she is undergoing must be
really too much to bear. She was sobbing. He thought of going and consoling
her, but just watched her cry. Tears that rolled into her thin chemise were
creating an unpleasant wetness on her chest, and Shijo turned his face away.
He said.
Stop crying. I didnt ask you anything that warrants so much. All right, dont
you have any nightie to wear at night?
No Sir.
I will ask the tailor to come down tomorrow itself.
Will he come back Sir? Annie asked hesitatingly.
The old warden, Sir
No, but why?
Suddenly her face was filled with terror. She was thinking if she could share
their problems with the new warden? If so, how far she can go?
Why Annie, are you scared of him so much?
Will you tell this to anybody, Sir? If you tell he will finish us off.
No, I wont tell anybody. Not only that, in future if you have any problem
you should tell me. It is to look after your well being that I am kept here. All
right, now tell me why you are scared of the old warden so much?
He was hurting us so much, Sir. If we resist he would beat us and say that
we would be expelled from here. We have nowhere else to go.
She was on the verge of crying again. Shijo felt pity on the poor girl.
Dont cry, Annie. If you find it difficult, dont tell me. Now you may go, and
sleep peacefully.

She wiped her tears and went out. Next to his room is the dining hall. It will
be opened only three times a day, 7 to 8 in the morning, 1 to 2 at noon and
7.30 to 8.30 in the night. Rest of the time if the children feel hungry and want
to eat something or drink a tea, it is not possible. It is like feeding dogs,
feeding at regular intervals. There is a corridor to the kitchen. The door to the
kitchen is closed at night. Food for sixteen children will be measured and served
in plates and brought to the dining room in a trolley. The food for Shijo will be
served in his room. The room after the dining room is fairly large and eight
bedsteads are kept crammed in it.
You can hardly call it a bed. Just four wooden legs fitted onto a frame on
which cheap wooden planks are nailed down. On these makeshift beds the
sixteen girls sleep, two in one bed. There is hardly legroom to move about.
They grow up in this room. They have no complaints. Most of them do not have
a home, and those few who have dont want to go back. They would rather
sleep in the street.
He felt a deep compassion for the children. Is this the way growing up children
should be treated? Things are quite different in a family. Is it necessary for an
orphanage to treat them differently? Born in a home with loving parents and a
loving sister, he felt this intolerable. And on top of it all, the humiliations and
harassment meted out to them during night. He didnt want to think about the
extent of this damage.
Now, what have these children done to deserve this?
He opened the register of the inmates. Children are aged between 8 and 15.
Annie is 13. Thirteen! Only two girls are elder to her, 15 year old Jisy and
Deepa hardly 14. He closed the register.
While lying on the bed, Shijo remembered the man who had been sleeping
on that bed till three days back. Dirty man! He felt like getting up from that
sinful bed and lying on the floor.
The managers room is outside the main door. Sitting at the ancient table in
the narrow room is the manager, who is equally ancient. His working time is
morning 8 to 1 and 3 to 5 in the afternoon. Everything fits in like a jigsaw
puzzle. How can I talk to this man and convince him? Shijo understood the
situation when he talked to the manager yesterday about subscribing for
Why do you need newspaper? I am sure the committee wont allow us to
Why do you need permission from the committee for such a trifle matter?
The manager can take his own decision.
Well-done boy! Are you bent upon kicking me out of my job?
You wont lose your job just because of this.
He looked at Shijo with a strange expression.
The manager continued. You can say that, because youre young. I am

seventy years old. I come over and sit here just because I have nothing to do
at home. I get 3000 bucks for that. Let me just fool around like this.
Shijo understood he couldnt expect any co-operation from this man. Now
he goes out and buys a newspaper if any explosive news happens to be on the
headlines. The funny part of it is that when the mornings work is over the
manager creeps into Shijos room to borrow the paper. A shameless man he is.
Man who asked why we need a newspaper is now impatiently grabbing it the
moment he puts it down.

There is only one more person left to ascertain whether youd get help change
the situation. It is Lizy the cook. Shijo didnt like her from the outset. He
dropped the idea of ascertaining her age. It could be anything from thirty to
fifty years. She is medium to heavy built and her curly slightly tinted hair had
an abrupt end at her shoulder. Her color is difficult to assess, as it changes
from day to day. Shes always found in a graying cloak. You could have guesses
about its color as you had with her complexion.
Lizy came through the veranda pushing a two-tier trolley. She stopped the
trolley at Shijos door and brought a glassful of tea and uppuma made of fried
semolina and kept them on his table. Yes predictably uppuma. This is the third
day in a row he is going to eat uppuma. In an hour of taking it you get
heartburn. He had bought antacid tablets yesterday. But why experiment another
day. He drank a mouthful of tea and keeping the glass on the table went to the
dining room. He wanted to watch children eating.
The children are queuing with expectation, and one by one took away the
plates and started eating crammed at the table. There was no enthusiasm on
their faces.
Sir, are you not having breakfast? Lizy Chechi asked.
I will take it, right now let me see the children having it.
She had a dull face devoid of any expression. The children while eating
looked at Shijo with surprise. This could be the first time somebody is watching
with interest their eating.
Lizy Chechi left the trolley in the middle of the hall and went outside. Shijo
went to the table and sat by the side of the youngest girl. He remembered her
name from the register. It was Nandita, the 8-year-old. A skinny tan colored
girl. She looks like she has suffered in eight years what is stored for a lifetime.
Nandita, in which class are you in?
She muttered something bending her head.
Nandita is in 2nd standard, Sir. It was Annie. She felt friendlier with him
since last nights encounter.
Do you have all the books with you? he asked Nandita.

My pencil is almost finished. She said in a low voice.

Is it? We will buy one today itself.
Is the food sufficient for everybody? He asked everybody. They nodded.
All of you like the food?
None answered. They are sitting without any expression on their faces. He
realized the futility of waiting for an answer.
Lizy came. Havent finished yet?
Children started getting up one by one with their plate. There was uppuma
left over in many plates. Lizy didnt say anything, since this may be a regular
sight. She stalked the plates the children brought after washing and went out
pushing her trolley. The children went to their room. Now they will get ready
for the school and come back at 1 Oclock for lunch.
Shijo watched from the door children in white skirt and blue top uniform
walking out of the building. The school run by the Church is in the next compound.
Suddenly Nandita came running to him.
What happened, Nandita? Forgot something?
She nodded her head sideways.
He sat in front of her and holding both her hands asked, then what?
She whispered in his ears. I need an eraser at the end of the pencil. I dont
have a rubber with me.
Ill buy one for you. When you come down for lunch a pencil with a rubber
will be waiting for you here.
He watched her running back happily.
Whats that the girl whispering in your ears?
It was the manager. He was coming through the gate. His duty time is from
She wanted to buy something for her.
Look here. Dont spoil them by buying things. I am warning you.
She wanted a pencil.
Pencil. I do have them in dozens. I buy them in boxes.
Is that so? Shijo did not really know who is buying the necessary things for
the children. It could be manager. But then why did she ask him?
Come, Ill show you. Now onwards if children pester you for something ask
them to contact me. There is an account for all these. A pencil and a refill, and
one soap, for four children in a month, etc.
Shijo went after the manager to his room. Manager kept his pouch on the
table, took a dirty cloth and wiped his chair and sat down. He slowly opened
the pouch, took out a bunch of keys and got up.
Shijo was standing. The manager opened one of the two steel cupboards. He
was right, there are boxes full of things, toilet soaps, washing bar soaps,


toothpaste, notebooks, and pencils.

