I remember with reverence some good women, who loved and cared me like their own child.
My mother’s eldest sister, our Periammai, stand on the top among those.
Parukutty Periammai, was with our family throughout my childhood. We were six kids and she spent the best of her life, helping my mother to bring us up, though she had her own small family in Vaikkom .
It was she who introduced me to Lord Vaikkathappan, with the famous devotional kids are taught to recite at dusk before the Sandhya deepam, lamp of worship:
നരനായിങ്ങനെ ജനിച്ചു ഭൂമിയിൽ
നരകവാരിധി നടുവിൽ ഞാൻ
നരകത്തിൽ നിന്ന് കര കേറ്റിടേണം
തിരു വൈയ്ക്കം വാഴും ശിവ ശംഭോ!
ശിവ ശംഭോ ശംഭോ ശിവ ശംഭോ ശംഭോ !
ശിവ ശംഭോ ശംഭോ ശിവ ശംഭോ ശംഭോ !
‘I’m born as a human in this world, which is nothing but a horrible sea of sufferings. Lift me up, from this hell, Vaikkathappa!’’
‘Hell, this world !!! How ??’, I used to wonder as a child, but when I grew up, knew the reason for her prayer out of dejection; she had lost ten babies in stillbirth or miscarriage and only the eleventh one survived who grew well, took care of her till her last breath. She had other reasons too to cry but was smiling often and laughing loudly.
“Vaikkathappan left behind a child to cremate my body and do my anthia kriyas! Why not I rejoice and enjoy life !’, was her reply for my query how she could be always happy despite many reverses in her life ?
She took me to Kanchi when I was a child. It was perhaps at the Chengalpet Jn, that two village women also waiting for the train like us, enquired Periammai how I was related to her .
She replied ‘en payyan than’ ( he is my son). That woman turning her face whispered to her companion,
‘thaayi karuppa irukka; payyan sevappa rasa vaattam irukku!!’
A charming son like a prince for a dark skinned
‘Her husband would have been handsome like a king,’ was the reply for that.
It was true. Her husband, Venkitachalam, was a six-footer, fair skinned , with a wide chest and long hands. He was a policeman, proud and short tempered .
The casual compliment of the village woman, on the Chengalpet Jn, however, got glued to my mind, stayed there for long and I believed that I was really ‘charming like a prince’.! That delusion was almost leading to a disaster when a heavenly intervention saved me.
This was what happened. I met and interviewed many girls to select a life partner bid didn’t find a single princess among them to match the charm of the prince viz.myself!
Time flew and my parents thought that I was destined to remain as a life long bachelor.
Periammai was so aggressively affectionate towards me that during one of my journeys towards Kerala, along with family, when I didn’t halt at Madras, she came to the Madras Railway station carrying a big mud vessel full of boiled and cooled waster! You know the length of the platforms and how difficult task it would have been for a woman of 50/60, to tread the long crowded platform , carrying a mud pot filled with water!
She stayed with me during my bachelor days at Hyderabad and became so popular among my friends that there was a big crowd to see her off at the Secunderabad Railway station
some women with moist eyes and some men with sad face as if they were seeing off their own relative for a distant journey.
I think it was her love and soothing words and helping attitude towards one and all, more than her conversation or story-telling skill or prescription of home remedies that made her so popular and dear to all my friends in a short period of a couple of months.