After a year of pleasant summer in Malnad, Madhu was terrorised to see her maternal cousin come after her to paternal grand parents house “I think you are gorgeous” he beamed at Tunga, who giggled with pleasure.Madhu stared at his eyes they moved all over her body undressing her in his gaze, emanating sexual energy.She approached Dhanu “ I don’t know how this can be done, but I want him out of this house by evening”

He asked her one question “What about your mother?” Madhu replied “ I can handle that” later  he had kept his word. But he was disturbed, and then at night he had invited her to play a game of chess with him, snapping at her repeatedly, He wanted her to be aggressive, wanted her to beat him. His attitude was patronizing, but his game was not.She kept losing, he had chided “ I thought you were smart you don’t even think when you are upset” Then she had concentrated on the game, decided to give back his game to him and beaten him by a pawn.He had insisted that she play on behalf of the white King.He was elated with her victory, more than she was , it was crucial for him to know that there was a battle in her blood, her mind could strategise and destroy an enemy.Then he heated water with the fire wood , so that she could have a bath, and go with him to the local Marikamba temple.He had taken her till then to only ruined temples built centuries ago, the Gods there had been deserted, some were damaged with a cut nose, or arm, or leg or thumb. It was custom to create a mark of imperfection to a perfect idol. But damaged God was still a God.But there was no worship offered to a damaged god, it was considered to be unlucky.

Though he meant well, the visit to the perfect temple, and meeting that undamaged goddess of fury, had damaged Madhu with a silent force of the need to spell her innocence. That bath made her look for dirt in the nook and corners of her body; they were young, and merely budding. Now she wanted to behead some jasmines, with their tender stalks, and wide spreading fragrance.


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