Karuttappa!

Rumour has it that his wife saw him applying soot on their baby’s beautiful white face.

Karuttappa did not believe his mother. His father would never do such an unimaginable thing. Why would a father colour his 1 year old baby girl’s face with dirt? No, it was certainly a lie formulated by his hallucinating mother. The rumour spread like wildfire across the village but Karuttappa never believed his mother. She never truly loved her husband.

Karuttappa was as dark as the moonless night in which he was born. By the time he could walk, he was obese and certified his legitimacy by looking exactly like his dark skinned father.  He was a good child, kind, intelligent and ever so humble, just like his father. His mother was everything he was not. Fair, arrogant and aware of the impact her beauty left on anyone who crossed her way. She kept telling him that he and his father had skin the colour of processed tea that was made in the factory which his family ran. Karuttappa knew that his father would have never got such a catch had it not been an alliance brought by his rich aunt. Money bought everything, even women, the kid learnt early in life.  He was eight when he was gifted a baby sister, as fair as his mother.  Exactly a year later, his father became the hot topic as the man who coloured his fair skinned daughter, black.

Karuttappa always craved to be his mother’s first preference, who cooed over his sister. He was his father’s pet but that was mostly because his father was too embarrassed to be seen in public with the newly born. He always wondered why but never enquired much due to the fear of losing importance even in his father’s eyes. He and his father were dark. His mother made sure they both knew about it.

By the time he was 27, Karuttappa hated his own skin. His mother found a clueless fair skinned village girl and they were married in a fortnight. No courtship and no stolen kisses, but he did not have time to brood, for he was happy that he had married a beautiful girl. He loved her and she loved him back with the same fervid conviction.  While his mother visited him every month with fresh contempt for his dark skin and her constant fear that his children would resemble him, his wife loved him and his colour. Among these conflicting views by the two most important women in his life, he chose the one that he was used to.

Two years down the marriage lane, his wife declared that she was pregnant. Karuttappa rejoiced and the entire family was quick to come down with gifts for his carrying wife. While his father hugged him with teary eyes, his mother filled his ears with ways to make his child enter this world as a fair skinned baby.  Make your wife drink Saffron milk every day, she said. He believed every word she uttered.

His disinterested wife obliged to his antics. She gulped down saffron milk twice a day, since her husband did not want to take a chance by limiting it to one. She sat through the poojas that he conducted in their house, tolerating the Brahmins who did not comprehend a single mantra that came out of their trained mouth. She loved her husband and cursed her mother-in-law for making a beautiful man hate himself. She also believed that their baby must have been too tired of being subjected to so many complicated rituals that she decided to enter the world a month before schedule. A premature yet healthy, fair skinned daughter was born. Karuttappa wept as he kissed his newly born baby girl. The Gods had listened to him. His progeny would be spared of the embarrassment that his colour has brought upon him. His wife kept silent, amused by the display of emotions by her handsome husband.

The news of Karuttappa fathering a fair little girl became a topic that garnered much interest among the villagers. While the prudent section believed that the baby might have acquired the colour of her mother, the rest vouched that Karuttappa’s wife must have shared her bed with another fair skinned man which resulted in the birth of this beautiful little girl. The possible debauchery of his wife became a subject of heated discussion even in the Toddy shops and one night when Karuttappa decided to grab a few drinks, the drunkards decided to debate about the legitimacy of his daughter right in front of him. A brawl followed but died when Karuttappa fell on the ground and wailed. They were quick to leave the weeping man alone.

The next day, a fresh topic of debate was delivered to the villagers.

Rumour has it that his wife saw him applying soot on their baby’s beautiful white face.

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