“What do you want, Koì?” asked Karanfu.
“Meu camisa,” begged Koì.
“Camisa?” Karanfu tried to comprehend. Now he wore Koi’s shirt and overgown, including the shoes which was big for him. Karanfu only passed the shoes and kept the clothes for him.
At Clitoria, he was given a rope bed inside a tiny chamber that he called a câmera to share with Kamana, Karanfu’s elder wife, who slept in the adjacent bed. Rest of the folks slept on a deck called an ashi set by the wall in the main hall filled with white sand. Here they slept in rows; their two daughters and three sons, wife’s parents and grandparents, wife’s own sister and a brother.
When Karanfu leaves at early dawn for morning catch, someone breaks in. A shadow slips through in the dark. It goes loud on the straw mat on the wooden deck. Sometimes noises echo in his câmera. No one knows who came and rumours are to blame.
Next morning Kamana would utter, “You didn’t make a noise…”
Fatima would then prepare her bed on the deck with dry leaves sprinkled with castor oil. At midnight, the rattle on straw mat and grisly cries break the silence.
Next day it was Kamana’s turn to show her gut. And that night, Karanfu entered the câmera after fiddling with the coconut oil lamp to dim the flame. Then the rope bed began to creak. Koì couldn’t see a thing. It was dark. Her breathing grew deep. She was swearing loud to wake the house. Carried into the bottom of a deep ocean as she struggled to resurface. That little man grasped his prey like a black cat on his paws. The bed rocked to thump on the thatched wall, the roof seemed to fall apart and the ground shook. A dead night suddenly filled with squeaky noises and screams.
Koì joined the crew building a boat by the west coast of this long and narrow island strip called Madeu. It was a boat that belonged to Murdur; the island chief or katib. He was a tall bald man who coughed continuously with a heavy bronchitis.
Koì got involved, “Lend me that martelo!’
A guy shoved him an axe.
“Not that,” cried Koì, “martelo.”
“Marteyo!” he picked the hammer and gave him the tool that became known as ‘marteyo’ among the Divas Tribe.
Someone came running, “Fu! Two of your wives are brawling!”
Karanfu uttered, “Let them brawl.”
“Young wife wants Koì to sleep at her place.”
“She wants to sleep with him!” cried Karanfu.
“You better go and solve their problem.”
“Women! They never solve a problem. They lead fierce verbal fights and that’s all they want,” he turned to Koì, “You sleep at Kamblo’s place tonight. Tomorrow, my daughter gets bathed. She’s mature. She gets dressed and you will marry her.”
It began in the early light. Mala was bathed in the waters with women who dipped after night sex. She wore a red rose on her hair. Afterwards, she was escorted out of the waters by the topless women singing a chorus and doing a findu-beru – slapping their bare buttocks with the palms. Men strummed the drums. Then she entered the vevo filled with petals. Here it was the teacher, Edru, who performed a ritual and shaved the girl laid on a stone.
It was an honour of the island chief to dress her in a black wrap called a kandiki and a silver girdle around the waist wound in several folds to pronounce the girl as an adolescent. A man should take her hand for marriage and often on the day she was bathed.
Karanfu provided Koì with a three-part cotton dress that included a fèìli, libas and fattar – alias; a dyed wrap, a bodice and a golden necklace.
By tradition, a man who proposes is expected to gift a set of costumes.
She was dressed in tribal wrap with silver on the hips. Her hair shined with a palm oil treatment to hold a droopy bun on the crown covered with a ruma. Eyebrows drawn with galena and eyes shaded with kohl. Her footwear was a wooden pair of sandals for the evening.
This ceremony covered recitals by the Edru and a practice of fanditha – enchantment – which was part of their faith. And she was done in the kindle of a very first rite.
In their fine dresses, they hunted for chicken. It took a long chase through the cottages, over the fences, in the thickets and pass bathers in gifili – open-air shower gardens. No restriction.
The feast was mainly of seafood dishes, chicken, tropical fruits and salads. Buffet served on a sufra spread on the silver beach with torches lit in coconut husks in the rays of a brilliant moon. The Divas traditional cuisine was consumed by mixing all varieties in a banana leaf and squashed with fingers.
Bodu-beru – big drums and singing choruses of songs carried into the night with frenetic tribal dancing to escalate in a crescendo having African roots.
Virgin for the girl is lost,
She bathes first blood in first light,
Woman is dressed for lust,
She looks for love and the cut,
A verge ascends in flight,
As wind blows in the night,
She’s breaking the riddle,
For the very first time…
Lay her down…where the waves wash the shore,
And blood in the sand let show…
This couple spent days by themselves along the western shore that stretched out four miles of white sand in Madeu in Bodu Thiladummathi. Scores of frigatebirds and egrets flew over the turquoise lagoon. Crab-plovers, white-eyed gulls and crested terns ruled the paradise.
A girl never left her parents’ home. Koì and Mala stayed at Clitoria until he could build his own house.
Koì joined the fishing crew with Karanfu on his small sailing doni. Two times a week they sailed afloat to Borah; an island lying two and half miles to the north. Koì came across a bunch of pretty girls teasing behind and singing rivaru – verses in jumbled words to ridicule. A lot of girls were mixed-blood. Little girls passed him flowers to convey a message from a certain girl who kept looking from the corner of her eyes. Flowers got meaning though he couldn’t grasp it.
Then on a week-long trip to Borah, one morning, he saw this bloodless girl with golden fringes on her hair squatting on the beach to undergo excretion. He sent her roses wishing they carry the meaning of coolness he felt inside. She sent him betel leaf in return with lines on it, “I’ll do what you say and I want you to do…”
At dawn, she came down to the beach before the starry sky disappeared. She knew Koì was watching but pretended not to care. She spread out in the sand and did it little strange with long blowing hair keeping her warm to the heels. He wondered, “What love does she know with her fingers in the sand!”
He stepped on the beach and the girl kicked off on her feet. She ran like the wind with bluster on her tail. Koì chased her. She ran into the brushwood heading away from folks. He caught her up.
“What makes you run?” he asked.
“I wasn’t running,” she said.
“What’s your name?”
“Huvan,” she told him.
He only talked so the fires of the filaments burnt out. Her smile in dismay…she was telling him that he did have no guts to treat a woman.
Pretty girls ran behind teasing with flowers and the laughter, “Try me!” Because she told all the girls that he was running like a fool – a loser. All those native girls teased around flirting with some giggles, “Stranger! Try me!”
Koì returned home physically tempered.