Teacher’s whisper to my father, when he asked her to get inside and sleep, was ringing in my ears
” Take care of Charm. I can’t bear the sight of his drooping head and detached looks. His hair needs washing rather badly and some worries are pricking him from all around. I can read his face almost accurately “
Who is that ‘Charm’ ? Her son or a pet dog ? I should make a round tomorrow and find out who is that guy with drooping head and unwashed hairs .
The benevolent moon, like an affectionate mother, was covering the sky and earth with her cool embrace. I went to the garden and sat under the mango tree.
“You are already awake or you didn’t sleep at all ?” That was my mother. She came and sat close to me. I placed my head on her lap and tried to sleep. Soon my father and Sharda teacher also joined. They were followed by Athai, Ratnam and a few more. Lalitha too came but rushed back to report to her sister that my head was on the lap of my mother !
” Amma, sing ‘omana thingal kidavao ‘ I requested my mom. Set in Raga Neelambari, that unique poetic spring of Iriyamman Thambi, composed as a cradle song, specially for the baby who later became famous as Swathi Thirunal Maharaja, used to flow often into my soul, as a kid. Reminiscing my childhood, mother sang that lullaby in her own inimitable style.The moon and stars, clouds and winds enjoyed that melody. A few other elder ladies too joined mom. They sang for their children, small or grownup, married or unmarried, present in the adjacent marriage hall or in far away lands, contended with the delusion that the children were lying on their laps.
Even a mother lying in a hospital bed will try to fold her hands to hold her child close to her chest, when she longs for the child, might be oceans away.
Whenever some small functions or poojas take place at home, my mother used to peer through the front door to see whether one of her children, was coming to participate in the function though she knew that none would be going from their distant places of work. Recently my son- in- law landed unannounced, one early morning to attend the shastiyabdha poorthy celebration of his father .
He wanted to give them a surprise, the best birthday present. His mom too, perhaps, was looking at the front gate though she never knew her son’s plan. All mothers are same, in their affection their towards children.
The melody flowing from the garden awoke some male members too. Chamipattar was one among them. He looked highly disturbed. He wanted to sing but probably he could not. He approached my mother with folding hands and begged her in a pathetic tone , ” have mercy one me, Manni. Please sing the other composition of Iriamman Thampi ‘ Karuna chaivan enthu thamasam Krishna’ . I could not sing that song when my Unni (son) asked for that , from his death bed.. I see him now waiting behind the clouds, high above . My throat is parched like my heart and I cannot sing ”
Wiping the tears wetting his cheek, he continued,” let me seek the mercy of the God for my sins. I have washed my heart with my tears and it is now fit to receive His lotus feet.”
My mother, sadly, was not in a position to oblige him, as she herself had lost her first child . Though it was long time back, the incident itched in her heart by a diamond-pointed pencil, was permanently there and the wound burst open now seeing the sad condition of Pattar, who unintentionally stepped into the minds of my parents . They looked at each other with moist eyes. Mother got up and stood near my dad, silently, motionless. She wanted to be as close to him as possible and perhaps wanted to hug him and hold him firm as if to protect him from a monster, nearing to grab . In fact, they too wanted to hear,’Karuna chaivan’ as Pattar aspired for.
That song in Anandhabairavi, is a soul-stirring appeal to Sree Krishnan of Guruvayoor, “You shower your mercy on all, who seeks refuge in your lotus feet. Then, why this delay, only in my case ?”
Athai who was aware of the family history of all those assembled there, signaled her niece Ratnam, to sing.
Like a house- wife entering the pooja room, after morning bath, with a saffron dot on her forehead and a bright brass lamp in her hand, the dawn entered the garden with a golden bowl in her hand. The rising sun, cold breeze, chirping and cooing birds and blossoming flowers provided an ideal ambiance for the devotional melody. It flew cooling, comforting, purifying every heart .Almost everyone assembled there longed for the mercy of the Lord.
A few of course, longed for the morning coffee and wondered why the service was delayed.
The melody filled the air. When Ratnam sang the padam, ‘marakada manivrnan’, it reached its crescendo and the trembling hands of Chamipattar, tried in vain, to reach those of Sharada teacher. His sobbing suddenly ceased, he became still as in a photo for a few minutes and suddenly collapsed. Like a dry palm tree, devoid of leaves, fruits and flowers, when pattar lay motionless on the garden floor, Sharada teacher, who was standing close by, moved towards him and Ammu, rushed and sat near them.
” Move away, all of you, please” Athai shouted instantaneously and turning towards Teacher, commanded with an air of authority and finality,
“Sharade! Console him. Give him what you could not so far, during your journey, at least now, when he is approaching the end of his road”. Without waiting for anyone’s reaction, she called her brother P.M.S and ordered, ” Konthai , call Dr.Variar. He should be here in ten minutes. And be prepared for any eventuality.” Then, she turned towards Ammu and said, “take care of your father”
I was shell-shocked. I couldn’t stand the speed with which the events took place and importance of the message it conveyed.
Extra marital relationship between the insipid, introvert, irritating, irrational Chamipattar and the cultured, refined and majestic Sharada teacher? And Ammu, their daughter? I couldn’t believe, but truth doesn’t care for recognition.
The doctor arrived and examined Pattar, solicited answers for a few questions from the family members and remarked, “seems ,nothing but a mental breakdown and there is no need to shift him to the hospital now. But keep a watch. Let the wedding function be over”
Now, Athai turned her attention towards Chamipattar’s legal wife and consoled her, “Baghyam, treat Sharada as your elder sister and give her due respect and a lot of love. Chami couldn’t give her either; Don’t ill-treat your husband too. He had little role in the events, which ruined the life of everyone in the family. Let him rest; we will discuss the rest, after the wedding”
Baghyam mami sobbed. It was difficult to make out whether the reason for that was her husband’s illness or his just revealed illicit relationship with another woman.
The wiser women just cooed ‘oh,’ to say, “ these are not uncommon with men “
For men, it was not a topic for discussion at all- because they were all gentlemen!.
Thus ended, eventfully, my first night at T’puram and simultaneously commenced the most important day of my life.