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Mother Day musings Two


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. 

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I miss the woman who never missed me


‘We missed you’, said my good hearted close friends, when I returned to FB after a break. 

My memory goes back. 

The one person whose love for me was unquestionable, never uttered the  words – ‘I missed you’

‘Where is the question of missing your absence ? You’re always with me’- she used to dismiss my concern. 

Once, on office work I was away from home for two days . Soon after returning , I asked her, hoping for a reply which I  longed for, ‘did you miss me?’

‘Did you miss me ?’, she asked. That was a mild electric shock for me.  She never questioned me. 

Hardly I had  time to think about my family, when I was on work and I never told her a lie, never. 

I changed the topic and enquired, ‘did you see my wallet ?There was a lot of cash in it’. 

‘Your missed was your wallet! Yes, I found it under your pillow. There was Rs. 7and 30 paisa in it’

‘It is ok. keep it for your household expenses’.  

As no reply came from her appreciating my generous monetary support, I looked at the window curtains, pretending to enjoy their curves. 

‘Shall I change the curtains?’, she asked.

‘No need for another 20 years’, I was certain. 

‘As you wish. Have your coffee’

While I was enjoying the hot decoction kaappy from a brass tumbler in the selected company of crisp pokkoda, she sat near me and said,

‘I have absolutely no complaint on your not remembering me while on tour. All husbands are like you, once they’re immersed in their work. Women, on the other hand, by nature, never  forget their partners however busy they’re , especially while having their food or when they see a good sari’

‘When they see a good sari?’, I intervened, ‘ These days, wives do their own shopping’. 

‘You won’t understand the feelings of a woman when her husband selects and buys a dress for her’. 

A couple of years later, during our journey to Kerala, our train stopped at Erode junction for about 20 minutes. 

‘Tirupur bedsheets and banians  are sold in the stalls here’, she suggested. ‘Why don’t you buy half a dozen banians for you?’

I went and returned with a good cotton sari for her. She didn’t say a word, but her eyes turned moist. 

Later, I have crossed the Erode station, alone, many times. Not once did I get down the train.  

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Fathers Day musing


He taught me life. An ideal teacher, who made his own life or mansion, from a scratch.

Of all his practical lessons, the most important one I learned  was the affection and respect he gave to his mother, who was in her late 80s when I saw her, as a child. After closing his shop at around nine at night and finishing his bath and worship,  before going for his dinner, he used to spend some time with his mother, first making sure that her bed was comfortable, she had her food in time, her warm water flask was close by and other little, little comforts, which my mother would have already provided. He used to give her a short summary of what went on in the shop, from morning to evening, including presenting an abridged income and expenditure statement, for which there was no need and it was purely to give a feeling to the mother, that her son gave  her so much importance. 

Now, when when my sons spend a few minutes with me before going to bed, after a hectic day schedule, or when my daughter in laws and daughter treat me as if their prime duty is to take care of me  and not their children, I gratefully remember that tall man, with a wide chest, whom I called Appa, who left home in his very early days to earn and take care of his mother. He was her only support, having lost her husband and also a son.

He was semi educated but he ensured that his children were educated but for which our children won’t be what they are today. 

His common sense, will power, amazing conversation skill and witty talk and above all his gambheeryam and personal charm, none of his children could acquire. But, to face difficulties with calm, we have an inherited ability. 

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Anantha Jyothy’, my Habsiguda house


‘Anantha Jyothy’, my Habsiguda house – takes birth. Bhoomipooja, nearly four decades ago, in the presence of my mother, who was fortunately available at Hyderabad then. She did stay for short periods in this house later, but my father did not, though I was happy that he lived to see the completion of the house to comment ‘a hundred people can be served food at a time, in your two halls, Konthai!’. (The old people always thought about serving food to others! )

Earlier, when he came to see the vacant land, the approach roads were not good as the housing colony was just taking shape. He had to pass through a water -clogged patch when he commented: ‘ to reach your house, I have to swim or fly’.

