A PAGE FROM LIFE – DEATH OF MY FATHER

I was about eight years old.We were sitting in the portico of mother’s house , we say ammath, at Naruvakulangara, when a lizard fell on my head. Pozhichoor namboodiri, who was a frequent visitor at that time, recited a stanza in verse, which meant that if a lizard falls on the head, it is a bad omen, indicating the death of a guru or a parent.

Afterwards, my guru, who taught me Vedas for about an year, died.

Again, after the marriage of my youngest maternal uncle named Guptan, when we were still staying at ammath, it happened.

We children were having our supper in the hall at the usual time, about seven in the evening. Grandmother used to place a bowl, full of water, and ask us children to wash our hands in it. After some have washed, the water would turn muddy and I would feel revulsion to wash in it, but dared not express my thought. Then we would sit on the floor in two rows, leaving a gap for the women folk to walk and serve the dishes, consisting of rice, dhal, always mixed with vegetables like ash gourd (my favourite) or pumpkin or papaya, not yet sweet, or jack fruit if it is the season. Now we use brinjal, bitter gourd or onions, the small variety found in Keralam, if it is sambar in which spices like dhanya and methi are mixed in powder form. A second waterless dish is always there, along with achar; papad a rarety in those days. I wished that my mother be there to serve, in preference to some poor lady guest who invariably was present and would gladly serve us.

Suddenly there was a commotion and I saw my step sister, father’s first issue, running out into the porch. We children also went to see what happened.

I saw my father sitting on the steps and placing a small bronze vessel containing lime, used for making pan, on his left foot. I learned that he was bitten by a snake and was testing to see whether poison had entered in the wound.

I remember following my brother, who remained silent throughout the journey, to our kottikal home, the very next morning. When we reached the out house, which we used to call the bungalow, as it was constructed as a modern terrace house, I think the first in our area, I saw the body of our father lying on the floor of the veranda, up to the neck covered by a white sheet. None was present there. Without pausing, still silent, we went to the main house. I remember grandmother in tears murmuring- it is all over……..

Afterwards I pieced together the events.

The gents had gone to take bath in the big temple pond near Shiva temple at Peruvanam. While returning, father was at the end of the procession, behind uncle Bhavadasan , VBS’S father, who was carrying a kerosene lantern. Father saw the snake, a viper actually biting, but said nothing until they reached ammath. His brothers were informed by a special messenger who was sent to our home, a distance about two miles. By the time  they came, some one hour must have already passed. THEREAFTER, HE WAS CARRIED TO THE AYURVEDIC HOSPITAL IN A BULLOCK CART. It might have taken forty five minutes at least. Next morning, they were preparing to leave the hospital when father felt dizzy and lay down.

I think he had a premonition and was perhaps happy to leave this world, and really lucky indeed, as things were simmering for a long time at home, he having squandered all the money in luxurious life, a trait I inherited from him which I don’t regret as Harindranathan, my cousin, used to say-“ What we eat, we have wisely used money on it. All else is infructuous.”

 

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COIMBATORE

 

After the experience of Trichur, which is bursting at the seams owing to bulging traffic and full of buildings offering nothing else to the eyes, Coimbatore in Tamilnadu is a welcome relief!

Here space seems to be unlimited. Buses are plenty for movement in the town, minimum bus fare a mere two rupees, compared to three and half rupees in Keralam. I found the Principals of the schools I visited eager to buy my book.

I wondered at the number of banks at Trichur, a few dozens in a square mile. Compare it with just a few, in business centre at Coimbatore

I did not find any antagonism against Hindi. Many people answered in Hindi!

It is just nine rupees by passenger train from Palakkad to Coimbatore which is called ‘poor men’s Ooty

OMENS

We believe in omens.

If the first thing we come across, as soon as we come out of the house, is a cow, a prostitute, a or milkman(the list is long), it is a good omen and you are distined to succeed in your mission. A bull, a widow or wood fuel are bad.

My experience is that a bad omen is bound to spoil my errand.

Yesterday I saw a pheasant called kakkathampuran (the king of crows) in Malayalam, with the the head resembling that of a crow and having  a long thick tail of copper brown colour,  and I succeeded in selling nine books, CHILDHOOD MEMOIRS, and so I added it the list of good omens!

The bird is found only in Keralam (by me). Its cries are heard very often, but rarely seen, as it hides in the branches of trees.

RAINBOW LOVE

Every body loves a rainbow.

While working in Kaiga Atomic Power Project, our departmental bus used to travel over the bridge across Kali River. Once I noticed an extremely beautiful rainbow, as if an arch had been erected spanning the river, every detail clearly visible, the sky being cloudless, as if I was seeing a picture post card!

We all love the company of the opposite sex and many wish to marry and settle, the choice being made on the basis of love. This feeling of being in love is as transient as the rainbow. When I was a boy, I could not believe that love will die a natural death, soon after honeymoon.

When we live together ( TO GET HER ) we come across so many irritants. The very act of marriage changes the character of the individuals concerned, similar to the union of Sodium and Chlorine, in this case a welcome change!

The great novelist Dickens was madly in love with a girl who chose a bank manager for marriage, rejecting the novelist who was just a boy taking down, in short hand, the proceedings of the parliament, to be printed in the night itself, in the daily news paper. While passing the house where she lived, the boy would stand for a while at midnight, hoping that she may just come out on the balcony and bless him with a glance.Later on, when Dickens became rich and famous, she came to him, seeking financial help, as her husband had become bankrupt. H e could not believe his eyes. She had become fat like a hay stack!

