When you grow old, you learn many lessons-
One I learned- I can’t correct the world,
I can’t correct my own children
I can’t correct even my grandchildren ‘s home work
But I can do a great thing:
I can correct myself!
My Christian friends
I never see the caste, creed or religion or race of my friends. Friends are friends, though FB friends belong to a separate category, as most of them remain unseen.
In fact, during my childhood, being brought up in a Muslim dominated area, all our neighbors, except a couple of people were Muslims and they were like an extended family of ours. Our neighbor Hamsa’s children grew on my father’s lap and my friendship with his son Siddique continues. Last time, when I went Palakkad, I stopped my car to hand over a few packets of ‘then kai’, herbal seeds to him. He is one of the two Olavakkode friends who call me by my childhood pet name, ‘Appu’. The other friend is Kamalam, our neighbor and my sisters’s playmate whom I met in New Jersey after a gap of fifty years.
There were not many Christian families in our area and even during my school education, didn’t have many Christian friends- one person I remember was from Trichur, an egg supplier, who used to entertain me with his flock of ducks, in hundreds. He used to drive them into post -harvest paddy fields filled with rainwater and it was a pleasure to see the white birds swim , though their smell was oppressive. His name was Vargheese.
C M Jacob, whom I affectionately call Chakku, my long term colleague and bachelor roommate continues to be my best Christian friend, though he is a nam-ke- vasthe Nasrani.
He joined my field unit at Trichur in October
1959, three months after I joined and I remember his pose then before me, tall, immaculately dressed in white, neatly combed hair, soft spoken. We travelled together to Hyderabad, our maiden journey outside Kerala and lived in the same hotel for a few days before shifting to Panchavati, our bachelor palace. He remains a bachelor till now at 81, and going by his nature, is unlikely to find a Mary or Maria as a playmate, in the near future. I don’t talk about far future.
He is amazingly a simple creature, can’t make his coffee and walks to the next restaurant for food, though his health is not in the desired level . A simple and truthful man, though don’t know whether he ever visited a church for prayers. Matters little.
Happy Christmas to you Chakku. Continue to remain happily till Jesus calls you up for His company. He needs good guys like you.
I had another colleague and room mate, a much smarter guy, C M manual, whom we called Manachan, who left NIN to join Air India, married an Anglo indian girl, retired as Airport Station Director and joined Jesus to teach him how to love girls and live happily. He was a jolly good fellow, who too never visited a Church till he married.
At NIN , I had plenty of Christian friends, a few migrated from Connor, like me and Chakku. Most of them have already joined their Yesunathar.
Ultimately what counts is whether you are a good human being or not. Fortunately world is still rich with them.
When my cousin Ramki sent me this old family group of my mother’s siblings with their families, the head-cover patti, captured my eyes first, as I used to enjoy feeling her head with my hands appreciating its softness! She was the elder sister to my mother, whom we called Bhavani Periammai, after the river bank near Erode where she stayed when I was a kid. She was the last in our family to have shaven her head on becoming a widow. Though orthodox to the core, she was jovial and used to entertain me with her Thiruvathirakali dance and educate me with Samskritham hymns. Her body movements and claps while teaching me,
‘VeeravirAdakumAra vibho!’ dance, is fresh in my mind.
I remember her, every time, Shabhari express crosses Erode junction. on my way to Palakkad.
She lived at Kanchi for a few years and was an ardent disciple of the Sage of Kanchi. She took me to Periyava and proudly proclaimed about my proficiency in Soundaryalahari and on AchArya’s advice I recited a slokam. . I had a habit of reciting loudly and despite Periammai ‘s prodding, I didn’t reduce my voice or speed.I used to move my body too like a pendulum while reciting and in total, it would have been a good Tamasha for the people around. Anyway, the Guru, blessed me placing his hand on my head.
Recently while passing through the Kodambakkam Railway Station, I remembered her dish, Vathalkozhambu, which was unique in taste. I used to get down at that station and visit her as her house was close by and I liked her food.
Last year when I went to Kalpathy Shivan koil, she came to my mind first . To spend Shivaratri night awake, she used to come with much preparation but slip into sound sleep soon aided by the cold river breeze.
I don’t remember when and how she passed away but it was peaceful death, I was told. What was important was she didn’t suffer putrasokam, as my mother had to and my first sister in under going. In all, she had a peaceful tenure in this world, though her family was living hand to mouth. Untimely that is important, I feel now, many living in luxuries have everything they want except peace of mind.’