Mani’s Autobiography

The following story is a translation from the Malayalam Maniyude Aatmakatha. The various and erroneous grammar usages are deliberate, intending active speech, and freedom from the restriction of formal language, common in a child’s speech. The usual bottlenecks of translation remain in the English piece. Some Malayalam words have been retained with a key at the end.

Mani’s Autobiography

TUNG… TUNG… TUNG… I am Mani. I am in a lot of pain. Just now Appukuttan, wearing no pant or shirt, but a baniyan and a mundu, came and pulled my rope three times; the sound you just heard is the result of that pulling. Here come the people: white, green, red, yellow and blue sarees- and churidars- clad women and children, white, black, blue and brown shirts-, pants- and mundus- clad men. They remove their chappals outside and go inside the church. Bearing all the pain, I am the one who called them all for prayer, but no one turns to even look at me.

I hear. Inside, the priest started speaking. Then everyone started singing, the sweet-singing girls and the blaring aunties. The priest began speaking again. I see. Some people started dreaming, eyes closed, some started dreaming with eyes open. The singing began again, waking every dreamer. When the Qurbana finished, everyone moved out. Standing in groups they started gossiping. Occasionally someone stretches up and looks about; I feel that they are finally throwing me a sympathetic glance. But they are not looking for me, they are seeing if any cake or tea is being distributed. There is no one here who sees my pain. Retrieving their own chappals, and sometimes, others’, better chappals, people will gradually leave. Appukuttan, wearing no pant or shirt, but a baniyan and a mundu will be standing nearby. But even he has no sympathy for me. Isn’t that why, at the time for the next prayer, he will beat me again: TUNG… TUNG… TUNG…???

Mani means bell in Malayalam and is also a common name for boys.
Baniyan: Vest
Mundu: Dhoti/Lungi
Chappals: Sslippers
Qurbana: The Holy Mass

Deepa Sebastian