As a child I grew up in the care of Punchi Menike, not my mother. She Is the one who influenced my thinking and feeling. She was a round faced woman, a moon face with dark hair oiled back into a tight knot, low at the nape of her neck. I was fed, bathed, dressed primly and properly, rocked lo sleep on her out-stretched legs. She used to pick lice out of my hair and kill them pressed between the nails of her two thumbs. Punchi Menike had one other ta k apart from following behind me all the time. She was given the important task of preparing mother's daily chew of betel. I would watch, fascinated, her washing of the dark green, freshly plucked leaf, breaking the arecanut into pieces with the giraya, squeezing the chunam and other ingredients onto the leaf. While performing this daily task she would tell me stories of the good and the bad - the bad always ending up in hell worlds, the greedy as hungry peretayas always in search of food to fill their bellies.



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