With my sister’s family in Vancouver
” I am wearing the pearl chain 2day, which u gifted for my wedding. hope u remember ?
That is my cousin’s daughter, through a mail, which I opened early morning today.
How can I forget your wedding, my child ? That was organised by your husband without any support or guidance or participation of his parents who were against your marriage . The plus point that you were known to them from your childhood did not overtake the Iyer-Iyengar difference, though without much delay, the disparity matter silently got submerged by the parental love, happily for all.
I have a habit of accumulating gift times as my family is big, my friend- circle is big. Jewels, brass lamps, paintings, books or any ornamental or useful items, not very expensive, I gather and stock. Whenever I meet my relatives or friends , being the eldest in the family, I give some gifts. However small those might be. they cherish the gifts even later, as this girl has, after several years or as my sister did when I met her recently in Vancouver. The day I went there, being Karthikai, I gave her some cash, as her elder brother, a practice still in vogue in our families, when the deepams, lamps are ignited by sisters praying for the welfare of their brothers. Last time, I gave the cash was several years before and she was, therefore,excited beyond words when I placed a few notes on her wrinkled palms this year. Next morning, she came close to me and with the excitement and enthusiasm of a child, wearing new uniform on the school reopening day, showed me the sari she was wearing and asked me, ” do you know which sari, this is ? You gifted this on my wedding day. You came to Bombay unannounced and when I woke up, appeared from a corner where you were hiding and placed this in my hands with your blessings.”
AS I mentioned earlier,small, small gestures give big happiness, if those are soaked in affection and unselfishness.
Last time when I went to Kalpathi for the car festival, I bought a dozen small drums with a handle and two strings attached to the sides, for distributing to kids. In fact, I wanted to buy big drums but how to bring them to USA ? When I presented those to my grand children, oh, you must watch the happiness and thrill in their small sweet faces ! The scores of dolls dumped in their little stores suddenly became useless and the whole house reverberated with the ‘tab,tab’ noise made by those little ten rupee worth imps! Ten Rupee could buy a ton of happiness !
There are some sad stories too, related to gift giving and taking..
When my second sister’s wedding was conducted at our ancestral house , I had invited my school teachers. One elementary school teacher called me aside and asked for five Rupees. I thought it was for his return trip or petty purchases and gave him fifty Rupees.
“Ithu kayyil irikkattae, masterae-sir, keep this with you” I said. “Ithrayonnum venta, anchu uruppikamathi-I want only five rupees ” he said and collected only a five rupee note from me.
He handed over that note to my sister, placed his hand on her head and blessed,” nannai varattae- may good things happen !”
Before the couple left, I asked them to visit the teacher’s house and distribute some money to his children.
The word ‘athan’ in the above post catapults up some sad memory in me .,
I had just completed my SSLC exam, when I went to meet my Ambikkuttan athan, dad’s nephew, who was then living in our house in Perinkulam. He used to visit us often, during my childhood days, sit near me, transfer stories into my ears and simultaneously food into my mouth. While working in Bombay, he lost his first son and subsequently his eye sight too. I spent a night with him when he recollected our family events, right from his grand father’s time and narrated to me, as if he was redoing the earlier exercise. Next morning, when I was about to leave, he noticed that I didn’t have a cloth to change.
He picked up from his wardrobe a new dothi, plain, single, unbleached piece and offered to me. ” It is OK, athan, the one I am wearing is clean. I will change it after going home ” I replied. He requested, begged, pleaded. The juvenile pride or whatever you want to call it, did not allow me to accept that offer, whole-heartedly made by an aged, close relative, from whose hands I had eaten food..
After a few years Athan passed away. My father was near him then. Appa had to cremate his nephew as Athan’s children could not arrive in time.
”Athan was praising you a few hours before he breathed his last” Appa told me on his return. He said, ” I am proud of Muthanna
( that was his pet name for me ). He will never accept any favour from anyone under any circumstances”
I did not take it as a complement. I considered it as a lament of a sorrowful soul on its last journey. You know why. By then I had realized that the reason for my rejection could have been misunderstood by athan, as his in-affordability then, though I never had that in my mind when I said ‘no’ to him.
I wept inconsolably. “what happened ?” Appa inquired. “poor Athan” that was all my reply. I didn’t have the courage to tell him the dothi story.
Appa is no more, Athan is no more. I have now unloaded the dead albatross from my neck , thanks to Bhuvana’s ” I am wearing the pearl chain 2day,—–“
Love and regards,
from Ocala, Florida
Jan 5, 2012