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The tragedy stricken Kumbalakodans

Mother was upset when learned about my job transfer to Hyderabad.
“No, you are not going” she was assertive,”anywhere in Kerala, yes. Coimbatore or Chennai, where we have relatives, too is acceptable. Not a mile beyond that”
Father’s reaction was not immediately known. “Get my chellapetty,” he asked mother to get his betel leaf casket, sat in a corner, enjoyed his chew and asked for my opinion, looking firmly into my eyes.
“I want to go, Appa” I told him,”the Institute is expanding and I expect a bright future. I can convince mother”
Appa didn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. He put on his usual white half shirt, called Sulaiman, his horse- cart driver cum attendant and drove to consult a friend, a physician familiar with WHO and UNICEF projects.
“The Doctor said, ‘ don’t block his way. He will prosper’, said my father, on return.
“Didn’t I leave my mother alone at half his age?” He asked mother. “Andhra is a good place. I have travelled extensively. The Telugu people are good, the land is fertile, climate favorable and konthai ( me ) won’t have have any problem for food or accommodation in his new place”
“Didn’t I leave my mother alone at half his age ?” Yes he did. There was no option left for him and that was a turning point in our family fortunes.
My forbears were known as Kumbalakodans, after the palatial farm house besides a vast area of agriculture land owned by our family, in a village called Kumbalakode near Alathur, in Palakkad, Kerala. To demonstrate how such an ocean of wealth became a desert, father used to fill a vessel with a whole in the bottom. and pour water in it.
“This was what happened to our family assets,” he used to mention. ” With no replenishment and only draining, the vessel got emptied” The liberal minded forebears spent lavishly, for weddings or any major or minor celebrations in the family, in the village, for temple festivals, for Pooja’s accompanied by large scale feedings- all good causes undoubtedly, but they never realized their wealth shrinking. The males with academic qualification found it below their status to work under someone. All of them were trained in scriptures, but they imparted their knowledge to others or conducted worships for others , free of cost or for a nominal sum. Earning money was not in their thoughts at all . Rice, cereals, vegetables, fruits, milk and all other essential items were provided from their farms . Requirement of clothes was minimum and that too came as gift from the houses where Poojas were conducted under the guidance of the elders in the family. What was the need for money?
This was going on for years together.
The Kumbalakode lake didn’t go dry in an year or two. There was continuous depletion
with no recharge. That was in fact the case of many Brahmin families, those days. They had no intention to save for the fortune . The false prestige that they were above other castes prevented them to seek work under others nor they were prepared to work hard in their own ventures. There were, of course, a few exceptions and they did well in professions or trade. Some brilliant children came up well in Government service. ‘Live a pious, honest life, harming none, do the daily religious rites and God will take care of us’ – that was the general attitude. Only those who didn’t have any means to survive went after petty jobs or business.
The financial status of my family was at its nadir when my father was born. His birth star was Hastham. That was not good for the father of the boy, warned the superstitious villagers. May be a coincidence, my grandfather didn’t live long . I too was born in the same star, but my father lived long and so am, I still alive with a son of the same star.
AmAvAsya, completely dark night, can’t be far when the waning of the moon had started. Kumbalakodan farm house and agriculture fields were completely lost.
My grand parents and their two sons had no place to go. The two daughters of the family, were fortunately married off and happily settled elsewhere. It was below their prestige to seek asylum in – laws’ houses.
My grand father’s younger brother, Ramanathan had a small house, by the Krishnaswamy Temple in Perinkulam South village. Unmarried, he was surviving on a small income, by doing some sundry jobs.
“Manni ( sister in law), you are not homeless” he invited my grand mother to stay in his house. The house was made of clay with only matted leaf roof, but there was plenty of open space behind. There was no well and water had to be carried from the well in the street corner. But it was a shelter, for the homeless, which my grand mother converted into a home fit enough to receive her would be daughter in law.
The torrential rains have since washed the house off but we are preserving the land as a valuable inheritance from our elders.
Father learned Scriptures from an elder in the village, but he was not interested in becoming a priest. He attended elementary school but found the classroom gloomy, lifeless. His concentration was on playing and swimming in the village ponds. He was tall, well built with a wide chest and long hands and had abundant energy, wits and will power.
Tragedy, like a dark panther behind a bush, was waiting to strike the family.
My grand father, expired on a Sravana Pournami day, soon after returning from a Namboodiri friend’s house, who had invited him for food and a small gift , as a mark of respect . My father’s elder brother, who returned after completing his Vedic studies, too passed away, due to some minor ailments. He was the only hope to redeem the family from its fallen state. The cup of woe was overflowing.

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