Swimming was no problem for him and I would have brought him by a helicopter, if necessary, but he passed away before I could shift to my house. That house, though a Nalukettu, a big one, didn’t have modern facilities but my parents preferred to continue to stay there. To reach the bathroom and toilet, they had to carry an umbrella during rains, but that was not a problem for them- for us too when we were children. When I went during holidays, I saw a snake happily crawling over my sisters when they were sleeping on a veranda with openings to the backyard! But for them, that house was Swargam , paradise, as my mother used to claim proudly!

I say the same now, to my children !

As my son Atchu said, ‘it is not the walls and doors that make the house, but the memories and sentiments surrounding it’

My children are aware of my sentiments but they insist on my staying with them, considering my age and health aspects. Let me hold on here, as long as I can!

But how long?

The lady with dark glasses in the foto is Dr. Malathy Damodaranmy, daughter of EMS Nambudiripad.
Dr. Malathy was my college at NIN. Damodarans were my neighbors in the NIN campus too and we chose the neighboring plots hoping to live close by. It didn’t happen.

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you’re a Sundarakuttan



Almost all oldies, except me and including my brother Vicha, feel that they have all the problems under the sky but unrecognized or underestimated by others.

Early morning today, he neighed from his bed, ‘Anna, odivaa, come rushing!’

‘Enna aatchu Vicha! Are you still on the plain or flying up?,’ I enquired and went to him.

‘Press, press, here, one inch above, not there -two inches
below, just to the right, no to the left, a bit below’

I massaged applying the balm Megh had brought.

‘Chukku vellam !’ Medicated water, he wanted.

I gave him that.

‘Kaapi!,’ he ordered. I made him hot coffee.

He enjoyed the coffee and remarked:.

‘You don’t realize my struggles. You have a habit of taking everything light!😔’

‘Fool! I take everything light, that is why I’m here to press your back, foregoing my luxurious of living with my children’

He couldn’t have heard. Still he laughed! I love this old man born two years after me. He is a SudhAtma. A pure soul.

Real fun enjoying his company. What do the children know about my exciting life here? They feel Appa is struggling. ‘Don’t go near the stove’, warns Sarath. How can I avoid that, though there is a part time cook.
‘Appa, don’t walk to Habsiguda,’ warns Megh. How can I avoid that. Aparna, Atchu and through face time, whether my eyes, ears, hands and legs are safe in their respective places. They are my children. I’m fit like a fiddle.

Vicha’s back pain will vanish soon. Then, he will start singing Pattanathar and KalyAnasouganthikam kathakali songs. I too will join him. That will be real fun, for both. Not for our neighbors as they are not deaf, partially or fully, like us!

I sang for him an instant multilingual composition:

‘You’re a Sundarakuttan ( handsome boy)
Don’t trouble this ‘chettan’ (elder brother)
You are a Sundarakuttan!

Vicha, no more are you a ‘batcha'(child)
Though your health not ‘atcha'(good)
See how the world is ‘patcha’ ( green)!

You’re a Sundarakuttan!
Your shirt shines, but no button!
‘Athee!’ ( my god!) goes down your dothi,
Man you’re mind, not a kothi( monkey)

You’re a Sundarakuttan!
Don’t trouble this chettan
Vicha, you ‘re a sunderakuttan!

In the picture below Vicha Anna, soon after getting up, enjoying the beauty of his face, before the mirror!

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Who said,’ life is short’?

Who said life is short?

”Life is short. Hurry and enjoy your remaining life,
every minute ”
I see many such warnings, cautions, threats, reminders,
In the net. But, in real life none of my friends or relatives tell me so. Nice guys.

I too, never threaten any one like that.

I believe-
Life is NOT short. You have plenty of time to enjoy. Only requirement is you should know what is enjoyment. Enjoyment is nothing but self satisfaction. If you have that, even one day, one an hour available to you, is more than enough.

Earlier, I used to feel sorry for my wife, that she was given only to raise the children and not to enjoy the fruits of her labour. She didn’t see the weddings of her children ;
She didn’t pet and play with her grand children. Every moment, I have been feeling sorry for. Every time, my children take me for a sight seeing, every time there is a child birth in the family, every time there is a family function, every time my children assemble, I used to feel sorry for her. The very thought that she missed all good things in life and I enjoyed all those, was actually killing me.

But now, I have realized my folly. Each one is entitled for his or her cup of wine and some cups or small, some big. The happiness lies in enjoying what is given, may be a drop, may be two.