Shijo took out a pencil box that was stalked in a shelf. At once he knew that
they are of inferior quality and perhaps the cheapest available in the market.
Perhaps it would suffice for the orphans. All pencils are without eraser.
Dont you give the children eraser?
Then...? One, when the school opens and another one when the school reopens after half yearly exams.
Nandita must have lost her eraser, or it must have been worn out. Any way
since she was given word of honor he should buy one for her.
Shijo went out. He wanted to meet Lizy and talk about the food. He should
find out if the breakfast could be made better. Not only breakfast the food in
general. He has no idea how, but decided to give it a try.
He felt the smell of bidi smoke even before entering the kitchen. When
entering he understood the source. Lizy had kept her right hand behind her,
but could only watch helplessly the smoke coming through her nostrils.
Lizy Chechi, dont spoil that bidi, you may smoke it.
No, thats almost over.... She put out the bidi on the kitchen platform with
an awkward expression and threw it into the waste bin.
No one comes to the kitchen, she continued, I have nothing else to do.
Its alright sister, I came just to ask you something.
What is it?
Cant we make different dishes in the morning every day? Wont the children
get fed up eating uppuma day after day?
I can fix breakfast only with the stuff given to me. If they buy rice and black
lentils I can prepare iddaly and dosa. Weve got a grinder to make dough. If
they buy rice powder and chickpeas I can prepare pittu and chickpea curry. All
that I get is semolina. Please dont tell the manager what Ive said now. He can
do a lot of harm to me.
Can we improve on the dinner as well?
Sir, things will go on as it is here. If you want anything special, I will make
it for you without the manager knowing about it. I dont reckon anything else
will work out here. The previous warden used to bring fish, meat and eggs only
for him, without anyones knowledge.
Thats not correct. Shijo felt it very much unsavory. I will eat only whatever
the children eat. I am wondering if that could be improved upon.
Lizy shrugged her shoulders.
Okay, I am going out. If you need anything for the kitchen...
The manager said I should ask him only for kitchen provision and not anyone
Shijo came out. He wanted to talk to the manager. He was doubtful about
the outcome. The manager was immersed in the hot news of the day and did


not know his presence. Shijo coughed, and the manager lifted his head from
the paper, as if he saw Shijo entering.
Nothing. Im going to town. If you need to buy anything, you may tell me.
Aye, nothing. I buy from wholesale shops. Right now we dont need anything.
By the way, can we make the breakfast slightly better?
By making a variety of things each day. If it is uppuma a day, then we can
make iddaly the next day, just like that.
Look, this is an orphanage. Whatever we do now, they are happy and
contented. Dont instill such unwanted ideas in their petty heads. If you want
anything special, I will ask Lizy to make it for you.
No, thanks.
Shijo went out. He was not brought up in luxury. It was difficult in the time
of father who was much sought after by the local people. He was a favorite of
the church also, but not good at looking after his family. It was not intentional,
but he was reluctant to cash in on his popularity and others weaknesses. The
result was empty storeroom in the kitchen and tattered or repaired dresses to
Thinking of dresses, Shijo remembered the nightie he has to buy for the
children. He went back and knowing its futility asked the manager.
Another thing....
We have to get two nighties each stitched for the girls. Right now they are
going to bed in chemises. Thats not right.
No, no. The committee wont allow it. Go ahead and do the work entrusted
to you rather than meddling in other things. Youre young, and naturally will
feel that way.
He dived back into the newspaper.
Now what? Going back to his room and sitting in front of the table Shijo was
very much agitated. He wanted to have a tea. Lizy Chechi might make it if
asked for. But in all probability you might feel that you shouldnt have asked
for it. And then he has to buy a pencil for Nandita. Watching Nandita he
remembered the childhood of Liji, his sister. She also keeps her hair parted
and plaited. He went out.

A tea from Vincent Chettans teashop made some changes in him. He felt
that things are not that bad and that he could change them for better. Thats
what the maximum a strong tea can do for a desperate man. He walked to the


committee office across the street.

Father Mathew was coming out of the office.
Praise the Lord, Father.
Praise the Lord, Shijo, what can I do for you?
I wanted to talk about some matters about the orphanage with you, Father.
Good, come along.
Father Mathew listened with interest what the young man was telling, and
then got up and opened a steel cupboard kept near the wall. He took out two
files and a few registers and having kept them on the table looked at Shijo.
Okay, lets start from the morning. Today is 18th, isnt it. Within these two
weeks we have purchased provisions twice already, enough rice and lentils to
make dough for iddaly and dosa. 50 kilos iddaly rice and 15 kilo black lentils.
This will be enough for sixteen children, the warden and cook for 10 to 15
days. How come then that she prepares only semolina uppuma everyday?
All right, now lets look for other things. See. Looking through the file Father
Mathew said. 15 kilo rice powder bought, along with 10 kilo chick pea, then 25
kilo wheat flour, five times eggs one and a half dozen each...
Father closed the file and looked at Shijo.
Father, I dont think all these reached our kitchen. Had it been bought Lizi
Chechi would have said that.
It is the manager who purchases all these. He has given all these bills and
vouchers himself. This is a matter to be investigated. Poor children! This means
they are not getting all that is bought in their name. Look Shijo, you go now. Ill
enquire about it. Dont let anyone know that you have met with me and discussed
this. The church is spending a lot of money for this orphanage, most of which
donated by kind people, and some taken from our funds. If the poor children
are not getting benefit of all these, it is too bad. In a way I am also responsible
for this mix up. I should have been more vigilant. Any way.
Praise the Lord.
Always, praise the Lord.
When buying a good pencil for Nandita he remembered the poor quality
pencils he had seen in managers cupboard. Those pencils costing nearly half
the price of this pencil somehow pained him. In his class most of the friends
had elegant pencils with H.B. mark on them. When asked to buy such a pencil,
Dad would always buy the cheapest pencil, that is not at all attractive, and the
tips broke when sharpened. He could afford to buy those pencils only.
He was under the impression that Nandita would ask about the pencil at
lunchtime. But she didnt ask, instead walked in front of his door many times,
each time slowing down on reaching the door and looking at him with a smile.
She didnt probably want to ask him and get a disappointing answer. The fourth
time she was walking he asked.
Yes, Nandita?


