The Open Dosa

Consuming the Ordinary Differently

What ‘Chello’ said to me

Two weeks ago, my mother told me that a lizard had been following me everywhere. At first, I was amazed at how mean she was being, terrifying me like that given that she knows how repulsed I am by the reptile.

My first encounter with the dirty, slimy thing was three years ago. Its eyes looked like someone stuck two mustard seeds on its face. The thing had fallen on me while I was crossing the hall in my grandfather’s home. I have always been proud of how I never screamed like other girls but that day I screamed and the uncle that I like the least burst out laughing, saying “Girls will be girls.”

Last week, while I was telling my mother that my ex-boyfriend is extremely selfish, she laughed out loud. “Look at that! It’s there everywhere you are. I come to talk to you in your room and it’s there. Now, it’s here. Pudhiya oru follower kittiyo?” she teased. (Did you get a new follower?) I looked behind me and I saw it pressed against the tube light in our hall. I panicked and jumped across the sofa and sat next to my mother.  The scrawny and scaled thing was staring intently at a mosquito. I’ve always wanted to be the evil mastermind who orchestrates behind the scenes, matching up two of my enemies against each other. It felt really satisfying to watch the lizard desperately follow the mosquito dancing around the tube light.

The next day, I was confused about whether or not to text my ex-boyfriend. I saw the lizard and asked, “ninakku vere pani onnum ille?” (Don’t you have any other work?) It made its usual “Tsch! Tsch!” and stared at me. It’s always weird and uncomfortable when someone continuously stares at you but it’s weirder and scarier when a lizard stares at you. I looked down into my phone and tried to push the lizard off of my mind by thinking about the ex. It was successful, in fact so successful that I decided I might as well text him. I started typing out the message and suddenly the lizard said “Tsch!” “Tsch!”. I stared at it. It made the sound again. So I cancelled the message and looked back at the lizard. It looked like it nodded at me, and that’s when the lizard became Chello to me.


Not long ago, I had read an interesting story on lizards. It was ‘Goulishastram by Paul Zacharia. In the beginning, the protagonist took the lizard’s help to do the most mundane things. Towards the end however, he couldn’t figure out what it had told him. I hoped I wasn’t as stupid as that protagonist though.

Over the next few days, every time I tried texting my ex, Chello told me not to, and I didn’t. When I decided that I should cut my hair, and told my mother that I was going to, Chello made a sound and I thought it was just a random one that he makes sometimes. I ignored him and when I reached halfway to the salon, it began raining very heavily. There was no indication as to it raining anywhere in the city—it was a sunny day. It still was but it was raining too. I returned home completely drenched.

My mother and sister burst out laughing at my drenched, miserable form. I ignored them and walked across to my room when I heard Chello. I whirled around and stared at him. I had ignored him earlier and I realised he knew how the weather was going to be and was trying to save me from trouble. I felt terribly guilty and I vowed I’d always listen to him.

The next day when I decided to get my hair cut Chello told me to wait. So I waited. It rained. I smiled. I decided I should check my weight. I’d been exercising ever since I’d broken up with my boyfriend. It’s been two months now. I wanted to know how much weight I’d lost. My dad kept worrying and saying my cheeks had gone in and that I looked starved. I waved his compliment off. I wanted to know myself. I winked at Chello.

He made his sound. I checked my weight. I’d lost only four kilos. I was depressed. All that dieting, sacrificing and exercising and only four kilos!. I looked angrily at Chello for telling me to go ahead and then suddenly realised that he may have actually told me not to and I’d misinterpreted it. I felt bad and I apologised.

Two days later, I had an exam to write and Chello ‘tsched’ me. I wondered why but I was already late. While in the washroom after the exam, I’d forgotten my phone on the slab close to the mirror. I came back home, depressed. I looked at Chello, and thanked him. “I’m sorry”, “I should’ve been more careful.” Then, I lay down on the cold floor of the living room and cried. I cried and cried until an hour before my parents came home. I smiled at them, made tea, and went and listened to music till I fell asleep.

The next day, I sat out in the balcony and stared at the eucalyptus trees whirling in the harsh wind. I looked at all the bikes and cars passing on the main road. I got up, looked down at the ground and wondered how far down the ground was. If I jumped, would I only break my bones or would I be dead? At the back of my mind, I waited for Chello to make a sound. I didn’t hear any.

I took a chair and kept it against the wall. I climbed on top of the chair and the ground looked further away. Chello never made a sound. I looked back at the living room. I couldn’t find him. I set one foot over the railing. My heart was beating loudly. I prayed that Chello would come. He didn’t.

That evening, my father said: “There is just too much nuisance in the house with these lizards. I killed two last night.” He looked very proud. “You hate lizards, don’t you?” he asked me.


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Ridhu Elizabeth

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1 Comment

  1. Sujit Sudarsan 20th January 2022

    It’s beautiful. Keep up the excellent work.

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