My present thinking is that she had the self satisfaction of developing her family and living happily with her husband and children for some time. What else does a woman need? And that was the golden era for her. She had the best of life. She had no complaints. Not a single day, we quarreled. Not a single wish of her was left unfulfilled by her husband or children. Of course, she didn’t have much wants or desires. So, it was easy for us.

About me too, I have loved enjoying the unalloyed love of my parents and siblings, then my wife and now my children and grandchildren and many relatives and friends.
Many of my own relative, friends didn’t have half of what I had.

My own elder brother didn’t live beyond his first year.

What more do I need?

Desire has is no fencing. Even if I happen to live for a hundred years, still, I might long for another one or two years.

So, I thank the Destiny for giving me what is my due. Plenty, it is. Plenty, my God.

Who said life is short?

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Pazhaya ( old ) Kalpathy village.


Kalpathi memories

Old memories surface, more during our old age

I was born in the ‘Edam’ ( house ) of Atchan, Palakkad Raja, who used to address my thatha, ‘ChuppE’ (for Subramania Iyer) . My mother used to address a childhood friend from the ‘Edam’ as ‘AppaE!’ . The Atchan probably allowed my maternal grandfather, considering his services for the Shivan Kovil , to stay in a portion of his house where I was born Not from the Rāja vamsam, I was born in a king’s palace. Not a small credit!

When I was a few months old, my mother took me to Perinkulam.

When I was a kid of 4/5, my grandfather shifted his residence to a house near the Perumal kovil in Pazhaya Kalpathi, where my mother’s grandmother,PAppammai , an old woman with long and skinny hands died. I remember her long hands because , my mother and her three siblings, were fed and raised by those hands. My mother’s mother passed away, at 30 or so, leaving four small kids to the care of her mother in law, my Paappaamai.

Apart from the two women who gave birth to me and my children, my paternal grand mother who brought back my mother from the gate of death and my mother’s grand mother who raised her and her siblings, are among the Moorthis in my idol-less temple..

I remember her long hands for another reason. She hid once, a nenthrampazam, long plantain under her pillar, away from my greedy eyes, to be given to my younger brother, who was allergic to rice then. Wheat, oatmeal or such food alternatives were unknown then, especially for a 90 year old woman. As my brother was not taking rice food, her sympathy with him and not with me, who gulped any food offered. Water always flows to a lower level; so is the affection of parents with their weak and under privileged children. They are the only ones who likes the under-scorers

. I remember walking ahead in the funeral procession of my Pappammai, holding a hand torch, a stick with cotton cloth wrapped at the other end and lighted after soaking the cloth bundle. . I wept, as I knew that she wouldn’t return. Despite her partiality towards my younger brother, I wanted her to stay, though I was not then aware of the sacrifices she made . Later, during school days , I used to join the congress processions, holding a banner or a flag yelling, ‘ Mahatma Gandhi zindabad’ or some such slogans. That was enjoyable, but not the funeral procession of my Pappammai.

Pattali VadhyAr was the temple purohit then. His wife DharmAmbal mami died on her way back from Kasi, or in Kasi itself, don’t remember. A highly respected couple. Their son Keshavan was my classmate in the high school. He was the only boy with kudumai, tuft in our class.

He used to crack jokes and we laughed a lot together.

‘Half the class should laugh for your kudumai, but you are laughing at their expense,’ commented, Panchapakesan Iyer master, a strict teacher who quoted the name of Napolean Bonaparte, ten times a day.

‘Sir! if you sport a kudumai, the whole class will laugh,” replied Keshavan.

The teacher didn’t ask my friend to shut up. He too laughed, instead.

Some teachers like some parents enjoy jokes of the children.

I lost contacts with Keshavan, after leaving the school. Several years later, met his son in Chennai and was sad to learn that my classmate with kudumai had passed away. Didn’t ask the junior whether my jovial classmate died laughing, though he was not incapable of doing it. Nobody dies laughing. I have enough wisdom to know that.

‘Hope Appa had a comfortable journey?’

‘Journey?,’ he laughed. The same lovely, rhythmic laugh of his father and continued,
‘could death be comfortable to anyone?’

A stupid question, it was, mine!