She just nodded, but Shijo discerned her face darkening with disappointment.
She might have thought that Sir had forgotten the pencil. Perhaps she might
have bragged her friends about getting a new pencil, a beautiful one with a
rubber at one end. Now if she goes back to the classes without one?
He felt that this small child should not be teased like this. He called her.
Nandita, come here.
Yes Sir.
He took out a dark green pencil with an eraser at the end.
Were you looking for this?
She was shy. She stretched her arm and came running. She inhaled the
smell of the pencil.
Look, even the rubber has good smell.
Shijo said.
She smelt the rubber and nodded.
Did you like this?
Yes? She went out running. She is eager to show the pencil to her big

Lizy was nodding her head.
No Father, none of these reached here. I have forgotten the time seeing rice
powder and chickpea; same with eggs. If it is given you will see them here.
The two persons who came along with Father Mathew were Committee
Members. They were taking stock of the provisions in the kitchen. They were
astounded and there was amazement in their eyes. How can she run a mess
for 16 children with the provisions available here? Not even half the articles
that are in the bills reached the kitchen here.
What time the Manager goes? Father Mathew asked.
He goes at 5 Oclock.
The provisions, do the shop supply them directly here, or?
No, the manager brings them himself. He hires a goods auto and brings.
That means the shops have not done any manipulation in the bills.
While having tea from Shijos room Father Mathew said.
We can believe whatever Lizy tells. I know her for the last fifteen years. She
came here an orphan when she was twenty years old. Her father and mother
died within a short span of time, I think a week or so. Because she was from a
very poor family none of the relatives came forward to take her responsibility.
The church volunteered to arrange a marriage for her, but she was not interested
in marriage. At that time we had an old lady as cook here. When she died Lizy
took over as cook. She has no other interest. So, where have these provisions


Shijo did not say anything. There were mixed feelings in his mind. He as well
as the Committee Members realized that the manager was swindling money. It
is a great sin to steal what should have gone to these poor helpless children.
He had absolutely no idea that things are what they are when climbing up the
stairs of the committee office in the morning. Now the only thing to be verified
is how far the previous warden was involved in this swindle. But this is nothing
in comparison with the heinous crime he had committed on these children.
Shijo please come to the Bishops Palace tomorrow. We have to talk to the
Bishop to sort things out.
What time should I come, Father?
Morning 9.30. You have no other engagement, have you?
No, after the children go to school, I will be free for some time. I will come
They were gone, and when Lizy Chechi came to remove the empty cups
Shijo said.
Lizi Chechi, sit down for a while, I have to talk to you.
What? She was standing near the table nervously holding the cups in a tray.
Sit down, please.
Lizy kept the tray on the table, drew a chair and sat reluctantly. Shijo felt
that she would never have enjoyed such informal treatments in her life.
He was fumbling for words. He didnt know how to start. He tapped on the
table with his fingers. Since he was playing piano in the church, it resulted in a
musical melody. unarvin varam labhippan.
What I wanted to say.
He stopped. Lizy was very nervous and fidgeting in the chair. Her life was
arranged in her kitchen and the small bedroom behind it. The only time she
went out of the orphanage is to the roadside shop across the gate to buy bidi.
She went to the church through an opening in the compound wall. No one
missed her, as if she is invisible.
I want to talk about our institution. I could guess that the affairs are not
proper within two-three days of joining here. I wanted to talk to you how we
can improve upon it.
He waited for a response from Lizy Chechi. There was no response.
How come, you are not talking?
What should I say? I am the cheapest worker here. The manager has always
warned me not to inquire about big matters, the same as the previous warden.
They asked me to live in a quiet corner, and thats better for me.
Shijo realized the magnitude of the problem before him. It is not easy to
tame Lizy Chechi the way he wanted. Her self-pride was crushed for 15 years,
and he has to give this poor lady time to recover.
From here onwards I will see to it that no such things happen in future.
Okay? This is the place I have finally reached. A place our Lord has found for
me. Now if ever I go from here I will see to it that the place is better than what


it was when I reached here. After all my attempts for improvement fail and if I
feel that I wont be able to change it, the moment I will leave this place.
Lizy was sitting with her face bent down.
Chechi, now you may go.
She got up quickly, collected the tray with cups and went out of the door. It
looks like she was relieved. Shijo supported his head with the left hand and
started playing piano with his fingers. Five minutes must have elapsed he
heard a call.
Yes, Chechi?
Lizy came near the table.
Why have the committee members come a while ago?
Oh, that? Shijo pointed to the chair in front. Chechi please sit down.
Lizy sat down hesitatingly.
A lot of kind people give donations to run this orphanage. With that money
these girls could have had a much better life. I was all along thinking that the
committee doesnt spend enough on this house. When inquired I found that it
was not true and that a lot of things are bought for this place on their account.
Where has all that gone?
No, no. I havent taken anything.
Chechi, whatll you do with that. The committee has full trust in you and a
lot of respect too. They have found out the way these things have gone by.
Now lets see what they will do.
Ill do whatever I can.
Lizy was flattered. She liked the word respect more than trust, since she
hasnt done anything to lose trust in her; but respect that is a great thing for
her. It could be my feeling Shijo thought, but he is now sure that she is on his
side and will try to help him. He felt confident.

There was a spacious room jetting out in front of the Bishops palace, and
that was Bishops office. The room spoiled the symmetry of the palace, but
cant say it is aesthetically in bad taste. Shijo has seen the room only once
before joining the orphanage as warden. The room had wall to wall carpet, and
there was glass top on the spacious table made of mahogany kept near the
window. The revolving chair is placed in front of the window curtain and on the
wall stands the crucified Christ.
It was the interview for the post of warden.
His Lordship had said.
Your name is Shijo - Shijo Joseph Kurien. Your father had left a good name.
You know that?


Shijo nodded.
Tarnish not that name, and do great things only. I only have this much to
He nodded.
You are being given charge of small children, most of who lost their parents.
You should see to it that they do not feel that way. You should give word in the
name of our Lord that you will abide by that.
I give word in the name of our Lord. Shijo said bowing down.
Now we can pray. Getting up from the chair and walking towards the side of
the table the Bishop said.
Now after taking benediction on the day of interview he had to come back
again after ten days, that too within four days of joining the orphanage.
Shijo got up when he heard the door opening. Turning back he saw the
Bishop in front and behind him keeping the door open for him to pass was
Father Mathew. Shijo bowed down in front of the Bishop.
Praise the Lord.
He held Shijos hand in his and started to pray. After the prayer lasting a
minute, the Bishop passed by the left side of table and took his seat.
Sit down. Bishop told Father Mathew and Shijo.
The Bishop looked at Shijo intently for a couple of minutes, as if to study his
mind through the expression on his face. He appeared satisfied and leaned
back on his chair as if he has nothing more to ask or do. Then he leaned
forward and glanced through the file opened in front.
You made him understand everything?
The question was addressed to Father Mathew.
No Sir, not everything. I explained the setup and the working of the institution,
but havent told him about the other thing.
Shijo guessed what the other thing was. So they knew about the activities
of the old warden!
The Bishop appeared dissatisfied. He didnt want such a thing to be discussed
in his presence.
The situation is like this. Father Mathew said hesitatingly, The behavior and
activities of the old warden was not conducive to an institution where girls are
the inmates. Thats why he was removed and Shijo appointed in his place.
Bishop nodded his head as if to say that the dialogue was in the right direction
and spirits. Shijo said he understood.
Whatever it may be, the Bishop said, no such thing should happen in future.
This is why the son of Joseph is given charge of this institution, complete. He
paused for an effect and continued, complete charge.
Shijo looked at the Bishop and then Father Mathew with questioning eyes.
Father Mathew nodded his head and said.
Yes, today onwards the manager wont be coming. You are in charge, you


have to do his duties as well.

