In this short story, Preetha Jayaraman weaves an endearing tale set in a village in Karnataka, of a child trying to understand the secrets of the grownup world.
Naga is six years old. His spindly legs are always going somewhere. Walking through the house, running through the street, climbing the tree outside his house, chasing the goats, dangling off the tall urn in the kitchen while the women cooked, always moving. Each day, as soon as he wakes up, his legs decide it is time to go. His mother’s voice often grows strained and high-pitched when she can’t find him. And someone from his large family would come in search of him and bring him home. A scolding, and a beating later, Naga would sit tight on the porch and pretend to play.
His grandfather was always there on the porch. The house with its many rooms never appealed to his Ajja. The porch of their tiled house was vast, the sunshade covering just enough while still leaving a grand view of life outside. Ajja was the king of the porch and sat there, majestic on his cane easy chair all day. He would only go into the house during mealtimes and come right back to his throne till it was time to retire at night to sleep. Many people came to see him each day. Passersby stopped for long chats. His grandfather seemed to know everyone and everything. A fit man with twinkling eyes, he was always talking, regaling, reminiscing. Naga during these porch times, briefly became a moth on the wall and listened to all the conversations. Some things made sense while many things did not but listening to his Ajja talk was never boring.