They had become like to prides of lions! Just that they painted, instead of Urinating to mark their territory!
There were blows exchanged at rare times. Ooruga, thankfully had escaped those. They all knew he was a simpleton. And they knew he was automatically following what he was being asked to do. No party preferences, No territorial lordship!
Ooruga was not always called so. He must have had some other names. In his godknowswhere house that he ran away from when his dad beat him, that fateful night for a petty crime.
But ever since he came to Illundavoor and served mango pickle at Pandian Mess, he had been called Ooruga.
He did not always know he could paint so well. But when he accidentally picked up Sarala’s(Pandian’s daughter) colouring book, his life took a turn.
Carefully he filled the clown’s eyes.
Beautifully he painted the nails of the princess.
When party officers came around with vats of paints, Pandian, a staunch PDCZ supporter, sent Ooruga to paint the wall posters.
It was late evening. Ooruga picked up his bright orange paint can and walked to the wall that had the party;s water bottle symbol drawn across it.
His brush looked like it was having a bad hair day. But in Ooruga’s hand, it plied to obey.Referring to the paper in hand, Ooruga sketched the Tamil letters precisely to read Kannaiyya- the party’s local candidate.
The weirdly bright orange paint was stickier than usual. Slowly Ooruga swirled the paint on to the brush, and finished off the background fill. ‘VOTE FOR’, he added on top as specified.
It was growing dark and the paint started to glow. Ooruga looked at it in wonder. It was glow in the dark paint!
Little Ooruga, who was then named somethingelse and not Ooruga, sat with his older sister in the thinnai* of their house.
His mother was braiding his sister’s hair into two fat oily plaits. She was filling colours into her book with her new paintbox.
Ooruga dipped his finger into the tiny paint bottle. His sister hit him on the hand and wiped it off with a waste cloth.
“Vendaam da! Idhu aai!”** she said.
Ooruga grinned listlessly. His mother smiled.
“Kuttykku colour pannanama?***” she asked
“Avana colour pannavei ma…,****” she instructed the girl and retreated within the house.
His sister picked up his hand, made him clasp the paint. She dipped it inbto the glowing black paint.
“Idhulendu, raathiri light adikkum,*****” she explained.
They drew and eye with the black, washed the brush. Then they filled the iris yellow. A bizarre yellow eye that glowed in the dark that night. His sister and he had laughed over it.
“Ooh! Naan poochaandi!
Ooruga had giggled madly.
The next day, he got beaten, he cried, and he ran away forever, with a crumpled paper in his pocket. Of the glowing yellow eye.
Ooruga laughed again. Sitting in the corner of the street, staring at his work of art glowing in the dark.
People walked past, barely noicing him. Ooruga was prone to such outbursts of laughing and crying. But he was harmless. He’d soon get over his bout and walk back to the mess and serve the mango pickle as he had done so for the last 25 years. This was just a ‘meanwhile’ cry or laugh.
He laughed again. Glow-in-the-dark Kannaiyya, he thought! As if he would open his name-eye in the night through the paint!
Ooruga got up and walked past to the mess.
*Thinnai- long narrow platform attached to the front of the house, overlooking the road and shaded by the roof that extends beyond the house
**Vendaam da! Idhu aai!- Don’t touch it! It is shit!
*** Kuttykku colour pannanama?- Does the little one want to paint?
****“Avana colour pannavei ma…,”- Make him colour.
***** “Idhulendu, raathiri light adikkum,”- This will glow in the dark
****** “Ooh! Naan poochaandi!