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Bye, Nair. 'kaanam' we'll meet – an obituary

E.P. Balakrishnan Nair, my bachelor room -mate and an ex-colleague passed away yesterday , I was sad to learn. We lived under the same roof , for ten years, along with a few  more  boys, all from Kerala and worked in the same  Research Institute, at Hyderabad. I named the house as ‘ Panchavady’, not because it was a hermitage or any such sort,  but we, the inmates were five in numbers. ‘ Vady’  is a stick, you know.  
Head to toe,  Balkrishnan was a typical Nair, in appearance, habits, belief, behavior everything . Hence, we called him ‘ Nair’ and not Balakrishnan or EP .  His standard attire, except while  on duty, was mudu or dothy with half- shirt, starched, snow-white.  His standard language, wherever he could manage, was his mother tongue.  I blinked for a minute when he asked once,’ Swamy, aa sippayi evadae? ‘ Read sippayi for peon . We had only Lab attendants, not peons, but Nair preferred to use the word ‘ sippayi’.
Nair was a ‘ sudhatma’ – you know what I mean ?’. a simple soul, plain-talking,  non interfering, straight forward in his dealing, unassuming etc.. 
He was very traditional, especially in maintaining the family discipline and upholding the family prestige. He was proud of his Keralam and in fact never bothered to know about other places in the world. I have several pleasant memories about my friend but let me narrate only one or two here:
One fine evening soon after returning from the Lab, he made a shocking  announcement: “My ammaman is coming next week and I want all of you to behave like respectful Malayalees, not your routine stuff, playing cards and exposing your ugly part . He is my tharavattu karnavar, head of my family, a strict disciplinarian and I revere him “.  Generally ammamans are arrogant autocrats as they have unbridled authority over the family property, men and cattle. We are not nasty, but could become naughty at times, like any other bachelors away from home. Nair’s warning was necessary and was  taken in good spirit.
Nair started cleaning the house, which was long due, arranging things in their place which was over due, the servant maid, cook, paper walla, trash collector every service man and woman was instructed to be in attention, during the sojourn of the senior Nair.
 ” No misbehaving till ‘avar’ returns”, Nair warned us again. ‘Avar’ was a super respective pronoun for ‘he, though  ‘Adheham’ would have been enough. 
“Sure, nair, you can take our word for that ” We all assured him individually and collectively.
The count down started; 5,4,3,2 and  1, ah, the Karnavar, arrived !
When Nair got down from the taxi and moved to a side, as a mark of respect, we were surprised and delighted to see an young man, smart and smiling, alighting from the vehicle and we could not believe our eyes and ears too, when Nair introduced his as ‘ ente ammaman, my uncle”.
The senior EP, elder to us by only a  few summers, was  a military man, full of life and mixed with us freely though when it came to his nephew, he kept his distance. We were relieved of tension. Everything would go well, we were confident. but that was not to be.
Our house was a zoo and  play ground for the children of the neighborhoods, as they had free entry . The front gate was always kept opened and  they used to collect  jasmine and rose flowers in the garden, obeying the orders of their mother or sister,  Seethafal and papaya fruits without any permission. On the previous day of ammaman’s vist , when a boy  created nuisance by climbing the trees, one among us,  Manual ( may his soul rest with Jesus though I had never heard him saying, ‘entae yeasovae ),  shouted, ‘poda nayintae monae’. That rascal  learned those two little filthy words  and the next day, when the respected guest was getting  out of our house along with his nephew, for a stroll, repeated  exactly the same  words without any phonetical error, standing at a distance and greeting them raising his hands. Obviously the little guy didn’t know the meaning of the words he uttered or realised the injury he inflicted on Nair’s prestige.
Nair became furious. We had never seen his so agitated and angry before. He gazed at the urchin, still standing at a distance and eyeballs fixed on him, shouted back, “nee poda nayintae monae=  you get lost,  the son of a bitch”.
The soldier was immensely happy and really proud of his nephew who could fight back with the same force and using the same brand  bullet. “Avanu athu venum- he deserves it”‘ the proud uncle praised Nair, patting his  back.
 Nair was fortunate to have Bharathi as his life partner, a woman of almost identical nature and qualities. I spent an hour with that family when I visited them in July this year, to invite for my sons’ wedding and later, another hour or so when they attneded the wedding reception, in pouring rains. I have ony those pleasant memories left with me now, when I bid my friend and room mate, adieu.
Bye Nair,  kanam- we’ll meet .  
Ocala, Florida,
Oct 30, 2012
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