How could death be comfortable? I could have asked him, ‘hope he didn’t suffer much?’ . That would have been apt. But, many time we miss asking correct questions and repent later.

But, can’t death be comfortable ? My question was not totally absurd, when I recollect death of some friends and relatives. Some deaths gave comforts to the owners of death and others to their relatives.

Owners of death? Am I making another stupid statement ? How can I own my death? Death owns me, not the other way. Did I own my birth? Stupid question again, silly fellow! I didn’t even own my birth!

So, I own neither my birth nor my death. Then, what do I own? My own life . Once it was handed over to me it is my duty to take care of it till death takes it away.

Some thing is wrong again here. Is my life completely under my control to take care of it? Many things have happened in my life without my desire, without my knowledge How could I take care of it?

Forget about life and death issues . Let us come back to my Kalpathy days. Thatha, Subramania VAdyar, Chuppai for friends and the Raja of Palakkad, is sitting prominently on the front seat of Pallakku, mini chariot of the Shivaswamy, his ebony- black chest and limbs smeared with white vibhoothy lines. His kadukkans, ear ornaments with white pearls, shine in the black background of his ears. A big Rudraksham, bordered with gold linings hangs from a gold chain from his neck, pushing aside a humble tulsi Mala on his broad chest. He cracks the whip in his right hand while producing ‘ha, ha sound’, encouraging the animal pulling the Pallakku while, the Nadaswaram and Thavil sounds reach the silent sky. What a pride on thatha’s face! ‘I’m the charioteer to the great Charioteer of The Universe.! . Had he been on the ground, I would have heard his metallic voice breaking into a sloka, ‘Kalaabhyyam choodalamkritha sasi Kalaabhyyam nija thapah: bhalAbhAm baktheshu prakaditha bhalAbhyam bhavathumae:’ . He would also be explaining with facial expression and hand movements the majestic appearance of Lord Shiva wearing the crescent moon on his head while the holy river Ganges flows down from the thick locks and other hundred details about the Lord on the Himalaya mountains. He enjoyed the presence of God as he enjoyed his river bath and Sooryanamskaram. For people like him, life was never a burden, despite all the weight thrust on their shoulders.

Though not grown here, I have many memories on Kalpathy villages and the temples around as well as the river which we used to cross everyday to reach our school and college. Some of my best stories like, ‘Kamu, my childhood friend’ and ‘Mayilkkan veshtikal’ were born here.

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Another migration

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.
imageIn 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!

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Remembering an old mistake

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.

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What do men know about mothers' feelings?

My wife had to undergo a surgery under general anesthesia, soon after my daughter was born. I was near her hospital bed, looking at her face awaiting the moment her closed eye lids would open up. My ears also were standing alert not to miss a single lip movement, soon after she recovers from sedation.
She opened her eyes partially and murmured, ‘ ‘Aparna’. That was the name of our days – old daughter.image
I was disappointed, terribly disappointed. Even annoyed. I’m ashamed to tell you, I was really jealous of my baby daughter, for no fault of her but for her mother calling her name and not mine, the moment she regained consciousness!
The woman, for whom I was prepared to sacrifice everything, when she was seriously ill, within a year after our wedding, with whom I shared her mental agony from a fake alarm by a gynecologist, during the entire course of her first pregnancy, called her month – old baby’s name and not mine, when she regained her conscious!
“Sorry, you should not have done this to me” I whispered into air, while exiting the ICU.
I was ashamed to mention to her my disappointment in the ICU, for many days after she came back home . When I did so, much later, we shared a hearty laugh.
“What do men know about mother’s love?” She made a casual remark in her proverbially slow and soft voice.
Time rolled by.
I was in Florida when Raaghuv, my eldest grandson was born, some ten years ago.
Anxiously awaiting his arrival, I prayed sincerely that my wife should respond, at least once, to the many distress ‘ Amma ‘ calls from her daughter under deep labour pain.
”Utter just once, her name. Just call ‘Aparna’, from wherever you are, just once, I pleaded. “Your response will reach her, breaking the barriers of space and time, columns of air and clusters of cloud”
She didn’t respond . No, she didn’t.
She was perhaps in a world, where no calls, even distress calls from her daughter, would not reachable.