Human, animals, birds, fish, insects – all migrate, for various reasons.
My first migration was on the shoulders of my father, when I was a baby of six months.
By walk or bullock cart drive, he lifted me from Perinkulam to PAlakkAd,. My second
Migration was around December 15th, in the year 1959, when I left for Hyderabad, to report for duty at NIN, on the wind -up of our Trichur Unit, where I had joined a WHO project, some six months earlier. Our Institute, till then, part of the Pasteur Institute building, Conoor, was to have its own building, a much bigger set up, in a 36 acres of land, in the Osmania University premises. That was 55 years ago, when I was 23 years old .
Earlier to that, I had never travelled beyond Madras, the present Chennai. None in our family visualized then, that my migration to Hyderabad was another landmark as that of my father’s, heralding a series of such transplantations later.
In due course, my two sisters too joined me at Hyderabad, got employed and established their families. Me and my siblings would not have had the quality of education we had at Palakkad, had our father not migrated and established a successful business. So were our offspring, had I not shifted to Hyderabad and lived among scientists and academicians.
When I landed at Secunderabad Railway Station on a foggy morning, with an iron trunk, bedroll called hold-all and cash of Rs. 500.00, there was another young man along with me, C,M.Jacob from Trichur, taller than me and lesser talking, my colleague.. Our friendship still continues happily. After retirement, He is settled in a flat in his hometown and I never miss meeting him during my Kerala trips.
Jacob and me, hired a room, in the first hotel we could view, opposite to the Railway station. It was owned and maintained by a PAlakkAd Iyer. Food was OK but nights were nightmares due to the incessant invasion of bed bugs. Not one or two, in hundreds, they attacked us. Not interested in shedding our valuable young blood for no valid cause, we started searching for houses or apartments. One of our senior colleagues, Sri.K.S.Ramanathan, who too was searching for a house, was kind enough to help us. Someone had told him that, in the villages around our Institute, Brahmins were given priority in allotment and bachelor’s were at the bottom of the list.
Three of us, after the office hours, started hunting for house, around our workplace. Ramanathan Sir, pulling out his sacred thread through the shirt opening, holding it in his right hand, used to stand before the house gates and shout, ‘Brahmman, illu unthaa?’- we are Brahmins. House available( for rent)?
I vividly see before my mind’s eye, KSR’s posture with one leg to the front, projecting a part of the sacred thread high in his fingers and our waiting behind him awaiting a positive reply from the prospective house owner.
Kalpathy Ramanatha iyer was a simple and humble man. His eldest son Mani, took me to Kothagudam coal mines, on his official trip and from there to the famous Badrachalam Temple. I remember that good friend at times, when I sing Ramdas krities. He died young driving his family and us, in deep sorrow.
His younger brother K.R.Balasubramanian was my college. Balu, now happily settled at Hyderabad, like his father and siblings, has acquired the good qualities of the Kalpathy soil.
Coming back to our house hunt, within a week or so, we were able to get on rent a house for us and one for KSR too, not far from our workplace. Our house, in a village called Seethafalmandi, behind our Institute, was spacious and therefore, we could accommodate three more colleagues, all Keralites from our Conoor office, Chandrasekharan, Balakrishnan Nair and C.M. Manual.. I named our bachelor quarter as Panchavadi, only to match the number of occupants, not in any to remember the forest dwelling of the great Rama. Panchavadi, soon became popular among children, as we allowed them free access to our house and play in the front garden. Our major assets were five steel trunks, five coir cots with bamboo frames which resembled the palanquins of poor people carrying them in their last journey and a few aluminum vessels. The minor assets were, we, ourselves, who never bothered about our future. During summer months, we pulled out the light -weight cots outside and slept facing the stars. We had a cook, Govindan Nair, who made breakfast and lunch for us. For night meal, we used to walk to the Taj Hotel in the city, 5/6 km away. That twelve km walk daily, contributed for the present strength and steadiness of my legs.
Of my room mates, Manual left for Bombay when he got a job with the Air India. In his place, we added Artist Dharamdathan, who later immortalized Guruvayoor Kesavan, by giving a shape to the famous pachyderm’s fame. Yes, the elephant statue, you see in Guruvayoor was sculptured by our friend. Also, the Yakshi at the Malampuzha dam.
When Dathan left, Balakrishnan’s brother, Ramachandran joined us.
I lived in ‘Panchavadi’ for nearly ten years and left that friendly surroundings with a heavy heart to occupy a lovely flat in the premises of our Institute. Manual, Dathan and Nair have left us for another rented or own house, in another world, name I don’t know. Jacob remains unmarried and slowly walks down to the nearest hotel for lunch and
Dinner. He has stopped smoking consequent to the strict warning from his doctor to stop smoking or get get smoked. Soft spoken, cool- headed Jacob ( Chakku for me ) still continues to be a gentleman, despite remaining a bachelor.
In the picture clicked on the eve of our leaving Trichur, posted below, I’m in the center with a neck-tie. To my left, Jacob, to my write Lonappan, one of our Trichur drivers, who too came to Hyderabad but left soon. Don’t know where he is now, in Kerala or with his Father in Heaven.
Mrs. Padma Ganapathy, Dr. Swaminathan and Dr. Ganapathy are seen seated in the front, though their faces are not clearly visible in the photo. Late Dr. Ganapathy, rendered remarkable service in the field of leprosy. His contribution to the cause of lepers, was recognized by the nation through a Padma Award, Dr. Swaminathan lives in USA, with his daughters.
There were nearly a dozen more staff in Trichur, out of which I know about the whereabouts of only one friend, Balan.
Many of my former colleagues have passed away, half a dozen recently. Death was a fearsome monster for me earlier. No more now. One more transplantation- that is how I feel about it now.
Will there be a problem for me to get a home on rent, when I go there?
Who knows the same Ramanathan Sir, won’t come to my help and shout standing at the front gates of houses,’Brahmman, illu untha?
But will he have a sacred thread to pull out from the shirt gap and project on his finger?
It is a silly doubt. But that is the only doubt I have about the life -after.
I see you smiling. But I can tell you, lucky are those who have only such silly doubts about the unknown region of the afterlife. Think of the plight of a friend of mine, who returned after hearing Garuda Puranam discourse and lost sleep fearing what would be his fate, after death, if he slips and falls into the Vaitharani River, while crossing it, holding the tail of a bull calf!