There is more responsibility and work, and your salary will be increased
accordingly, the Bishop said, the committee will decide on it. Are you agreeable?
I will try.
Now, the Bishop continued, make an estimate of the expenses there for a
month. We will present it in this weeks meeting. The children should be looked
after in a fairly good manner. I dont mean luxury, but in a good manner. How
much will be required for that. Ask Lizy and youll get a general idea.
Shijo nodded, and the Bishop got up.
Now we can pray for a good future and our Lords blessings for those
unfortunate children.
All the three stood in a circle. Bishop with a closed eye was chanting prayers
in a soft voice. Shijo watching the wrinkles on his face repeated the prayer.
Walking together to the church Father Mathew said.
Shijo, you can do it. It needs a lot of imagination to be a manager. That man
has imagination only to make money through crooked ways. You think of ways
to make improvements and make this institution a worthy one. Money is no
problem. Another matter, a good person has donated his computer. He said it
could be kept either in the school or the committee office. It is only 2 years old,
as good as a new one. He donated this when he bought a new P.C. The school
already has ten computers, and one in the office. That will suffice. This PC, if
you want we can keep there. Well take a broadband connection. You will have
to contact a lot of people for donations. Right now Sister Theresa is doing it.
You can help her in that.
Its a good idea. I can keep the orphanage office files also in that. Then on
Sundays and holidays the children can practice or play in that.
So, Shijo, looking at his watch Father said, its time for mass, and I have to
go. God be with you.
Walking to his room Shijo thought. Even yesterday he was hoping to get
some more powers to make improvements to the childrens lot. Now, suddenly
all the powers are vested in him. He thought of the manager. It was good that
he was chucked out. A dirty despicable man he is.
Instead of going to his room he went to the kitchen. Even though the door
was open he knocked at the door before entering, and called.
Lizy Chechi....
Lizy, who was sitting near the kitchen platform looking through the window,
got up with a start.
Sir, you want tea?
Shijo had no intention of having tea at that time. He wanted to meet with
Lizy and talk about his rendezvous with the Bishop, to tell her that the path for
improvement is clear now. But Lizys question generated his crave for a cup of
good tea. Yes, he needed it, especially after the tensions in the morning. He


Yes, Chechi. A good cup of tea.

Ill bring it over Sir, you may go.
It is okay, Ill stand here. And you know I am coming from the Bishops
Lizy looked at him with questioning eyes, as to why he had met the Bishop,
and then turned to the stove and kept the water to boil.
He said he would do everything to look after the childrens matters. And
another important matter, the manager wont be coming from today.
He is sacked.
Thats why, she paused and then continued he hasnt come yet. Now they
will bring in another manager, isnt it?
No, he asked me to look after his work also.
Is that so? There was delight in her voice. This is the first time that Shijo is
discerning an expression on her face other than the usual monotony.
Ill tell you what happened. Shijo said, Chechi, the tea is good.
He talked to Lizy while sipping the tea.

Shijo had decided that he would eat only with the children. It appeared that
the children also liked it.
Now Sir, will you eat with us always? Jisy asked during breakfast. She is the
All of you like me eating with you?
Yesss. There was a chorus for reply.
If you like it so much, I will have tea and food with you every day. Okay?
Lizy Chechi was smiling. Shijo was surprised at the sudden change of
countenance in her. It was uppuma today also, but there is more fried onion in
it, and moreover it is properly cooked as well. All these are positive signs that
he can improve upon this house. The knowledge about managers exit has
made some chemical changes in Lizy. Any way Shijo observed that there were
no leftovers in childrens plates today.
A lot of work lies ahead. He should prepare the estimate for a months
expenses and hand it over to Father Mathew. The committee meeting is
scheduled for day after tomorrow. They should pass it before Shijo can start
his reforms. When the children started for school, he went to kitchen with a
book and pen. After talking for a while he got an idea of how much will be
required for the kitchen a month. Now he should go to the wholesaler in the
market to get the estimate. There is a tailor lady on the lane by the side of the
church. He should arrange so that she comes down to the orphanage to take


measurements for the childrens dresses. Rest can be done afterwards.

He was about to go out of the door when he saw the manager coming. Shijo
Are you going out?
Yes, nearby.
Can you spare half an hour for me?
Oh, sure, why not?
The manager took out a bunch of keys from his pouch and opened his room.
Manager went straight to the window and from somewhere like a magician
took out a piece of cloth and wiped his chair. He sat down and looked at Shijo
for a while and said.
You might have known everything?
What Sir?
I am going to retire. I am seventy now. Enough is enough; now let the
young generation takeover matters. Im not waiting until the new man comes.
So Father Mathew said I could hand over charge to you. Ill show you the
accounts till yesterday and whatever stock I have here in this room. I dont
think we can verify the kitchen provision, because that is being used every day.
And then Lizy has no idea about keeping accounts.
But why are you leaving all of a sudden?
I have to go one day. I thought it could better be today. Thats all.
The manager took the bunch of keys, opened the cupboard and started
taking out items one by one and counting them as he put them on the table.
All these will be in the register, then why... Shijo interrupted him.
Yes, all these will be entered in the register properly, but it is better to
convince you that all items according to the register are there in the cupboard.
It is better; otherwise if you say some items are missing after I left it will be
difficult for us.
There were very little things in the cupboard. This man is a learned crook.
Perhaps he must have smelt that his time is nearing when they sent the warden
away and being shaky prepared for this moment. Shijo helped the manager to
take the things back into the cupboard, and wrote under the last entry in the
register, everything accounted for and put his signature. The manager took
out an old biscuit tin from the table drawer and started counting the notes, and
he showed that the amount is tallying with the day book entry.
Now, here are Rupees seven thousand one hundred and sixty and fifty paise.
Now write down that you have received the amount and sign it.
He handed over the box to Shijo and got up.
Now I have nothing more to do here. Let me go, and if you have any doubts
phone me up. Here is the bunch of keys, take care of that.


