Tales from Kandassankadavu

Nestled in the eastern bank of picturesque Connelly Canal, Kandassankadavu rests in rural complacency.  The time of my childhood was spent in simple pleasures.  Excitement was not the norm.  But as it so happens, even the simple lives could often be shaken by anything supernatural.  Kandassankadavu was no exception. 

Some things were knit into the fabric of any local culture.  While in the elementary shool, I heard some unbelievable  stories.  I was a new student in this parochial school.  I was not familiar with the area even though  I had many relatives in the area.  Both my parents were born there.

I heard about a government built pond farther away from my house. We were not allowed to wander around. So I never saw this place.  It was built for easy access to water in the neighbourhood.   Everyone was not rich enough to own a private well.  The pond was large and many people made use of it.  There was a tiny mount next to it.  The mount had a flat top and a single bush with large heart shaped leaves.  

I started to hear about some strange happenings during midnight hours on this spot.  People claim to have seen some unusual occurrences.  Little black devils were  dancing on the leaves of the bush.  They carried lighted lanterns and were nimble in their steps.  It sounded almost like a frolicksome gathering. They were like jolly imps dancing the night away.  I never saw them.  But there were eye witnesses!  Even though I never saw this phenomenon, I have a vivid picture of the scene in living colors in my head.

The  parish of Kandassankadavu had the Church of Our Lady of Nativity.  Even though it was named for  Virgin Mary, the two big parish feasts are  for St. Sebastian and St. James the Great.   Their feast days fell on January 13 and July 25 respectively.  The former had more celebratory events.  Family members and other relatives gathered for these feast days.

St. Sebastian received more reverence because he is the patron saint against small pox, a dreadful disease which was often fatal many decades ago.  Having several arrow wounds, his body appeared pock-marked.  Maybe that is possibly the reason why he was selected to be the hero who fights the deadly disease especially during the pre-vaccination age.  

Prayers alone were deemed inefficient to fight against the viral epidemic.  People reverted to local practices, very unlike the Catholic beliefs.  The old, twelve inch statue was considered miraculous. The arrows were made of solid gold.  Including my grandfather, several families donated these arrows. Weeks before the feast, single or multiple families arranged to take one of these arrows to process to their houses.  Often pastel colored silk umbrellas with lacy metal trims were carried during the procession.  The “arrow” processions are colorful and provide great spectacles.  They could be carried out during the day or during the night.  People crowded by the roadside to see the show.  At night, there are petromax lanterns to give a festive aura and light.  The common belief was that St. Sebastian protected  the families who received the arrow in their homes.

 The utter belief in miracles is inescapable in these  practices.  Apparently there were eyewitnesses.   The common myth was that evil spirits in the guise of women went about casting seeds of small pox at people in the area and those who were touched started to show the marks of the epidemic.  One of these stories was oft-repeated in my younger days   Someone was late returning home, possibly from a bar.  The streets were deserted at that hour.  Possibly inebriated, the man thought that he saw two women carrying baskets, casting what appeared to be seeds.  They kept proceeding till they reached the  entrance to a side street.  They were blocked by a man holding a big cane.  The women pleaded for admission to the street.  The witness heard the man say, “This street is under my protection. You cannot enter.”  He chased the evil women away with his cane.  Later people realized that the man was St. Sebastian and the homes in the street had welcomed the “arrow” procession against small pox.

More interesting events happened during these times.  The father of one my classmates was a butcher.  He became very wealthy in his trade.  In general, people are jealous of other people’s prosperity.  Rumours started flying about the sudden riches of this man.  Again people resorted to some myths.

 A local trickster deity had some followers.  He was known as Chaathan. There was a small sign advertising his services in one of the country roads.  According to popular belief, Chaathan will give great deal of riches to his devotees.   But, one has to give full loyalty to him.  It is even rumored that, in order to show good faith, a devotee implanted a little copper piece in one’s thigh and has to transfer it to the successor before death.  Otherwise, the departed soul wil not receive eternal rest.

The butcher in Kandassankadavu passed away.  In human history, it is normal.   But, what was not  normal was that there were sightings of him in many places.  When night fell, people claimed to have seen him wandering listlessly in the street by his home, in the market place and in the Church yard which were all adjacent to the cemetery.

The vicar at the time was slightly intimidating. From top to bottom, he was gray.  He had a gravelly voice which was not too comforting.  Besides, he was always accompanied by a fierce Alsatian dog.  He always carried a walking stick.   He did not emanate an aura of friendliness.  The rumors about the after death wanderings reached his ears too.

One evening, the vicar heard the dog barking furiously turning his face towards the cemetery gate.  The priest decided to give credence to the common talk.  He walked towards the cemetery accompanied by his pet.  As he neared his destination, he caught sight of the dead man coming through the gate.

The vicar, who was also an exorcist, stopped in his treads and questioned the apparition, ” Why are you doing this? Why are you frightening people?”

The dead man answered with a note of desperation in his voice, “Father, I have no rest in this world.  But I have no rest in the other world also”

The exorcist recognized the situation and asked mildly, “Will you let me help you?”

The apparition was doubtful about the success.  Yet, he was willing to venture.  He nodded his acquiescence.   

The vicar collected  the holy water, the crucifix, the stole, the candle and the book. He guided the dead man to his grave which was still covered with earth.  Nobody saw the Rite of Exorcism.  

Next morning, people saw shoe prints on the soil covering the grave.  They believed that the priest stamped on the grave to compete his act of returning the spirit of the dead man. From that day onwards, nobody saw the butcher again. Hopefully, he received eternal rest.

As an impressionable child with very creative imagination, I treasured these stories.  They never left me. 

