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Death is cruel but —

1041 days without Sriram and counting,’ was the response from his wife seeing the picture below . A tip of the iceberg of the sorrow pulling her down, every moment.

That is how everyone who lost his/her dearest and nearest, feel . The remaining part of life left behind for them, is a cross they have to carry to their last day. No escape. They have to live. That is how people have been living everywhere.

Not a day passes for me without remembering Sriram and Rajesh my two nephews , whom death mercilessly snatched at the peak of their youth, when they were shining best in their profession.

How much hard work they would have put in to acquire excellence in their education and how much competition they would have faced to obtain admission, in Indian and then in foreign universities, purely on their merit, not spending a pie from their father’s pocket!

Was it all for getting wiped off from the face of earth unceremoniously when they had a long way to go?

Remember my brother in law’s struggle to take Ramu to the examination center when all the roads were blocked due to a curfew in the city. How many such hurdles the parents would have had in bringing up the children!

How many sleepless nights their mother and spouses would have spent waiting for their children’s return from their workplaces !

How exuberant the parents would have been when the kids were playing snd growing or when their exams results were declared or when they left for foreign lands for higher studies or securing jobs, or when they were married ?

Every time my nephew told me ,’ ‘mama,

my intervention was timely, a life could be saved’, I used to feel proud and bless him ,’ God bless you’ .

God carried him away! Separated him for ever, from his family! I cursed the god out of my desperation but I realize God is helpless! One has to die when he is destined to.

The torrential rains of Fate just washes off the young lives, right before the eyes of parents, spouses and children!

Death is cruel, but the fact is – it is a part of our life !

And earlier we realize this truth , good for us.

During the rocking period of romancing, the boy is not sure whether his girl friend would stick to him or go after a guy with a more stylish hair or a bullish look . But, once the wedding is over, he is certain, she is certain, they have to share a room. I overheard my wife once telling her mother, ‘don’t worry, his anger won’t last beyond dusk’!

She had no worry, as she was absolutely certain that I would be back by sunset.!

Similarly, we can be free from worries , if we have no confusion or doubt in our mind that death is inevitable and it can happen anytime , we can live a peaceful life.   

‘I’m not going to be the first person to die!’

I tell myself and gladly share a peg of wine with my son or a joke with my daughter or daughter in law !

Mahakavi Ullur beautifully said:

Death is striking our life tree, merciless with his axe, throughout day and night. The heart beats are nothing but that sound ‘

കാലത്തും, അന്തിക്കും, ഉച്ചക്കും, രാവിലും,




Picture below was clicked in a forest in Vancouver, Canada,  with my two nephews and their families. Ramu is to my right.

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With Dr. Vidhya, my Ambikuttan Athan’s grand daughter, who was with us in Baltimore for a short holiday.

When she called me for eating, once, twice, thrice, my thoughts flew back beyond oceans, beyond several decades to our Olavakkode house, when as a kid, I was fed by her grand pa, pleading, begging, ‘muthanna, chappiduda—-‘, 

No, I refused to eat. He didn’t scold me, slap me or threaten , ‘ummachi kannai kuthum’. 

He didn’t.  I remember so well .

I repeated my arrogant behavior when, during a college vacation, I bicycled my way to Puducode, to meet him. After spending a night, when I was about to return, he gave me a new veshti. I refused. He pleaded,’don’t wear the same cloth you had last night’ . He begged me to accept a veshti, a new one , with fresh smell from the Mill.  No, I didn’t heed.  My wrong conviction that I shouldn’t accept any gift from anyone, even from a very close relative made me blind, made my heart granite like. Or was it the unlimited arrogance of a college student? 

Many decades passed through, in between like the scenes we see from a moving railway compartment. 

The T shirt I was wearing while clicking this picture was gifted by my eldest nephew which I collected and wore proudly and told everyone here that it was a gift from Suresh. Today being his wedding anniversary, I wanted him me wearing his gift and tried to contact him through FaceTime

A millionth of the present common sense and courtesy, had I possessed, decades ago, I wouldn’t have hurt and damaged irreparably, a most affectionate, kind heart ! 


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And above all



I’m in a totally worry-free,  relaxed mood while with my children in USA , for many reasons:

1. The first and foremost is the feeling that I’m in the correct place, where Parents of my age should be. 

2. I see their mother in my children and recall  their childhood days in my grandchildren.

3. I can live with the confidence that if I fall there will be someone to lift me up.  My brother Vicha is too fragile to handle me. I’m assured of good medical aid and excellent personal support as and when needed. 

