You know who my latest Facebook friend is? A great grand daughter of my aunt or great grand niece of my father! Her cousin, a teenager is already in my Family group. The fifth generation descendants of my grand mother are here with me, to comment on what I post !
How proud I am ! How prudent should I be in selecting my words and pictures!
When my great grand niece, soon after joining my group yesterday, made a comment addressing me as ‘mama’, I remembered her grandfather , my Ambikuttan Athan, who used to call my father, ‘Mama’, who was indeed the genuine mama or maternal uncle fit for that appellation. The uncle and nephew, were more like friends.
Athan happened to stay in our Olavakkode house for a short period, when I was a kid. I vividly remember his coaxing, cajoling, begging and pleading and then mildly threatening me to consume curd or butter milk mixed rice, as I had an aversion for that, then.
Seated close to me, he used to pat on my back and request,
“Muthanna! ( that was how he used to address me, as I was the eldest living son for my parents and he alone had that let name for me ), if you don’t conclude your meal eating rice mixed with butter milk, you won’t grow big; you won’t have good digestion. Your stomach will get upset and with that, we all will get upset”
Once, twice, thrice he used to speak in such soft language and when my adamancy remain undiluted, he used to take out his weapon:
“I will be forced to feed you castor oil or kudukkai kazhayam( a home made Ayurvedic preparation from yellow Myrobalan)”
The moment I heard the names of those two liquids I hated most, I used to devour the food on my leaf and look around to see whether some more was available!
One day, during my college days, I remembered Athan and with Appa’s permission went to meet him in his house in Puducode. I was shocked to see him a totally changed man. He had lost his eye sight, which drained his self confidence, though outwardly, he pretended to be as strong as he was before. He compelled me to stay overnight . I hadn’t carried an extra pair of clothes and therefore, wanted to return the same evening. “No way. Stay” he ordered and I obeyed.
Early morning next day, when I returned after bath, he pulled out from his cupboard a new dothy and asked me to wear it. I didn’t accept the offer. I can’t say now why I did so. I just cannot say and I’m terribly ashamed of my conduct. Whether it was Appa’s general instruction not to accept anything from others or was it my false prestige as a college student, which stood in my way ? Whatever it was, there was no justification for my rejecting that friendly offer from a close relative, whom I knew from my childhood and who cared for me. You don’t know how young minds work!
He coaxed, cajoled, begged, pleaded me to accept that white sheet of cloth, what we call double veshti, but I didn’t yield to his affectionate appeals.
I returned home, wearing my own clothes and didn’t have the courage to tell Appa about Athan’s offer and my refusal.
Once back home, I looked back and imagined how badly I wounded the feelings of a loving old man.
When I thought for a moment that there was a possibility of his attributing my behavior to the economic disparity of the two families, I wept in silence.
One day, a message came asking Appa to rush to Puthucode.
Athan was ill and he was refusing to take his medicines.
“Have your medicines, Ambikutta,” Appa asked him. Like an obedient child, he opened his mouth into which my father poured a few drops of the prescribed medicine.
Ambikuttan Athan, who coxed, cajoled, begged, pleaded me to eat, when I was a child
And did all those again, purely out of unalloyed affection much later for a different purpose, was no more, leaving no chance for me to apologize for my inhuman action.
I have spent later, several hours, repenting over that event. Even today, when his grand daughter addressed me, ‘mama’, in her comments, I hanged my head in shame, reminiscing, my father’s nephew’s affectionate appeal and my rejection of his extended hands of love and compassion,
Would I have yielded, had he threatened me with a dose of castor oil or Kadukkai kazhAyam? I doubt. I was no more a kid ; I was a teenager, a proud college student.
Hell with my growth and student status!
One more starred item irrevocably added to my ‘List of Regrets’ in life.