A long legged umbrella on the right hand and his pouch on the left the man
walked slowly to the gate. Shijo watched him walk in a slow pace. Perhaps he
wanted Shijo to feel sorry for him, because usually he is very brisk in his
He is gone, isnt it? Lizy Chechi who has just come out of the kitchen asked.
Yes, Chechi, hes gone.
Good. What sort of a man he was!
Why, Chechi?
No, nothing.
She is trying to hide something from him. May be it is his feeling. He will
come to know that in the coming days.
I will go to the market to collect an estimate of how much we will need for a
month. Anything to buy urgently?
Nothing in particular. To be frank, we have to buy everything.
Wait until the committee meeting day after tomorrow when they will sanction
our estimate. Now Ill buy some chicken. Itll be a feast for children.
Chicken? Lizys eyes brightened. It could be years before she has eaten
Yes, or do you want me to buy beef?
No, chicken. I am not sure everybody likes beef. I have wheat flour, and I
will make chapathi.
The picture in Shijos mind, that of sixteen girls sitting around the table and
having chapathi with chicken curry and making merry, was a colorful one.
It was long time back, in his childhood. Once a man, whom Dad helped
brought a big chicken home. Shijo and younger sister Liji were very happy,
since for long they have not had chicken in their menu. They were lingering
around it. Dad came out and asked what the hubbub is all about, and when he
knew that it was a gift from the man, he was very angry and agitated.
I did to you what I should have any way done to a fellow being. It is not a
favor. You have brought this as a bribe?
Bribe, Sir? No I was so happy and thankful that I thought I should bring
something. Please dont think differently.
Against all pleadings of that poor man, Dad did not relent and he had to take
it back with him. When Dad turned he saw two gloomy faces watching the
chicken going away. He was sad. He looked at them for some time, and bending
held the children close to him and said.
Look son, when Dad gets some money I will bring chicken. We dont want
these sorts of money or things.
Dad fulfilled his promise within five to eight days, but the frustration they
had a week ago was too much to compensate. A favorite thing that was almost
theirs was kicked out from them. But the morality of Dad had great impact on
him and caused it to be his way of life.


Lizy watched children eating chicken and bread so eagerly. Shijo was looking
at them and in between forgot to have his food.
Is it your happy birthday, Sir? Revathi, who has a smiling face always,
Shijo nodded. Not only today, from now onwards everyday is my birthday.
There was surprise on the face of the nine-year-old girl.
How come you have birthday every day Sir?
When you are all are with me how can a day not be happy birthday?
See, Jisy is not eating anything? Lizy who was standing behind Jisy at the
other end of table said. Shijo saw whatever is served lying untouched on her
What happened, Jisy baby?
She just shrugged her shoulders, and then got up, walked to the wash basin
to wash her hands and went out. Annie was about to follow her friend.
What happened to Jisy, Annie? Shijo asked.
She was complaining of stomach ache, Sir.
She also went out. Other children continued their lunch.
Shijo was upset. Something was telling him that his real troubles are just
around the corner only waiting to pounce on him. He was scared. He looked at
Lizy. She too was immersed in thoughts. He said.
Lizy Chechi, please go and see. We will help ourselves till you come back.
Lizy was gone. Shijo wondered how far she knew about old warden. After
dinner at 8.30 night the main door as well the door at the corridor to the
kitchen are locked and then Lizy Chechi is totally cut off from this area. The
door will be opened morning six only. Till then whatever is happening inside is
not in her knowing.
The lunch was great. Lizy is a good cook. Only she didnt get a chance to use
her talents till now. Same way she must be having many other talents lying
dormant in her. He should try to bring them out to the advantage of children
and in general the orphanage.
After washing his hands he went to childrens room where Jisy was lying
down. Lizy Chechi was sitting near her slowly caressing Jisys back, like a
mother, thought Shijo. Lizy Chechi suddenly got up seeing Shijo.
No Chechi sit down. I think she is comfortable when you caress her. Lizy sat
and started caressing Jisy.
If you are not well, dont go to classes in the afternoon. Shijo said.
Jisy looked at him and her eyes overflowed. And if Annie can cut her classes,
let her stay with Jisy.
Somehow he was scared of leaving Jisy alone.
Do you want any medicine, Jisy baby? He asked. She nodded in the negative.
Children were back in the room after lunch and they picked up their school


bags and are ready to go.

What happened to Jisy Chechi, Sir? Nandita asked.
Shes having stomach ache, dear. Shell be alright soon. You all go to school.
After they left Shijo went to his office room and sat on his chair. Whats the
meaning of all this? Where do I start? A lot of questions need answers. Why
have they left these poor helpless children in the care of a wolf like old warden?
Jisy or Annie or any other girls involved must have confessed to the priest, so
that Father Mathew must have known by this time what was happening. There
is no other way he knew about this. Jisy is really an orphan with no father,
mother or relatives. No one is going to question about her. She was abandoned
somewhere on a roadside as a newborn child.
He saw Lizy coming through the veranda. He called, Lizy Chechi.
She came and holding the door frame asked, Yes, Sir?
Please come in, or better come after you clean the dining tables.
Thats okay, Ill do it later on. Jisy might eat after some time. I will try.
Then come and sit down.
Whats ailing Jisy, have you any idea?
Lizy bent her head and kept silent.
Why dont you say something?
Well take her to a doctor. What else can I say? She was having morning
sickness for some days. Its bad luck for her, what else can I say.
Whats your opinion about the old warden?
Lizy didnt say anything.
Now onwards Lizy Chechi will sleep in childrens room. Then you will know
off hand what their problems are. They can tell you a lot of things that normally
cannot be told to me. That will do them good.
And this Sunday the tailor lady will come to take measurements. Children
must have two nighties each and you Chechi, two for you also. Why dont you
say something?
Now let me think about how to solve this problem. If at all we take her to a
doctor you should come with me.
Lizy nodded while getting up.
First of all he has to make an estimate meant for the committee. The tailor
lady has given a rough estimate of expenses involved in childrens dresses. He
sat down with a paper to prepare. After finishing this, I have to see Father
Mathew. I should tell him the earliest about Jisys problem. It is too much for
him to handle alone.
He came out of the room with the estimate prepared and simply closed the
door. He didnt feel the need to lock the room unlike the manager. Whom
should he distrust? Lizy Chechi, or children who are younger than his own


Back in the childrens room Jisy was sitting on the bed and the plate held by
Lizy was almost empty.
Did Jisy eat anything?
Yeah, holding the empty plate Lizy Chechi said, now she is all right. She
can go to school, if she wants.
No, let her take rest. Annie is with her. I am going out and will be back soon.
Chechi should come and enquire about her.
Lizy nodded.

