Her mother thinks she’s the prettiest seven year old in the whole world. Actually, in the whole universe. The name of the child is lost to the wind, remembered only when being introduced to strangers. Kannamma she is, and so she is called.
But prettiness isn’t all that is required, so her mother takes Kannamma in her peacock blue pattu pavadai to the doors of music. The Paattu MaamiPaattu Maami: Music teacher. Inevitably an old woman. looks a little scary, with a big red dot on her forehead that threatens to leap across the floor and hit the little one. Kannamma hides behind the pillar. She is called, gently by the Maami. Fueled by coffee and humidity, the Maami’s hoarse voice belts out a Sa-Pa-Sa. The child attempts to copy. The notes bounce off the dark corners of the room, where a grinning and overweight Krishna is imprisoned by the paint of gold.
Her mother has left her. Little Kannamma must somehow struggle through the the Sarali VarisaiCarnatic music lessons tend to start with Sarali Varisai. Not a song, but a series of sequences in which the basic notes of Mayamalavagowla raaga are practiced.. She wonders why Maami’s hair is slightly orange around the temples. While Maami copies out the notes in her notebook, she plays with the dirt stuck in her big left toe. They sing some more. The Maami insisting that the little one slap her thigh as she hollers out the notes. With fear itching in her tiny stomach, Kannamma survives an hour.
She runs back home. She shows her mother her red thigh. Welts gifted in the process of learning music. Her mother tells her that this is how one must learn. That this is normal. To have bands of red across her young flesh. To keep beat. To consume music. The little one wonders if this is how her mother has chosen to punish her. By banishing her to an old woman’s house every afternoon.
Kannamma runs to the roof. Why would her own mother wish such pain on her? She examines the welts, and cries. She decides in that moment that she hates only two people in the world. The red-dotted Paattu Maami and her mother.