Seeing films and reading romantic novel, you young boys and girls, yearn for love.

 

 Take the advice of a seventy six year old grandfather: NEVER TRUST LOVE AT FIRST GLANCE.

When you reach a mature age and know your partner well enough, you may seek the advice of elders who have seen life.

SHOCKING FAILURE OF MOON MISSION CHANDRAYAN

It is shocking to learn about the failure of our moon mission We should learn a few lessons

The first point to note is that our scientists are not equipped to embark on such a mission.

Technically we are far too behind the new rich nations like China and Japan

Secondly, they have money, we haven’t. We should spend money on educating the poor children.

Thirdly, we must concentrate on research within our capacity. Grandiose schemes, intended to boost our image in the world community of nations, are not going to pay.

LET REASONS OVERCOME EMOTIONS!

NEIL O CANT

 

His name was NEELAKANTHAN. Perhaps he didn’t like it. As he was an admirer of Germans, he changed his name to Neil O Cant.

I am talking about my uncle’s first son. As he was anuj (aniyan in Malayalam ) to the eldest ( daughter named Devasena ), he was called Aniyan by all, as was the custom among us namboodiris. Let us call him Neel.

He was some two years elder to me, but knew much more than I. As both of us were friendless, naturally we were drawn to each other. He preferred a docile child like me (eight years at that time) to my elder brother who was very independent and outspoken. I had nothing to talk and I proved a good listener. Our friendship grew and he often came to our house just to enjoy my company.

We would walk some five good miles from his house at Peruvanam where I was staying, the school being so near to his house, to Amballoor where our mutual grand mother was staying with a member of Kunnathur Padinjaredath mana, as the latter had only a blind mother to do house keeping and grandmother was very helpful, even if maidservants were plenty to help. There we would stay during Saturday and Sunday, being holidays, enjoying idlies for breakfast, something rare in our houses, brench at 10 AM being the norm!

The trek along the bank of the river, most of the time, sometimes dangerously steep and a slip would land us in water, as it is near the tile factory, enjoying the green fields, was itself a treat to me. Recently, I made a replay of it, at the age of seventy five. I feel like a young boy of twenty even now!

Because of an unfortunate accident earlier, he lost eye sight of one eye and namboodiri boys of his age, who never went to school and were envious of the English speaking, though eccentric, rich boy, nicknamed him Shukran, the one-eyed Guru of Asuras of Hindu mythology.

He was intelligent and I fail to understand how he failed in the ninth standard. He again failed in the intermediate examination (now plus 2) in the Maharaja’s College at Ernakulam, again in B.Sc. at the prestigious Presidency College in Madras. Finally he went all the way to Aligarh Muslim University and secured a degree. As he wanted to become a scientist, he joined the National Physical Laboratory, Delhi some time in the fifties. He is said to have met Sir C.V.Raman.

When we were children, he said he won’t marry and he stuck to his decision. It was very sad that he stopped talking to me, owing to certain circumstances involving his sister Devasena in a love affair. Lonely and depressed, suffering from malaria, he jumped from the balcony in Delhi and ended his life.

He comes in my dreams at regular intervals when I am overjoyed to see my friend. Who said he is dead?

Alas! When I wake up the dream becomes sour.

MY UNCLE

UNCLE

My mother’s eldest brother, whom I shall simply call uncle, was of Spartan habits.

At home, he wears a big Kerala style bath towel, hand woven, white and easy to remove water by simply folding it and squeezing the water off by hand.

He never uses soap or the powder of the bark of a tree, called vaka, which was popular in olden days. In this respect, my father too resembled him, but he used to wear big khadi cloth. I have seen my uncle shaving with a blade broken across into two halves.

He will hold one half in his right hand and shave with it, without lathering with soap, and feel the skin with his left hand, because he never looks in a mirror!

He seldom takes tea. Never used tobacco or betel leaves.

He read The Hindu paper. I remember the front page with full advertisement – AYIRAM THALAI VANKI APOORVA CHINTAMANI.

He read ‘Modern Review’ published from Calcutta, and a thick volume THE COW IN INDIA was available there, as he loved the animal.

He hated the communists and the congressmen equally and was in favour of the rule of the King. He hated my mother and her children, except me. He hated his brother named Narayanan and his paternal uncle with whom he had litigation. He never loved his own father. The list is becoming big, but loved his daughter and first son named Neelakathan. The latter became his blind spot and the lives of both proved a tragedy.

His wife, my step sister, was a total contrast. She loved luxury, liked cosmetics and soaps, which she was not allowed to buy. Did she love him?

Uncle was very intelligent and his thinking had originality. He believed that capitalism will wither away, without any bloody revolution, when its utility is over.

He sold his ancestral property and bought forest land. His efforts to grow rice there proved futile. When he was about fifty, he became ill with leukemia. During his end, I served him.

When the dead body was still lying in the hall, I went to console his mother in the next room and was greatly surprised by the outburst of angry words from her about his own son. His treatment of my mother must have pained her all along…..

During the funeral ceremony, his son refused to do his filial duties and I substituted for him.

The day of death coincided with the day Russians spent the first SPUTNIK into space. The day my mother died, Americans landed on the moon!