  4. I need not worry about my food /drinks / clothings. I get the food I want and my daughter/ daughters in law does everything includng making my bed and also keep a strict vigil not only on my food habits but on other habits too, the old people are likely, to remember and vainly attempt to repeat! 😁😁

3. The house will be active most of the time with young men and young women and children, at times with guests too, remembering my good old days when my wife was alive. 

4. I need not worry from morning to evening whether the gates are left open by the servant women or tenants or dogs or cows or beggars or veg and fruit hawkers. 

5. I need not keep in mind the due dates for receipts and payments.

6.I can go to bathroom or do pooja without worrying whether the courier guy, postman electrician or plumber will press  the call bell or enter through the side door and carry away my iPhone or such small possessions (I lost two cell phones ) 

7. I need not rush out of the toilet fearing whether  the sound I heard was due to the fall of coconut from the tree or that of my brother from his chair or bed. 

8. When I am with youngsters , I feel that I’m not really that old as my pension book shows .

9. My grandchildren keep pooja idols and other items in proper places and I have to close my eyes and think of God or about my past adventures. In Hyderabad, my landline would ring at least half a dozen times, most of those wrong calls and the rest right calls for a wrong purpose! 

And above all, I need not answer a dozen questions everyday from the obese lady in the opposite house enquiring what was the name of the lady who came in and went out of my house and why she came and whether she was married or unmarried!😄😄😄




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Fall of a tall tree

Farewell to another sweet coconut tree of my Olavakkode origin! 

A relationship of 40 years blown off!

Yes, I had to cut another coconut tree, as it started playing havoc not only within the compound  but also extending its head towards the road. It was a painful job, as I had brought the seed of a very sweet variety from Olavakkode.  Every time the axe struck the tree, the suffering was mine. I thought, it is OK, let me suffer now but not be a cause for the suffering of others.

Relationships, however strong they are, has to be severed, when it starts hurting us and others. 

Sentiments apart, the trees I developed long ago, have become liabilities now as many houses have come up in the surrounding areas and naturally no neighbor will keep quiet when a seed or branch  falls on their head or on their house, however friendly they are towards me. 

There is a belief that coconut tree doesn’t hurt others and my experience too is not otherwise. 

Old people, except good souls like me, don’t spend the entire night in sleep, especially when  they are in pairs. Yadayya  and Yadamma, both retired as professors, stay behind my backside compound wall. On the recent Pornami, full moon night, they developed instant intimacy and sneaked out for a stroll in the Central Park close by. A branch from my coconut tree fell very close to them, making a loud sound which woke up their son. He was shocked to see his parents trying to open the gate..

‘Where to at this midnight?’ enquired the anxious son.

‘To bathroom’,  replied the dad.

‘Yes, my son, I’m taking him to bathroom’, replied the mom. 

‘But, bathroom is inside the house!’, exclaimed the son. He was right ! 

Hearing the noise, came out the daughter in law and yelled,

‘Ayyo, ayyo! They both have Alzheimer’s disease. Rush them to an old age home’

The son consoled her, ‘wait, my angel! Let the night pass on’. He was right again!

The professor gave a strong kick to his wife and yelled,

‘See where your midnight romance is leading us – certainly not to the Harithavanam Central Park’

The professor garu too was right. 


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Visit to NIN, is like visiting a place of worship for me.  The long gap of a quarter of a century appears to be as little as a week-end that I was away from there. It was in its premises, in the B21 quarters that my wife entered  as a newly wedded girl, my first two children  were born and started going to schools. My father’s body was carried to the funeral ground through the same exit gate I’m facing in the picture.  Attending work was never a bore for me. In fact, I looked forward for that everyday. Holidays were plenty. Home was at a walking distance. Used to go for lunch and take a mini nap too! Plenty of friends and guests used to visit our home and during week ends, senior scientists used to gather in my house for playing cards. At times, the session started at Friday night used to end only on Monday morning. My wife never grumbled to feed my colleagues. 

My whole family is indebted to NIN and we are still reaping the benefits. 

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No worries about tomorrow, no regrets about yesterday

While alone at my Habsiguda house, looking at the blank  high ceiling, I think about my active days and nights spent with the youngsters and  grand children of the family in USA.  

-not always, at times.

While in USA, I think about my Hyderabad house, whether someone has plucked the flowers or picked the coconut seeds or mangoes fallen from my trees or has the tenants left the water pipe opened or has a peruchazhi or bandicoot entered into the drain channel blocking it? Etc, etc. 

