few sketches on
a poem by edasseri
by artist namboodiri
on way to
solace to pootham
the story of the Poem Poothapattu - Song on the Poltergeist.
Unni is seven years old, and it's time he went to
Pallikkoodam (school). Nangeli is dressing up her child with a
pulliyilakkara mundu (a plain piece of cloth with a narrow
border, distinctive to Kerala), and his long hair is tied on
top with a strand
of creepers. Unni holds a Ezhuthani (a sharp iron scribe used
for writing on scrolls and palm leaves).
The young fellow is in great enthusiasm, because he is going to pallikkoodam (school) for the first time.
on his way to the "pallikkoodam" (school). The poet
gives a vivid account of the various sights that caught the
imagination of the child, the sights of nature. He is holding
the ezhuthani (iron scribe) in his left hand and the cut-to-size treated palm leaves to write on and Olakkuda (an umbrella
made of palm leaves) in the right hand .
He walks past the Parayan's temple, on to the rocky hillocks and reaches near the hideout of the
Pootham. Astonishingly, at that very moment Pootham opens its pigeonhole window to see Unni walking down.
Unni looks so likeable and the poet describes him variously as a
water-lily drifting down the current, as the crescent of moon
making its gradual appearance, soft like a rare variety of fruit
and shining like a
golden vessel . Pootham
is fascinated by Unni, an irresistible presence for her, so much
so that watching the boy, Pootham gets goose pimples and she
feels a sensation in her bosom - a feeling mothers feel when they
feed their children. Pootham
wants to take away Unni and possess him. Now she is
trying to attract the attention of Unni by making herself
With its magical powers the Pootham turns herself
into a pretty girl and stands under a tree
in full bloom. But being an evil spirit, she cannot touch Unni as he is
carrying a scribe made of iron, a metal which repulsed evil spirits .
When Unni comes near she asks him to throw away the iron-scribe,
since she can't touch him so long he is carrying anything made
of iron. Unni
because he feels that the "Gurunathan" (teacher) will
scold him if he did anything of the sort.
She, however, lures
him with the promise of various gifts of nature like the soft mango leaves
and jasmine bud to write on instead
of palm leaves and iron scribe. She also suggests that Unni may
happily spend his time with her in the cool shadows making
garlands of flowers . The
temptation is so strong, Unni throws away
the iron scribe and lo and behold! Pootham takes hold of his
hand and walks away
taking him along. (Meanwhile Nangeli,
becomes highly anxious on not finding her son back
in time and starts searching for him in all the possible places,
darkness slowly envelopes the sky; making the task even more
hard on her.)
scene is powerful and charged with tension, showing a
the emotional mother who wants to retrieve her child and the
evil Pootham who wants to extend her new found sense of
happiness and ecstasy with Unni, a bundle of joy, and
is in no mood of returning him. Nangeli
finally finds the Pootham and pleads for releasing her son.
The unrelenting Pootham refuses, because she was enjoying
the company of Unni and was playing with him making garlands of
wild flowers. The perseverant mother
refuses all the riches in the world offered by Pootham in lieu of Unni. In fact she, scoops her eyes out
of the sockets and offers them to the Pootham saying that Unni is more
precious to her than her own eyes.
Now that Nangeli has become blind Pootham plays smart.
She takes a piece of "Thechi" shurbs, chants her Mantras
(utterances to invoke her evil powers) and creates another
boy which look exactly like Unni and offers him to the mother
to take along . Nangeli,
the mother kisses the boy's forehead and promptly realizes that
she is cheated. She
raises her hand to utter a curse, since Pootham has cheated the womb that gave birth to the child.
On the verge of a curse that
is going to befall on her, Pootham is frightened and quickly
releases Nangeli's son and also restores her eyesight. One
may question why such an evil being like
Pootham should be intimidated by a powerless Nangeli. But one
must realize that a mother's curse was considered the most
powerful, even feared by the Gods, such was the force of this
curse. Weeping sorrowfully, she pleads for mercy.
It was heart rending for the Pootham, because she loved Unni so much. Seeing
Pootham's agony Nangeli softens her attitude and takes pity on
Pootham. She tries to pacify the Pootham by asking her to come
down to their house every year, when the harvest is over and the
"pathayam" (Granary) is full of rice, to bless Unni.
Pootham agrees immediately and Nangeli greatly
with her son. Poor
Pootham; in that hurry she forgot to ask Nangeli where she
lived. Nangeli also did'nt volunteer the information either for
fear of losing her son again or by sheer forgetfulness. No body
really knows. It remains a mystery till
date. Any way every year when the harvest is over and the
"pathayams" (granaries) are full in every house, Pootham looks for
the house where Unni resides, but to her sorrow she fails
to find him out as Nangeli had not told her where she lived. It
is a sad sojourn for Pootham. Even if
Pootham asks for help from different people she meets, no one is
really helpful; on the contrary, even misdirects her with a
sense of mockery. Perhaps they are scornful of Pootham despite her present sad state, as the
memories of her past evil ways haunting them are difficult to be erased from their minds.
The beat and short pipe music that accompany the Pootham
resembles her sighs of grief.
The text in red is edited by Sreedevi
Manoj, Edasseri's grand daughter. (Daughter of E. Madhavan and