Father Mathew was about to come out of the church. Father is always busy,
Shijo thought.
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, always. What brings you here Shijo?
I have brought the estimate Father, thats to be placed in the committee
I will come in ten minutes time. Please wait for me in the office.
Yes, Father.
There was Sister Theresa sitting in front of a computer, and another office
Shijo, what can I do for you?
Nothing Sister thanks. Father has asked me to wait for him in the office.
If you dont mind, please wait in Fathers room. I have some urgent work to
do. Let me finish it. Tomorrow is the committee meeting.
Shijo entered Fathers room and after switching on the fan, started waiting
impatiently. How can he start Jisys topic? It is not a matter to be discussed
with a priest. Then he consoled self, let things take own course. Why bother.
There will be a natural end to everything. In any way he cannot handle it alone.
Father came in five minutes. He took the estimate from Shijo and sat on his
Manager has given Rs. seven thousand one hundred and sixty and fifty
paise. Ill include it in my monthly statement.
Father kept the estimate on the table after glancing through it.
I see you have marked an amount for nighties for children. Is it necessary?
There are lots of old clothes in our donation box, which people drop in. If you
look through it, there might be something that will be suitable for these children.
Isnt that enough?
Shijo suddenly went back to his childhood, the times he and his sister went
to school wearing old clothes donated by others. They were tattered, discolored
and Mom used to repair them during daytime. And he remembered going to
other houses for charity when he had grown up. He said.


No, Father, that wont do. First of all, people donate only tattered clothes,
and secondly, thats more important, even if they are living in an orphanage,
they should not feel themselves orphans. There is a lot of change in them
within four days of my joining there.
Okay. I just said something that the committee members wouldve said. I
will plead for the children.
And another thing, it is private. I dont know if it is proper to say that from
No, lets go to the rectory, come.
Walking along the gravel path to the rectory Shijo started talking. Jisy was
unwell this morning. She said it is stomachache. Then Lizy Chechi told me later
that the girl was having morning sickness for some days in the morning. This is
Father appeared to get a shock and was uneasy. He probably never expected
things to go to this extent. Shijo continued.
I will tell you about an incident the second day of my joining here.
He explained the Father the incident he was talking about, that of Annie
coming to his room at bedtime. Father got real angry and agitated.
Only when I grilled her she said that they had instruction from previous
warden that this should continue even when the new warden takes over and
that they should come to him in turns.
My Lord! But Shijo, what was his intention in giving such a curious instruction
to these girls?
I feel that he expected the new warden somehow to know about his
adventures, or misadventures I may say, that if the new warden is also made
a party to it, he will hush it all up.
You may be right. So there were so many problems out there? The old
warden was old enough to be their grandfather.
What prompted you to change him? Or otherwise how did Father come to
know of this?
That is..... I mean...... We priests should not divulge whatever is heard in
the confessional. Those who have sinned are confessing in front of God, or
rather his representative. But it looks like they havent told me the whole
That dirty man was threatening the children. Shijo said. Only when she
was sure that he wouldnt come back, did Annie say at least this much.
Shijo, now this is a big problem. Are you sure that the girl is in trouble?
Thats what Lizy Chechi has said. Even if not married and not mothered, she
would grasp the meaning of it all. There is only one way of making sure of it.
Take her to a doctor, and then we can make sure of it.
You dont have to consult a doctor for confirmation. You need to test her
urine only. Father said.


If it is confirmed, then?
Shijo, thats the biggest question. The answer is not easy. Right now dont
tell anybody and especially the Bishop. He only knew that the old warden had
misbehaved with the children. He is a simpleton, and if he knew that things are
beyond control, he might get agitated.
I will send somebody to you. Send along with him the urine sample. I will
send him today itself. Better still, dont do that. You bring it along and hand it
over to Sister Theresa. Why should he know where it is collected from. Dont
give the girls name either. You know the Press. They are waiting for a small tip
to spoil the girls name, and that of the Catholic Church.
Looking at the estimate still held in his hand he said.
Take this for sanctioned Shijo. It is a reasonable estimate. Let the children
live like human beings.
Okay, thanks father.
Shijo realized only then that they havent reached the rectory but were talking
under the shade of a mango tree. A cool breeze came as a solace.
Father, can I ask you one more thing.
Yes, Shijo, tell me.
Where is the old warden now?
The old warden? He is transferred to an orphanage near Idukki, where only
boys are the inmates.
Shijo was upset. That man wont have any difference between boys and
You are right Shijo.
Only then did Shijo realize that whatever he was thinking was done through
his mouth, aloud.
Father continued. We will find a way out of that too.
Father Mathew walked to the office. Shijo, you go peacefully. I have some
work in the office.
Going out of the church compound Shijo thought, he should buy some

Lizy Chechi, how is Jisy? Shijo asked her when handing over the bag with
She looks alright now, moving about there.
Still, its better to keep an eye on her Chechi. And good news, Father has
agreed to get our estimate passed in the committee meeting. We should prepare
a list of what are things we have to purchase. I will buy them tomorrow; err,
not tomorrow, day after tomorrow, Monday. Then another thing, he asked us
to get Jisys urine for testing. We dont have to do anything. Get a sample in a


small bottle and hand it over to Sister Theresa. She will do what is needed. Can
you get a small bottle here, Chechi?
Can they make out simply by testing the urine?
Yes, do you have bottle?
Yes I might have, only I have to wash it before giving you.
You please collect it, Chechi. Cant you do it right now?
Yes, I will.
He went to childrens room. Jisy and Annie are talking in front of their open
textbooks. Since he felt it might be a serious talk, he withdrew. Suddenly
Annie got up and called.
How is Jisy now? Jisy, you sit down there, dont get up.
She didnt sit.
Now I am okay Sir.
Good. Shijo went to the veranda and saw Lizy coming with a bottle. He
remembered that he didnt talk to Jisy about it. Its okay, it is better to leave
certain things to Lizy Chechi.
Walking towards the committee office with the sample bottle wrapped in a
paper, he saw the children coming out of school. They roared in chorus.
Shijo, Sir....
There were smiling faces in front of him that for a moment erased all
predicaments from his mind. This may be the first time they are calling out
their warden like this. There may be tea and some snacks waiting for them in
the dining room. Tea is a routine, but now he has asked Lizy Chechi to prepare
some snacks as well.
Mobile phone rang in the pocket. It is Mom. She is complaining that he is not
even calling her.
Mom, I am very busy nowadays. Running about here and there. They have
dismissed the manager here, and now I have to do his work as well. I will come
tomorrow evening. Okay.
I will explain that when we meet. How is Liji?......Okay, Okay.
Luckily Sister Theresa was alone in the office. When the bottle was handed
over, she said. Babuchettan will come just now to collect this. Let him not see
you. He is a bit nosy. He might keep things in his mind only, but why should he
know the source?
When will the results be ready?
I guess soon. I will phone you up when we get it.
Okay, thanks.
Walking back to the orphanage, he thought, this exercise is only to confirm
it. And then what? There was only the future of the 15-year-old girl in his mind.
He was not sure whether Father would allow it to be removed. He might argue
that it is against our religion. But then this girl is only 15 years old? It is a risk


