Sujatha Mathai

Excerpted from ‘Sheuli’s Star’, a novel by Sujatha Mathai

My Mother Is Telling A Story

Keto molle?  I must tell you about the first Syrian Christian woman in the State of Travancore  ever to drive a car! What a feat that was!” 

How they would laugh, as they relived that grand occasion together, over and over again.  “Can’t you just imagine Mrs. Achamma Elizabeth Thevaril getting into her old Austin, her sari worn high over her ankles, her fashionably bobbed hair cut straight below the ears, her closed shoes, pointed, with straps and a neat heel, (brought by her advocate husband from far-away England, where he’d gone to study). First, there would be a great cranking of the vehicle, then a rush into the driver’s seat, a terrible noisy start, as if crackers were being let off. And then, a  slow, triumphal drive through the streets of Tiruvella, with all the urchin boys of the area, half naked, except for the little mundu tucked around their middle, running behind the car, shouting, “Madaama! Madaama! Edo kando? Have you seen the Madaama driver? Lady Driver! Lady Driver!” Then they would beat imaginary drums, hoot and shout. But Mrs Achamma was unfazed. She, an England-returned woman, what did she care for these naked urchins? Her nose in the air, she proceeded on her triumphal way, honking the great horn, sitting very erect…She, a great committee woman, meeting English people often, the first to own and drive a car! Was she put off?  She, the Lady Driver? No.  Not at all. Not she.”

Serialised by Jose Varghese for Strandslitsphere.