Footsteps in a Trunk

Footsteps in a Trunk

“A father-son relationship is fairly complicated,” The audience laughed at his casual yet comical expression. 

“A father’s love is like neem oil, good for health but bitter to taste.”



“Appa, why are you running so fast?.” 

At five, Bhumi could read his father’s face. A face that reeked void as if its soul were ripped apart and paleness torn off from the skin.

Paari dropped his son on the floor and dashed towards the marquee tent that was on fire. He wrestled the onlookers and jumped into the blaze. He walked out from the ruins with his treasure. 

“Remember, the story of young Bhakt Prahlad? The place I worshiped so long, has been destroyed by Holika,” Paari held his trunk tight, “But Narasimha saved me.”

Koothu was kuladaivam for Paari. With the advent of the cinema house, koothu was left at the hands of a few thirsty organizers, who sucked out the livelihood of the artists.

The burning marquee was testimony to the cruel landlords, who wished to build a permanent cinema hall.

Paari held his son in one hand, the trunk in the other, “Manam irundaal, maargam undu” (Where there is a will, there is a way.)


“I will not walk in your footsteps.”

“You don’t have to Bhumi. But our art forms don’t have a written text. It’s only through young blood, that it descends down generations. You don’t have to pick the karagam, or be a Rajpat at the koothu. I am only asking you to keep it alive with practice.”

“No Appa, I want to take up a prestigious government job. With your meager earnings, my dreams seem distant. And moreover, koothu is long dead and karagaatam is the dance for the lustful mid-night folks,” Bhumi blurted aloud but bit his tongue. The smile on Paari’s face was gone. The backstabbing pain had resurfaced after ten years.


“Do you have any savings? What are you going to do?” 

“I only have this,” Bhumi pointed at the trunk, “Now it’s time to see if Narasimha will save this Prahlad.”


BP walked towards the table. He caressed the old iron trunk and flung it open. He picked up the Karagam and placed it on his forehead. He pirouetted in style, and held a pose, “After my father’s demise, I felt as if the roof above my head flew away with the wind. It took me some time to understand that, parents never really leave you alone. They are like coffee, which tastes good sometimes, bitter sometimes, but the taste stays for a long time till it rejuvenates you in a blissful stupor. “

“I always had a love-hate relationship with my father. But it was only because of the rich lineage of the artform and the love that runs in my veins, that I was not only able to present my doctorate paper in Tamil folk culture but also become your District Collector, Bhumi Pichai Paarivendan, IAS.”

The auditorium reverberated with a wild clatter of applause.

  1. Koothu:  An ancient art, where artists play songs with dance and music in storytelling the epics, performed in Tamil.
  2. Karagaatam: An ancient folk dance of Tamil Nadu performed in praise of the rain goddess Mariamman. The performers balance a pot ( Karagam) on their heads.
  3. Kuladeivam: A God that is taking care of their generation or family.
  4. Rajpat in koothu: An important character, or the protagonist in a koothu performance.

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2 thoughts on “Footsteps in a Trunk

  1. The blessings of parents continue to shower long after they are gone,! Parents are like coffee, is an apt simili. A very sweet and poignant piece.

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