to be a mother at this age. After all these, the mental tension, shame and
ignominy that poor child will have to undergo throughout her life.
And they have shown the man who is responsible for all this mischief new
pastures. There is something seriously wrong with this world. Either he can go
leaving all these behind. Or fight against it. Running away is cowardice.
The moment he entered his room Annie came running.
Sir, I have to tell you something.
Tell me baby.
I am scared of Jisy.
She was telling today.... Looking back with a frightened expression she
continued. Can you die with me? She cannot die alone, so let us die together.
What did you say?
I said I couldnt. Even she also should not die. I said Shijo sir would find a
way out.
Yes, I am trying to find way out of this. Suicide is not a solution. What is
required is to solve problems. You didnt say this to other children?
No, Sir.
Now only Lizy Chechi, Father Mathew and I know about it. Tell her we will do
something. And then, keep an eye on her, dont leave her alone anywhere.
Okay Sir, let me go. I came the moment Jisy has gone to the bathroom.
By 7 Oclock night Sister Theresa called. The result is positive.
Is Father Mathew free now? Shijo asked.
He is in the rectory. Phone him up before going.
He phoned Father.
I was about to phone you Shijo. You know the results? Come here, we will
Shijo went to the kitchen.
Lizy Chechi, I am going to meet with Father Mathew now. Give children food
at the usual time and dont wait for me. How is Jisy? We got the results. It is
what we were afraid of. Keep a close watch on her. Annie has just told me
something scary. Jisy asked her to die with her. See that nothing untoward is
Father Mathew was in front of his PC browsing the net. After giving a sign for
Shijo to sit down, he turned to the monitor. After about five minutes, he started
Shijo, there are two ways in front of us. First one is to inform Police. The
second one I cannot recommend being a priest that is to terminate a new life
and save the girl and to find a way out to keep the man who has done so much
injustice to this girl against the will of the Lord, at bay. The first option is safe
for us. The police will take care of all.
Let us not do that, Father. That will create problems for that poor girl.


I was about to say that, Shijo. They will question the girl and take her to the
police station and Idukki and to the court. The media is waiting for such hot
news. For days together the TV screens and newspaper pages will be full of this
girl. That will spoil the girls life. And the culprit will escape with some political
Youre right, what we should do is to save that girl somehow. It is not her
fault that she is in this condition.
I will ask Sister Theresa to go there and take the girl to the nursing home. In
between you should ask Lizy to make that girl understand our good intentions.
Sometimes her permission will be required. Since she is still a minor, the
guardians permission may be enough.
Okay, Father. Thanks.
Shijo, dont get upset. Theresa will do everything. And then, dont give that
girl anything to eat in the morning. You cant call it an operation. It is just a D
and C only. I have been sitting in front of the net since I came to know of the
test results.
And I am taking care of the old warden. I have already sent another man to
take charge there. He will take charge of the orphanage tomorrow morning.
Now no child will be molested or harassed because of him.
Thanks, Father.
Dont thank me, Shijo. Thank the Lord, who has shown the righteous way.
Pointing his finger at the picture hanging from the wall Father Mathew said.
He appeared to Shijo like the disciple of Christ in Leonardo da Vincis Last
Supper pointing his finger to top.
And another thing; be discreet. Dont let anybody know about it, especially
the children staying there. It will be bad for Jisys future.
Okay, Father.
He had given whatever solace a priest can give. Walking back Shijos mind
was peaceful. Things are not as problematic as he thought and that in a few
days time everything will be clear and normal. Tomorrow anyhow he has to
see his Mother. Thinking of mother he thought about his sister Liji and the
candies he used to buy for her. Today I must buy some chocolate to the children.
He entered a shop.
Reaching the gate he knew that something was amiss and that there is a lot
of commotion inside. Annie came running.
Sir, cant find Jisy.
Cant find? What are you talking about?

Shijo felt that the serenity he was enjoying a moment ago was a prelude to
this mental agony. Annie was gasping for words. He repeated his question.


Yes Sir. She wanted to take bath and said will go to Lizy Chechi to get some
oil for her hair. I thought she must be there talking to Lizy Chechi. When she
was late I went to inquire. When I reached the kitchen Lizy Chechi said Jisy has
not gone there at all. We searched all places here. She was weeping.
Shijo was tired. When he was complacent that everything is under control he
is getting a terrible jolt. Where to enquire? Whom will he ask?
Did you look around everywhere here?
Yes Sir, Lizy said, she is nowhere to be seen.
Shijo ran to the gate, and hesitated at the gate. Where will he go? After
everything is done, the only way out is to report to the police?
Suddenly an auto stopped abruptly in front of him. There was Jisy in it,
What happened, Baby?
What happened? It was the auto driver who jumped from his auto. Even I
would have been under the train because of this silly girl.
Jisy baby, you go inside and change your dresses. Her dresses were spoiled
as if rolled in mud. Lizy Chechi, please look after this girl.
Please come inside. Shijo asked the driver. Let us not talk from here.
Can I park the auto inside the compound?
Your pants and shirt are all soiled. Walking to the office with him Shijo said.
Soiled? Wait until you see this? He lifted his hand and there were serious
scratches in many places.
He made the driver sit in the office and went to ask Lizy Chechi to make tea
for them.
Now, tell me what happened?
You know our railway gate. I had to stop because it was closed and a train
was about to pass. It was then that I saw this girl walking on the rail. The
moment I saw her I knew something was wrong with her. She wasnt in this
world at all. I heard the sound of the engine, and went running. She had no
intention of moving from the tracks. The train almost reached there and I could
grab her and jump to the other side in time. All these scratches and wounds
are the result of that jump. He again showed his hands and feet.
My God!
Immediately there was a crowd. They always gather around with a vulgar
curiosity. I took her and put her in my auto saying its my granddaughter and
that she has come out of home angry. Otherwise those people will spoil her.
Good, what you did. Shijo said. Many thanks. I cannot imagine the situation
if you were not there on time.
What is her problem?
Do you want to talk about girls of her age?
He nodded with a look of understanding.