Worthless thoughts , but that is the nature of human mind!

‘Is it not the ge for you to withdraw from the world?’, asked a friend.

Withdraw from the world and go where.?

My family is my world! My house, my well, my trees and the three gates are my world!

‘I will give you a tulsimala. Sit in a corner  and meditatae’, suggested another friend.

I will give you a dozen malas , tulsi, rudraksham, spadikam.

I don’t need any rosary for meditation.  Meditation for me is getting up from the bed at odd hours and reciting :

“anor aniyan mahato mahiyan

atmasya jantor nihito guhayam

tam akratuh pasyati vita-soko

dhatuh prasadan mahimanam atmanah”

and forgetting myself.

Meditation for me, is singing aloud, without bothering whether I’m at home or in a bus stand 

‘Shivudano, Maadhavudano, KamalA

Bhavudano, Parabhramano nin-

Evarani ———‘

I enjoy my own company when I’m alone, though thoughts about my people and property intrude and try to disturb. 

That is OK. I’m not a Jnani or a Rishi. I’m a simple man,

with no worries about tomorrow and no regrets about yesterday. 

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Consoling a relative who lost her husband

My attempt to temporarily cheer a parched soul :

 I entered the prayer hall at Chennai to pay condolences and allowed Jeyajothi Mami to pour out her  sorrow in words. Then I tried to pacify her :

“Krish mama, who had rich men at his hand’s  reach didn’t damage his kidneys or liver, heart or lungs, by drinking or smoking. More important- he didn’t do injustice to your faith deposited on him. I need not tell you how he could have done it…….

Didn’t i make you smile?

No chance. I did not give up.

I continued, ‘ok. You won’t smile. Look, for fifty long years, you were his loving jokey making that race horse to run mad and instead of kicking you back to Thoothukudi, he preferred to take his last shelter on your lap. Which woman would not love to have a husband like him? Will you smile now, please?’

She was still gloomy. I didn’t leave her. I continued :

‘My dead lady, all your people will go their way in a day or two and are you going to live the remain 2/3 decades of your life, keeping your face swollen like a pooshinikkai, in your language or mathan in mine, in English pumpkin. You are a charming woman, though a bit old. Smile, please!’

The simple lady of good heart, laughed heartily. 

While coming out of the meeting hall, I warned her, ‘be prepared to live alone but never allow you to be lonely. With whomever you live, your daughters or grand daughters or brothers or sisters, you will be alone but never succumb to the temptation of your mind to become lonely. It is my experience that gives you this advice ‘

Her face shrunk . It will never come back to the old blooming stage . Her loss is permanent .  Continue reading Consoling a relative who lost her husband

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A podiarisi story

Some friends complain that they are not receiving adequate attention from their children living abroad. Some go to the extend of saying that their children were ‘good’ before their wedding, implying that they had become ‘bad’ after wedding!

I got vexed with one of them and asked, ‘pray, what is your complain against your sons? They are gems, as I know’

‘They are not giving green signal for my marrying a woman I like’, was the answer from a man of my age!

I jumped from my seat and was about to throttle his neck when Ammalu, held me back, but I did yell at him:

‘You can’t see without glasses, can’t hear with out aids, can’t walk without a sticker but you want to marry?’

‘That exactly is the reason,’ he replied and smiled. Ammalu too joined in his smile.

My children are very kind to me, too kind I would say. I know they will be, till I ask them for permission for—— .
No, I won’t. Ammalu will never let me go out of her grips.

Last week, during their daily FaceTime interaction, I casually mentioned that my podiarisi, broken parboiled rice, stock was getting exhausted. On the third day, I received a small bag of Kerala mattai arisi, through Amazon home delivery.

As per my usual practice , I searched and found out the price printed on the bag. Rs. 850 for 5 kg! .My blood circulation stopped for a moment. ( it restarted, as it can’t afford to stay immobile for long). For five kilos, I would not have paid more than 250 Rs. In our Malayali shop. The carton says the contents is an Organic stuff. Ok, another 50 Rs.

Three nights, I didn’t sleep ( of course, I slept during daytimes ).

I decided to yell at them for wasting their hard earned money , when they call next time, but my matured brain made me to do some minor calculations:

It was so nice of my son Srikanth to have told his wife Hamsa, about my need, by my just mentioning that my stock was depleting and it was so nice of her to have ordered Kerala mattai. Either my son didn’t mention the name ‘podiarisi’ in his hurry to fulfill my need or in her hurry to oblige him, she heard only ‘arisi’ or the ‘podi’ stuff was not available with Amazon. But for me, what was important was , my son without waiting for a minute, told his wife and she obeyed. Both are important. Equally important.

