Summer holidays at my Ammachy’s house were always brimming and overflowing with fun. From the time we woke up in the morning to a couple of hours past sunset, we would have made more than a dozon circles around that beautiful tree shrouded house. We – my cousins and I were blessed. We had the best Ammachy on the planet! She would sing with us, read to us, comb our hair out for lice, invent new sweet treats for us, teach us games from her childhood and punish us when we crossed the line.
In the backyard we had a cute chicken coop. It was cute, like a tiny house on stilts - raised above the ground so that foxes wouldn’t catch the chickens. (Yes, foxes! Ammachy told me they came down from the nearby hill at night) In the evenings Ammachy’s free range chickens would be shut inside the coop.
One such summer day we were playing hide’n’seek. It was my turn to be it. As I started counting, I could hear feet scurrying out to hide. “98. . . . 99. . . . 1000 Ready or not, here I come!” I shouted and went around seeking the hiders. The little ones were the easiest to find. The gardener’s children were harder to find. I saved the best for last – Sumodh, my almost twin cousin! I searched high and low in every tree, on every parapet wall and by the time I circled the house twice I was ready to give up. “Come out Sumodh, you’re the last one !” I yelled. Suddenly I heart muffled laughter. It was coming from somewhere above me. I looked up. Nothing.
“Suuuuuumooooooooooodh ! This is not funny ! This game is getting boooooorrrrrrrrinng ! ”
Raucous laughter !. . . guffaws ! . . . . Right above my head !
He was inside the chicken coop !
A chubby eight year old boy, inside a space that could accommodate 5 chickens! ! !
His little sister ran in shouting “Ammaaacheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” We always called her the ‘complaint box’ and she was living up to her name yet again.
“Ugh. . . . I can’t get out” said a feeble voice. I had no idea how he got himself inside in the first place.
Ammachy and ShanmugamAnna – the gardnener came out. I don’t remember how they managed to get the chubby boy out. But Ammachy was furious. We were sent inside while Sumodh got the yelling of his life and . . . . . . .
. . . . . Wait . . . . that’s not the end.
Just as Ammachy was yelling at him, he started itching all over. Kozhi paen – aka chicken lice!!!
HA HA HA!
Ammachy slathered him in some medicine and we had fun hosing him down. He wasn’t allowed inside the house until a thorough check was done.
What a laugh riot! That night, we took longer than usual to fall asleep.