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The smell of the soil – Chapter 02

Chapter 02
Distribution of gifts and parting of property documents
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The moment Swamy enters the ‘restroom’, he is awestruck seeing a row of bright lamps, above a big mirror flooding the whole room with powerful light, and wonders why so many lamps for a bath cum toilet. Why such large mirrors not one but two, he asks himself. The glistening walls and wall to wall carpeted floor makes him wonder whether so much luxury was really necessary. “Devalokam aattama irukku (it is like heaven)” he coos.  The urge to eliminate the extra fluid surging, he postpones the survey of the interior and looks for a conventional toilet seat, which to his disappointment was not there. He settles for the ‘European’ seat, though he is uncomfortable to clear the bladder in a standing posture. And, alas, there was no provision to collect water from the tap!  Timely, Ramu knocks the door and passes on a plastic jug, through the gap of the partially opened doors. “May you live long my son”, blesses the old man.  Once the bladder pressure was relieved, his brains works better and Swamy notices, to his surprise that the partially carpeted floor has no water outlet. He circulates his eyes and finds a white porcelain bath tub and is relieved that he can stand inside the tub and shower. But how will Shyamu have her bath? She needs a stool to sit on. Will a stool fit inside the bath tub? Even if it does, won’t water spill outside and wet the floor? Moreover, the wall of the tub is more than a foot above the floor level. Will she be able to cross it without slipping? He surveys the commode again. Water has to be collected from the tap and while stretching the body there is every possibility of slipping or water spilling or both. With these problems, now he is convinced that the ‘restroom’ of Ramu is neither a room for rest nor a heaven as he evaluated at the first sight.
“Instant evaluation invariably fails” he consoles himself and quotes a Sanskrit verse to supplement that.
“Ramu, is there another bath room?” Subbu enquires and was relieved to know that two more are there, one in the basement and the other in the floor above. When he explained the problems he anticipated, Ramu suggested to use the one in the basement which has a cabin for shower, only a few inches above the ground level and with a flat base so that a stool can be comfortably placed inside. Ramya will keep a bucket of water with a jug near the commode and if necessary the carpet will be removed and water extracted by mopping and drying. A stool and a bucket will also be kept inside the shower chamber. Only problem is the stairs.
”You don’t worry about that,” Swamy assures his son,” I will hold Amma’s hand when she goes to the basement”
”Enna asambandam peasarael-what nonsense are you taking? “Shyamu chides her husband, from the kitchen,” I call you every time I want to go to toilet? ”
“Why do you quarrel on such trivial issue?” Ramu admonishes his parents.
“Trivial issue?” Swamy is yet to come out of the disturbed mood., “Bowl movement is the most important issue for elders like me and your mother; then comes sleep, then–”  ” food ”  Ramu completes with an indented  smile.
“No. then comes the feeling that we are wanted, we are yet to become disposable”. He affirms with all seriousness he can draw on his face, “the feeling those whom we loved even before they were born, have not deserted us when we are incapacitated. The anticipation that they will, when we are gone, miss us at least once a while and will unintentionally a warm drop will fall on the earth from their turbid eyes. That is the only ’tilodakam[1]‘ we expect and not an elaborate post mortal ritual.
Shyamu mami’s eyes become moist and she tries to wipe with the end of her sari. Swan watching keenly from a corner, comes closer and consoles consciously, convincingly though incoherently, “thathi, aszahathunkol, en car unkalukku tharaen- don’t weep, grand ma; I will give you my toy car”
“Appa, amma, you don’t know how much we love you ” Ramu and Ramya hug the parents again and again and the elated elders, unable to find suitable words to convey their appreciation and joy , thank profusely their family deity in blessing them with such a wonderful son and daughter in law.
“Nanna irunkol, kozhanthaikal–be happy my children,” they manage to utter, controlling their emotion.
“How considerate is[2] Appa” wonders Ramya,” even in the restroom he thinks bout Amma’s comforts. Will Ramu also be like his father, when we become old?”
Swan unaware of all this complication continues playing with his toy cars and trains and believes that those are the real ones.
Belief is a great gift the God has endowed us with.
Comfortably settled on the sofa, Swamy could not resist the temptation to ask, “how much did you pay for this?”  “Not much appa,” Ramu assures and adds, “it is on a loan.”
Ramu takes his parents around the interior of the house when the father asks the cost of the house, “it is really spacious”, he conveys his appreciation too. 
“It is on loan and will become my own after 20 years, Appa”.  The son clarifies as if it is not a big issue.
Swamy who had not availed a pie as loan though there was a provision for that in his service conditions, is amazed and sad to note that everything, his son possesses, is on loan.
 
 
There comes Swan not moving like a swan bird but rushing like a whirlwind.