*A young man whose father came from Kandassankadavu urged me to write these down to share with posterity. Here is to you, Sebastian!

Childhood Revisited

All those simple memories

Of our childhood

Still walk hand-in-hand

To wake up

At chance encounters.

Little feet, little legs-

That’s what we had 

In those elementary years

When we walked back

To our separate homes.

Spread across the street,

We walked abreast 

In those days

Of scant traffic.

Those were innocent days

Of no warped thought

And only straight talks

In the purity of childhood.

Decades later, I met

One of these walkers!

It was an unexpected

And arresting moment!

Eyes brimming

With joyful tears,

Hand over hand 

In a warm clasp,

We sharied those bygone days

In an affecting moment.

Words had no place ,

But our glances spoke

Of what we knew

Was pure without deceit

In that incandescent,

But innocent moment !


So much time 

Has tiptoed away

After the last breath

Slowly forsook you.

Grass covers your grave,

Ice frosts it,

Rain soaks it,

Dew moistens it,

Sun burns it

And wind sweeps it.

Yet you slumber away

In eternal rest.


The leaves have yellowed

And the fallen leaves

Deck the grass

On which I kneel,

Waiting patiently

To join my time with yours.




The Kid Behind the Tree

Who is the kid behind the tree?

Is he hiding from the world,

Away from the taunts and insults,

To shield from barbs and thorns

Like the child in the bubble

Free from contaminants

That hurt the smooth existence

Of a sweet childhood?

Is he hiding from the world

Because the world overwhelms him,

Expecting too much

From his little self,

To think like an adult,

Always to be good,

Not to be an idiot,

To be the wisest of all,

To be the smartest of all,

And never to make mistakes?

Where is his carefree childhood

Full of sweet and guileless memories?

Fall Myriad

I felt the delicious nip

Of Fall’s breeze

On my nosetips, eyelashes, and cheeks

And blissfully savored

The tawny gold season.

Around me fell the leaves

Like butterflies winging down

Never to rise again.

The aureate and ochre fluttering

Of maple, birch and oak leaves

Screned me in an alcove

Of Mattisse Odalisque.

Squirrels skittered with mouths

Bulging with acorns;

Rabbits ran helter-skelter;

Flowers died and dried

And their stalks withered.

The trees stood divested

And exposed the empty nests

Left vacant by birds ×ho migrate

At winter’s imminanent arrival.

Life dwindled away

And I waited

In dormant thoughts 

For the next regeneration.



I was green

When I thought

That color was a feature.

I looked in the mirror

And I saw me described.

When did color become 

What I am?

When did color become

Who I am?

When I was plucked 

From my pilgrimage group

While leaving Baggage Claim 

With ominous words, ‘You are going home”

And  “Your people are waiting for you”.

I was sent to unknown parts of the airport.

And I learned painfully

That my color did not match my group

And I did not “belong”.

My  “Global Entry” did not count;

Appeals from my group did not count

To the official of ‘no color.

Lost in the Newark airport,

Without a clue of the EXIT,

I was saved 

By the kindness

Of a person of color.*


* Incident on October 15,2022


Wayside Flowers

So many glittering stars,

So many enticing flowers,

So many enthralling views,

So many eventful days,

So many outstanding deeds

By so many illustrious people!

Yet, unobserved we stayed

On the outside – the onlookers.

Wars broke out, treaties were signed,

Skyscrapers were raised, discoveries were made,

Heroics were dared, and Space was straddled. , 

But the planet is rushing to doomsday

But, we stood on the wayside

Unable to stop the life threatening causes

Of air, water, and elements,

Unable to act,

Unable to change

The status quo of existential demise.

So, we remain the wayside flowers,

Merely existing for the day.

The Agony and The Ecstasy of Elijah

At the Baldwin keyboard, he sat

Picking at the keys for his scale,

Trying the notes with aplomb

To be stopped midstream

At the discordance of a wrong note.

He started again with nonchalance

And almost reached the lowest note

When a false note crept in.

He was so sure that he had it right,

That it was agonizing for Elijah

To see the bubble burst

And to drown himself into despair.

Never to be beaten,

He started again and again.

With frustration mounting to a peak,

Then, started the ‘G’ scale

And stayed the course

Every note keeping the metronomic beat,

Every note ascending without flaw, 

And the descending scale meticulous.

Elijah lifted his fingers from the keys

And smiled with beatific ecstasy. 

The Prodigal’s Starry Night

In the inky backdrop,

The stars sprinkled and shimmered.

From the open hayfields,

The narcissist watched the scintillation 

And failed to see the Hand

That wrought them all.

But, alas, in the eager search

For the urban fleshpots,

He left the rural land

And squandered his self and worth

As nights of revelry spilled into dawns;

Bleary-eyed and unfocused, 

He did not see the starry night

In the never-sleeping city lights.

There were no stars for him

In the midnight skies.

The man-made  lamps and lanterns

Faked light and shrouded starlight,

He failed again to see the Hand

That made the stars for all.

Beaten and downcast,

Totally spent, he left the city-

Bedraggled and beggarly-

In tattered rags, his hesitant steps

Carried him to his father’s gate in the country. 

Doubtful of welcome and greeting,

He yearned at least for a meal.

Yet father, waiting for the son-bereft of hope-

 Saw his child through tears

And recognized the child who came back.

With quickened steps and outstretched arms, 

He ran out and hugged 

His emaciated child in dirt and rags

And wept tears of joy

At the return of one who was deemed dead.

The fatted calf was killed

And mourning turned festive

When guests lolled in abandon.

The Prodigal walked into the open

And gazed at the shimmering starry night.

He saw the Hand that made them all!