The Sugar-Sweet Kiss: Lalitambika Antharjanam

[This is an excerpt from the translation included in the collection of her translated short stories On the Far Side of Memory, New Delhi, OUP, 2018]


Two little eyes opened, just a teeny bit. But shut tight again, as if the light jabbed them. He stretched, nice and slow. A moment at the line dividing sleep and wake. Sleep had bid goodbye. Wake had not yet arrived.

Still-tightly wound-up fingers rubbed the eyes awake. All was quiet, still. The heady memory of a sweet, just-dreamt dream lingered in his eyes. Memory and forgetfulness cast a shade on those darling cheeks. He looked as if taken by surprise by unexpected change.

He lay there for a while, lazy, expecting someone or something to come. A face that made him laugh. Touch overflowing with sweetness – the soft lullaby. Experiences sweeter than the dream … no, they are not to be found now.

Eyes wide open, he looked all around and beat his limbs on the floor. Made some impatient noises. Tried out all the tricks he had mastered in the course of all these days. It was useless. That face full of kisses, and the tenderly-nursing arms remained distant.

Bawling didn’t feel like fun right now. That too, after good slumber in which many smiles had blossomed. He squirmed once, aimlessly. The, as if driven by some instinct, put his tender fingers in his mouth and began to suck them.

A peaceful radiance. Lazy solitude. He  retreated into things that surrounded him. He bent his brows and kept watching all around, looking quite helpless.


…. Struggling, he flexed his waist backward, bent his knees and pulled himself straight. Wonder! A new position, with the chest and stomach above the ground.  He experienced the excitement of a new discovery then. He opened his left palm and pressing it on the floor, tried to raise himself up. Then raised the right hand and head up together … Aha … unsteady he still was, but he had managed to do it!

Experiment. Experiment. Life’s progress is through unceasing experimentation. No defeat is defeat there. No retreat is retreat. No victory complete.  From one to the other. And from there, to another.  Human life is a chain of such changes.

What if his arms flagged and he collapsed? What if his foot slipped and he fell? In the end, he held his position. Very slowly, nervously, he straightened up. Still swaying, he bent his back, brought his buttocks to the floor and squatted like a frog, in the first stage of sitting down.

He laughed aloud, in the ecstasy of triumph.

But then whimpered in the fear of failure. Those eyes opened wide, waiting for someone to spur him on with compliments, to hold him up … there … that …. person … she is near! Taking pride in his abilities, mindful of his weaknesses, smiling at each movement of his, his source of solace, that beloved form!

Forgetting all the victories and failures until that moment, and all the joys and sorrows that came and went in between, he stretched out his arms, utterly helpless … “”. Sadness and happiness, complaint and sweet grumble, all the varied emotions in the world, mingled in that little voice.

Swathed in his mother’s kisses, clinging on to that bosom filled with Amrtam, he could remember only one thing: Life is a river of milk. And he, a sugar-sweet kiss that melted, slowly, slowly, in it.


[‘Panchaarayumma’, (1947), Lalitambika Antarjanathinte Kathakal Sampoornam, Kottayam : DC Books, 2009, 134-7]





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