Mammachi had started making pickles commercially soon after Pappachi retired from government service in Delhi and came to live in Ayemenem. The Kottayam Bible Society was having a fair and asked Mammachi to make some of her famous banana jam and tender mango pickle. It sold quickly, and Mammachi found that she had more orders than she could cope with. Thrilled with her success, she decided to persist with the pickles and jam, and soon found herself busy all year round. Pappachi, for his part, was having trouble coping with the ignominy of retirement. He was seventeen years older than Mammachi and realised with a shock that he was an old man when his wife was still in her prime.
Though Mammachi had conical corneas and was already practically blind, Pappachi would not help her with the pickle-making, because he did not consider picklemaking a suitable job for a high-ranking ex-government official. He had always been a jealous man so he greatly resented the attention his wife was suddenly getting. He slouched around the compound in his immaculately tailored suits, weaving sullen circles around mounds of red chillies and freshly powdered yellow turmeric, watching Mammachi supervise the buying, the weighing, the salting and drying, of limes and tender mangoes. Every night he beat her with a brass flower vase. The beatings weren’t new. What was new was only the frequency with which they took place. One night Pappachi broke the bow of Mammachi’s violin and threw it in the river.
Then Chacko came home for a summer vacation from Oxford. He had grown to be a big man and was, in those days, strong from rowing for Balliol. A week after he arrived he found Pappachi beating Mammachi in the study. Chacko strode into the room, caught Pappachi’s vase-hand and twisted it around his back.
‘I never want this to happen again,’ he told his father, ‘Ever.’ For the rest of that day Pappachi sat in the verandah and stared stonily out at the ornamental garden, ignoring the plates of food that Kochu Maria brought him. Late at night he went into his study and brought out his favourite mahogany rocking chair. He put it down in the middle of the driveway and smashed it into little bits with a plumber’s monkey wrench. He left it there in the moonlight, a heap of varnished wicker and splintered wood. He never touched Mammachi again. But he never spoke to her either as long as he lived. When he needed anything he used Kochu Maria or Baby Kochamma as intermediaries.
In the evenings, when he knew visitors were expected, he would sit on the verandah and sew buttons that weren’t missing onto his shirts, to create the impression that Mammachi neglected him. To some small degree he did succeed in further corroding Ayemenem’s view of working wives.
He bought the skyblue Plymouth from an old Englishman in Munnar. He became a familiar sight in Ayemenem, coasting importantly down the narrow road in his wide car, looking outwardly elegant but sweating freely inside his woollen suits. He wouldn’t allow Mammachi or anyone else in the family to use it, or even to sit in it. The Plymouth was Pappachi’s revenge.
UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT
1. Comment on the relationship shared by Mammachi and Pappachi.
2. How does Mammachi stand out as an independent and resilient woman in the text?
3. Why does John Ipe consider retirement to be a dishonour?
4. What was the underlying reason for John Ipe’s disgust with the world?
TALKING ABOUT THE TEXT
Discuss in pairs
1. Chacko’s firmness in dealing with the irrational behaviour of his father.
2. The contrast between the outward elegance of a person and his private behaviour.
3. Approval from the outside world and approval within the family.
1. How does the author succeed in raising crucial social issues not through open criticism but through subtle suggestion?
2. Within a few pages the author has packed the important events in the lives of John Ipe and his wife. Discuss how conciseness and economy of expression can achieve effective portrayal of entire lives.
3. Identify instances of ironical comment in the story.
Please refer to attached file for NCERT Class 11 English Elective Pappachi’s Moth