He gulped the tea Lizy brought. Poor man, he needed it very badly.
You please wash your hand and feet. I will apply some antiseptic.
No, it is all right. I have to take bath at home any way. There is mud all over
my body.
I will give you some money, please accept it. Taking two 100 Rupee notes
from his pocket Shijo offered it to the driver.
No, no. I have two granddaughters in this age.
He got up and put on his slippers and walked, then on an afterthought came
Or better give it to me. Tomorrow I wont be able to work. My entire body is
in pains. I have to look after my family. I can also buy some sweets for my
grand children. I have to do some penance for doing such a good work.
He went away laughing merrily. Shijo watched the dark stout baldheaded
man walking to his autorikshaw. He thought, what a man. He waved at Shijo
and started his engine. It was then only that Shijo realized that he hasnt
asked for his name and address. He forgot all about it in the excitement.
He went to the childrens room. Jisy was lying down. She has changed her
clothes. The children are all gathered around her. Lizy Chechi was standing
there holding the soiled clothes that Jisy just changed. Shijo sat on the bed and
holding Jisys hand softly caressed it.
If that good man were not there on time, we would all have been in pains
now. I am here to solve all your problems. I am trying to solve it one by one.
Now baby, dont do anything of this kind. Stay cool, peaceful.
Jisy didnt say anything. She was just crying, and the tears wet the pillow.
Its okay Jisy.
He suddenly remembered the packet of toffees that he had bought for the
children. In that commotion, he forgot where he had kept it.
Lizy Chechi, I had bought some toffees for these children. I forgot where I
had kept it in that commotion.
You had given it in my hands. Ill bring it now.
She went and brought the packet of sweets.
Give it to Nandita. Let her distribute it.
Nandita was happy. After giving one toffee each to everybody she said.
Sir, there are four toffees left.
Did you give one to Lizy Chechi?
Yes, she did. Lizy opened her palm and exhibited the toffee.
Did you take one?
N-o.... She took one for her. Now there are three left.
Share it with you, Revathi and Alice. Three of you are the youngest.
Before getting up Shijo gave his toffee to Jisy.
You have fallen. This is just to do penance.
He laughed aloud. The word penance had something that makes people


laugh. Even Jisys lips were slightly open for a laugh.

Shijo sat in his chair in the office room. What a day! Is it for these trying
days that you have dragged me here my Lord? Lizy Chechi stood at the door.
Please come in, Lizy Chechi, sit down.
She sat on the chair and looked at him with questioning eyes.
Tomorrow morning Sister Teresa will come here before 8 Oclock to take Jisy
to the nursing home. Dont give her any breakfast. They will come back in an
hours time. Now when shes alone you try to explain these to her. Try to make
her understand that we are doing what is good for her. Dont let any other
children know about it. If she throws any tantrum, please call me.
Oh, my Lord Jesus!
And one more thing. The tailor lady will come in the morning. Tell her to
stitch Jisys nightie with Deepas measurements. Are they not of same height?
The tailor will bring the sample clothes also. Let children select from the
samples, either same cloth with color change, or different clothes. The price is
almost same for all materials. You also select two for you.
Yes Sir.
Have the children eaten.
No, meantime all these happened.
Now we can all eat. The children must be hungry. After food we will take
your bed to the childrens room. From today onwards you will sleep in that
Lizy didnt say anything. He was not sure whether she liked it or not. It is
okay. It is not fair to segregate her and keep her isolated in another nook.

A week passed and life is back to normal, at least it appeared to be normal.
As the food changed there was blood on the face of children. They played
around in their new dresses even on daytime. Wait until next month he thought
he should get sanction from Father Mathew for new dresses for them. It doesnt
look nice on holidays to wear nighties during daytime. Also they need a TV set,
thats their new demand. As she mingled closely with the children Lizy Chechi
also changed a lot. She stopped smoking bidi altogether. She started scolding
children like a mother and prepared good food for them. What a change for the
house in just ten days time!
Sunday the commotion of children playing ended when after food they had a
little nap. After that they took chopped onion dipped in chickpea paste and
fried and tea prepared by Chechi. When the tea time is over, Shijo said.
Today Ill teach you a new game?
What game? They asked in chorus. They dont want to play moving around


right now.
It is called jigsaw puzzle. That means a picture is cut into pieces and shuffled
and youve to join them together to make the same picture.
The children appeared interested. Shijo went to the office and took out a
notice board that hitherto was kept unused, together with the picture he had
already cut to pieces and a picture rolled.
These paper cuttings are parts of a house. I have cut a full picture into these
pieces. There are eighteen pieces in all. I will place the first piece in its place.
Then all of you should come and pick up a piece and place it in its place, so that
it forms the picture. If you have any doubt you can have a peek at this picture
spread on the table. It is the same picture, but slightly smaller. First chance will
be for Lizy Chechi, then the youngest among you and one by one everybody.
Yes Siiiir..... This long reply is indicative that they liked the game.
He pulled a chair to the wall and kept the notice board on it. He selected a
piece from among the pieces and kept it at the bottom and fixed it with a pin.
It was the front steps of a house.
Now it was Lizys turn. After a bit of hesitation and persuasion by Shijo since
the game is meant for children she took out a piece. That was the lower part of
the main door. It was easy. She kept it just above the steps and Shijo fixed it
with a drawing pin. Next was Nanditas turn. The piece she got was a bit confusing
and after looking at it for some time she could not decide where to fix it.
Its okay, let your sisters do it and after a while you will know where to fix
Revathi also got a similarly confusing piece. It was part of the roof. The
building construction has not reached that level. Shijo asked her also to wait.
Then it was Alices turn. She got the upper part of the front door, and she could
fix it quickly. Then one by one everybody attempted and the building was
progressing. By that time children who couldnt do it initially found their place,
and they jostled each other by saying I.......Ill.... The last was Jisy, and when
she picked up the last piece, Shijo said.
No Jisy, wait.
Jisy looked at him with a question. He said.
The picture is already complete now?
No? looking at the picture she said, the middle of the roof is blank.
What does it mean? Shijo asked.
No one answered. Shijo continued. See the building will be complete only if
all our pieces are put together and kept in place. Similarly our home will only
be complete if all of us are together. If any of us is missing, that gap will remain
forever. Do you understand?
The children nodded solemnly.
Now Jisy please complete the picture.
Jisy kept the piece she was holding in its place. Turning back her eyes were


filled. Everyone clapped in applause.

We all will remember this game for ever, wont you?
Yes, Sir.... Everyone said in a chorus.

Father Mathew had phoned and asked Shijo to meet him.
Father was as usual in front of the computer. When Shijo knocked at the
door, he turned his face.
Yes, Shijo? Ha yes. I called you to show something.
He took out the Malayala Manorama newspaper from his table and gave it to
Shijo. Have you read this news?
What news, Father?
Look, the man who was knocked down by a car yesterday in Idukki died in
the hospital.
Small news item, in a single column, and it was marked in red with a sketch
The sixty year old man who was admitted in the Blue Valley Hospital yesterday
in a serious condition after being knocked down by a car died late yesterday.
He was the warden of the local boys orphanage. He has retired from services
only a week back. The car that knocked him down did not stop, and the number
of the car could not be ascertained.
This man?
Yes, he only. But I never could guess that God Almighty could try and deliver
a judgement and to execute it so fast.
Shijo sat with an unbelievable expression.
Okay Shijo, I called you just to show this to you. Getting up from the revolving
chair Father Mathew said. Anything else?
Nothing, Father. Shijo got up from the chair. Father Mathew accompanied
Shijo unto the portico, and when bidding good bye he said:
Come to think of it, the mysterious ways of the Lord!
Walking back Shijo was thinking about what Father Mathew said smiling.
And what could be the meaning of his winking the eyes after that?

Translated from Malayalam by the author.