“Cars, sofa, house, everything is on loan, is my grandchild too on loan?” The old man didn’t want to be so rude but his anguish pushes him to be so. The old people of my era and earlier ones hardly knew the knack of polishing their tongue, though they used a rib of coconut leaf for cleaning it in the morning every day. Words, as they emerge from the base of their heart, poured unfiltered, which may be unacceptable to the younger ones, as their unfiltered coffee too was. 
Ramu couple rightly takes his diatribe as a joke and responds with a smile,” no appa, he is our own”
 Shyamu asks her son to open the baggage and takes out laddu, murukku[3] cheedai and other snacks. “Ramu likes kaimurukku and vella cheedai’ she adds,” so I made them with my own hands” 
Ramu and Ramya are amazed at the packs of things coming out of the baggage the elders have brought – Variety of eatables,  dolls and curry powders, appliances for making different dishes like sevai, appam, vdam etc, a  small granite grinder with pestle and many other things. There was a small chendai (Percussion instrument) and a mini nadaswaram for the kid, grabbing which, the little devil created havoc in the house. Then comes a copper vessel containing the salagramam and other idols, with conch, bell, abhisheka patram and other auxiliaries for the daily panchayathana worship, from the cabin luggage.
Mami takes out a packet of clothes places that on a plate along with eleven one rupee coins and asks for akhshatai and kumkumam[4].  Ramu and Ramya prostrate before the elders and collect the gifts along with their blessings. The packet contained a neck tie, two sets of ornaments for neck, ears and wrist, all made of silver and a ready-to-wear panchgatcham and kurtha for the kid.
Ramya and Ramu are immensely pleased with those presents.
“There is little meaning in bringing saris which you seldom wears,” mami explains, “I took the help of the neighbor to choose the jewels. Hope you like them?” she asks..
“These are awesome ma”,  Ramya was still wondering how thoughtful the old lady was in selecting those fashion jewels.
“Swamy hands over another packet to his son.” This contains the documents related to our village house, which I constructed with great difficulty when my income was meager. Under no circumstances you should dispose it off. I know it has no utility value now as you will not be staying in it or even if you let it out, it may not fetch much. But your children and grand children should have something to claim as ancestral property. I didn’t have that, or my father.” 
“But why are you giving the documents to me now?” Ramu enquires.
“Not only the documents”, Swamy replied, handing over another packet, “this contains the key of the bank locker along with a list of the contents, which are your mother’s jewels. Another list is the small savings I have as bank deposits and in shares. Their value is not much but however small it is, that should come to you. All the jewels, pattu saries, silver, gold coins, vessels, whatever Ramya brought from her house,  have been handed over back to her father. I called him one day and asked him to take charge of them. It is not safe to keep those valuable with us.”
“That is fine Appa”,  Ramu intervenes, ” but, why the bank locker key and documents ? Planning to become a sanyasi? “
“I should be prepared to face the inevitable, any moment. And once I am out of the gate, this frail and faithful woman should not stay alone. I have absolute faith in you and Ramya that you will take care of your mother, if I quit first”
“The moment you saw your children, you started blabbering?”, Mami chides her husband again, “do you think I will allow you to go alone ? Haven’t I followed you like a shadow during the past fifty years?, mami asks and ask her husband to go to sleep.
“Yes, where do I wash my feet?  Get me the viboothi (holy ash) dabba. ”  Ramu lead him to the deck though it was cold, as he knew that his father would not be happy to wash his legs in the bathroom, before he reads ‘Adyadmaramayanam[5]‘ prior to sleeping.
Before going to bed Ramu, seeing the light on, enters his parents’ room, ” Appa, you haven’t slept yet?’ he enquires seeing Swamy sitting in deep thought.
“Not yet. Come and sit near me; call Ramya too. I saw her working in the kitchen moments ago”   
” Appa, you have come after a long journey of twenty four hours ” Ramu scans the room and makes sure that the heater, night lamp, pillows, comforts are all in the proper place, “tomorrow we will discuss; sleep now” 
“I admire your trust for a tomorrow for a man of my age ” Swamy was adamant, “let us talk now”
Swan came running asking his dad to put him to sleep. “Don’t make the child to cry; put him to sleep” Swamy insisted.
“So Appa, the moment you saw the kid crying, you are convinced that you have a tomorrow?” The son asks, a sparkle glowing in his eyes. “Poda madaya,” the father dismissed the junior with a proud statement, ” I have never allowed a tear drop to appear e in your eyes, when you were a kid”
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[1] Sesame seeds mixed with water offered to the departed souls, as part of a ritualr
[2]  Father.
[3] snacks
[4] Rice mixed with turmeric power and saffron. When youngsters prostrates before elders, akshtai is spread of their head as a mark of the blessings for them and saffron is applied on the forehead of women wishing then happy married life.
[5] Holy book of the Ramayanam story.
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