‘He could have asked me,’why podiarisi? Why not the Goduma arisi, broken wheat, you’re eating now?’
And again Hamsa could have asked her hubby, ‘you get an indent early morning from your dad( she would not have said ‘that old man from Habsiguda’, as my children think that I’m not old now and it will take many more years for me to become old)
and instantly pass on to me?’

And if I shout at them, they may not shout back ( as they were not face to face), but next time when I genuinely has a demand, they will give my indent a cold shoulder.

Considering all these points, I told them in the typical FB language, ‘amazing. You did a good job’. Then after a minute, added, ‘next time before ordering, please consult me’. So, my message was conveyed in a ‘polished’ way

Just because my children are extremely considerate, I should not take undue advantage. No father at my age can. As my friend Dr. Kidambi Vasudevan of Florida has proclaimed on the wall poster in his house, ‘be nice to your children; they decide your nursing home’

But, deep inside me that feeling that they paid more for the stuff, was irritating. So, after two days, I told them, 850 Rs. was a big amount to be spent on mattai arisi. It is after all mattai!

‘What does ‘mattai’ mean, appa?’, Hamsa asked. ‘Is it same as mottai?’. She was not born in Palakkad, not even in India and therefore, her doubt was understandable.

‘Mattai’ is ordinary, not high quality and ‘mottai’ is shaven head.

‘Mattai, why Appa? You said it is nutritious?’ Was her next question.
‘Probably because it is unpolished and therefore miss the outward appearance of polished rice’, I replied.

‘But, it is nutritious though it is unpolished!’, she exclaimed.

‘Yes, you’re right my child’, I said and added, ‘many unpolished things in this world are good, like me, though the external appearance may be unappealing, again like me:

‘Appa!’, intervened Megh, ‘you’re unpolished! How polished you were in telling us that the amount we paid was unacceptable to you!’

After a second, Sharath quipped, ‘Dad, a special Margarita treat in the Italian restaurant for you, the day you land here, for claiming that your external appearance is unappealing.
You’re more stylish than all of us’.

I’m stylish ! I’m sitting now with a ‘thorthumundu’ on my shoulder!

Yes, he has a point. Partially wet thorthumundu on the upper torso, is the stylish body cover for the sweaty Hyderabad now.


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Ammalu is always right

‘Ammalu, comes to memory the good olden days when you used to fan me with a pretty palm leaf fan, standing close to me, almost touching me. Can’t you repeat that kind act, when my friends visit us, this afternoon?’

‘There were no ceiling fans then. We have a fan now in every room. More over, why do you want me to fan you in the presence of your friends ?’

‘To exhibit proudly that you love me, you care for me. Some of them think that your love is not sufficiently intimate’

‘Did they say so?’

‘They didn’t tell me, but I know’

‘I will do something better to impress on your friends. I will hug you in their presence’

‘Go away, go away! Switch on all the fans in full speed’

‘Sweating, SP? Call your friends. I will get a palm leaf fan from our neighbor’

Cartoon courtesy. My cousin Ramki, Chennai.




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My memorable Rameswaram trip



We drove from Madurai to Rameswaram in the morning of March 23, 2017 and returned the same evening, through the Pampan bridge. That one day experience will ever remain with me, especially the pitrukarmas on the sea bed.

‘Iyer Mani onkalai gavanitchuparu- will take care of you,’ said the influential businessman at Rameswaram, introduced by my friend Taliparambha Ganesh.

Iyer Máni is Mani Vadhyar. When I met him and also when I left him, he appeared to be a confused man, but once on his job, he was the man for the job!

Soon after I reached his house, in the morning,  I explained what I would like to do and wanted to know his demand. He didn’t commit. When I insisted, he said, ‘onnum vendAm, enakku ellAm irukku- I need nothing, I have enough’ . He lifted and rotated his hand and showed the house, as a proof of his prosperity. Later I knew it was not his house, but his brother’s who is no more!

‘Not this man for my job,’ I thought but he won’t leave me as he had clear instructions from Taliparambha Ganesh’s friend ‘to take care of me- avar periyavaru. avarai gavanitchukkunko’

‘Follow me’. He asked us and declared, ‘Onkaluuku onnum theriyAthu- you know nothing ( about the proceeding and practices here)’

He kick -started his two wheeler and we drove behind him. No other way!

And it was a sight to watch, the Vadhyar, wearing a helmet, his uthareeyam flying in air, driving in top speed, with no other vehicle in sight in the long road to Dhanushkodi.

Dhanushkodi is 20. Km away from Rameswaram, devastated by the 1964 cyclone which decimated all structures and took away the life of nearly ten thousand people. With absolute impartiality, Nature had converted to debris a church, a temple, railway station , fishermen’s huts and every other standing structure on her path. It is difficult to believe, going by what you see now, that there existed once a small township with men, women and children, busily engaged in their activities, enjoying the sea breeze and viewing the amazing sunrise and sunset. In fact, there is nothing to see there now, but the very sight itself with scattered remains of structures and the mighty sea behind, is worth visiting.

Vadhyar stopped his vehicle at a point beyond which a new road has been recently constructed to reach the end point of the land, but that is yet to be officially inaugurated. A big bamboo barricade managed by a few police men stops the entry. One has to hire a jeep or a mini truck and drive through the beach, virtually through the sand, prepared to push the vehicle and even to get stranded if the vehicle doesn’t move through the watery, sandy path. That was how people interested in seeing the end of the land, were going earlier and are going even now, unless they are VIPs whom the police salute and allow entry!

We were watching, seated in our car, Mani Vadhyar arguing with the cops, calling someone and handing over the phone to the cops. Ten minutes waiting.

Alas, goes up the bamboo barricade, the cops didn’t salute us but allowed our vehicle to pass through. That was exactly what we wanted and not their salutes.



Chapter two.

Elaborate rituals to satisfy the souls of the dead are performed by many but my desire and capacity was to have a simple tilatharpanan , offering sesame water on the sacred sea bed. It is not possible for me now to go to Allahabad, Kashi, Gaya etc and come back to Rameswaram again for a second round of rituals after completing the prescribed rituals on the bank of the Ganges. I had earlier, under better health and circumstances, performed shradhams in the Ganges several times and once, along with my wife at Gaya, Brahmakapalam etc earlier and now my desire was Just to remember with respect the predecessors and pray for the reunion of their souls with the Ultimate. My father believed in that, though he had no opportunity to go to Rameswaram. I am not sure whether my children will be going.

Mani Vadhyar spread the materials he had brought with him, on the sand and asked me to take bath in the sea.
‘If you can’t do it, sprinkle water on your head and come’, he said. Even my sisters were hesitant about my fitness for a sea bath but once I was in the waters, I forgot my age and disability and dipped my head and body several times and returned completely fresh in body and mind and performed the rituals, seated under the scorching sun , with no head cover, unlike the Vadhyar of half my age. He had brought with him sufficient cooked rice for offering pindams and asked me again and again to recollect the names and gothrams of several relatives and I could therefore offer food with unalloyed sincerity to several souls, including my three brothers in law, my father in law and mother in law whom I wanted to visit during her last days but could not, my elder brother who died when he was just one year old, my beloved sister Raji who died young, her son Rajesh who died much younger and I performed his last rites at Chicago last year, my two siblings who died a few minutes or days after entering this world, my own uncle and aunt and many more. It was not an elaborate shradham but the mental Peace and satisfaction it gave me will last ever. Vadhyar again and again asked for the names of the second wives of elders and I said ‘no’ , as to my knowledge they were as honest as I’m , though Iyer Mani didn’t appear to believe me!
‘Aarukkavathu erukkaname- some would have certainly had a second wife’, he doubted . I’m not surprised. In my family, women used to outlive their husbands. The only exception was my wife.

We went inside the great temple without the help of Vadhyar but had no problem. My brother in law Patchu helped me to pass from one theertham to the next, treading through the wet floor, without slipping and falling. We had wonderful darsanam too.
In total, my Rameswaram trip was a ‘janmasAbhalyam’. I’m unlikely to make another trip, but no worries.

While coming out of the temple after worship, preceded by the rites on the sea bed and bath from the water poured on head from the 22 sacred wells, my sister’s remarked with absolute happiness and satisfaction : ‘Anna, you did it!’.

I pointed my hand to the sanctum and bowed and said, ‘He did it’

Yes, he did it. Last year, this time, when I was struggling with the side effects of radiation and harmon treatments, I never expected that I would be able to come back to India and undergo the strain of such a long pilgrimage, but He made it.

I’m remade now, yes, I’m