SISTER-IN-LAW

STORY

I was working in a Project in far away Rajasthan, quite happy to work among people who are friendly and amiable. As I was passing contractors’ bills , I used to get money from them , without demanding it. One day I received a letter from my father that y marriage has been fixed and I must come home immediately. I was not at all happy because I was shy of women and had no interest in sex. But I could not disobey my father and went home. In those days there was no rush of passengers and I went by train from Kota.

All arrangements had been made and y marriage took place within a week. The brothers of my wife , Sunitha were well educated and we became friends . “Have you got quarters there?”, they asked . I nodded . I understand that the dowry was ten thousand and that was the main consideration , because the same month my sister was given away in marriage .

We went to visit mutual relatives and after one month, we returned.

In the office , I gave a party and they gave us presents. Sunitha was slow and I helped her in the kitchen. She did not take the initiative and we had no sex . Of course , we shared the same bed and lay arm in arm. It was a joy to fondle her soft body.

After about six months , she complained about some pain in the chest and was admitted in the hospital. She was subjected to thorough check up . The Doctor advised immediate operation:”She has multiple problems about her heart , liver , lungs and kidney . The heart requires attention now. “

I informed on phone . Her brother and younger sister came immediately . Her brother went back , leaving the sister here , for my assistance. It was then that I came to know of her:”What is your educational background?” “I am B.Sc.(computer)”

“In that case , you can get a job here itself’ I will talk to the Manager.”

Within a week , she was appointed in Stores section. She and I did all work of the kitchen and went to office . The condition of my wife had improved sufficiently and our neighbor agreed to look after any urgent needs. Now she slept alone . Because of the heat , Kalpana and I slept on bamboo cots in the front court yard. She said she enjoyed the open sky.

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Several months passed before her (my wife)health deteriorated . She passed away because of pneumonia . The cremation was done at the Project sight. For the eleventh day , her parents came . They took her ashes to be immersed in the Ganga at Hardwar. From there they went to Kashi and Rameshwaram. I felt a sort of relief.

As she cannot get away from her illness , death is better. OF course , she was very loving and I loved her.

Our Project was situated in a forest , near a river ; There were hills on the opposite side .Kalpana and I used to roam about in the hills . There was a sizable presence of Keralites and we used t observe Onam festival . She was always active on such occasions and became popular. She was not a beauty , but quite charming and vivacious. Many people sounded me about her marriage ; I told them that I have no say in such matters.

One day she asked me :”Brother , why don’t you marry? You are strong and handsome , you must not waste your life.” “I have no sex urge.” “Marriage is not for sex alone , companionship is more important”

I looked into her eyes . Does this girl love me? Somehow , I could not ask her:”Do you love me?” She understood my dilemma ad gently pressed my hand. That night she lay in my bed and caressed me . I enjoyed it. I think she consulted her brother . Within a week , he proposed our marriage and we went home ….

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ADOPTION – WHY CHILDREN ONLY?

It is quite natural for childless couples to adopt a baby.

But I feel the necessity for a mother, brother, aunt , house wife or any other conceivable relation who can fill a void in the family.

Of course, we may employ such a person. But that will be an employer- employee relationship, which is not conducive to emotional fulfilment. Love, confidence and affection will develop only if the person is legally adopted.

In the nuclear family, there is need for an extra member. In adoption, we can choose; a natural brother may not be to our liking.

A lonely widow may need a home. The old age home may not be to her liking. After getting to know each other for quite some time, she may be adopted by some family in need od a grandmother.

I have seen very strong bond developing between unrelated individuals. Every one is suspicious of such a relationship. Adoption will solve the problem

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LET THE US AND PAKISTAN COME CLOSER, WHY SHOULD WE GRUDGE?

When India was divided, the US chose Pakistan as an ally. There was a military alliance between them, aimed at containing the communist Russia. Uner the leadership of Nehru, we chose nonalignment as the corner stone of our foreign policy and moved slightly towards friendship with Russia and were hated by the US. Henry Kissinger referred Indira Gandhi “bitch” in a telephone conversation. These ground realities must not be forgotten.

Whenever Pakistan and the US come closer, we become jealous like a wife and suspicious. It is totally uncalled for.

As the cockpit of terrorism, Pakistan is always important for the US. It is the Military- ISI caucus that matters in Pakistan. So, inevitably, they have to talk and understand each other. There is nothing wrong in it. Our mindset of considering Pakistan as an enemy is the cause of all our reactions.

Kashmir is the thorn in the relationship with our brother Pakistan. We do not even allow the US or China, to try to remove the thorn. How have we become so insensible and touchy? Even the word ‘interlocutor’ by Sasi Tharoor became so controversial. We have become a bunch of idiots. Have the media nothing else to report?

What is wrong in mediation by third countries. Do not husband and wife welcome mediation for saving the marriage?

I repeat: give freedom to the Kashmiri people to decide their future. There must be international guarantee to ensure peace as in Nepal.

Pakistan is our brother, not enemy.

SHORT STORY – NARASU OR PURE LOVE

Narasu was three years senior in our school.
His sister Devi was in my class. I liked her. She was very simple without any make up. Her fragrance was a peculiar mix of sandal, tulsi and herbal hair oil, which I liked.
I am half Hindu and half Christian. I have a slight preference for my Hindu Papa, with whom I used to go to temples. I have a necklace with Guruvayoorappan locket on one side and a cross on the opposite end, the cross end in front, when I invariably went to the church on Sundays with my dear Ma, wearing frocks which I like very much.
When we were in the seventh standard, I accompanied Devi to her home, some distance away from the main road. When we reached the front court yard, swept clean and very spacious with a tulsi plant in the centre, well protected with a cement concrete enclosure, I was surprised to hear the mellow musical sounds coming from a veena, rarely heard these days. I hesitated to disturb it by my crude intrusion, but Devi said it was all right and we came in.
It was Narasu. He went on playing the instrument as if I never existed. It hurt my ego, as I was very popular with the boys.
I was offered sweets made of rice flour, jaggery and pure cow’s ghee. It was grand and I went on eating with relish, forgetting Ma’s instructions to be circumspect in the presence of strangers. Devi and her mother encouraged me to eat more and more.
Afterwards, we came and sat in the front room, where Narasu was practicing. When he finished, Devi introduced me.
You are the daughter of Krishna Kanth, isn’t it?
Yes.
I noticed you the day you joined our school. Where were you before?
I was in Delhi.
We talked for some time and I came away in my scooty.
Narasu was hardly my height, slender and unconspicuous. He was above average in studies and preferred to remain aloof. So Iused to meet and talk to him in his home. He had a collection of detective novels which I liked to read. Devi told me he writes poems, but he never allows her to enter his room.
Gradually, our friendship matured. Sometimes the three of us would go for a movie in the town . I liked English movies, but did not mind seeing Malayalam films which Devi liked.
When Narasu left for higher studies, I felt a sudden loss.

When we were in the ninth class, Devi became ill.
It was just a fever, but it refused to go away. So I brought a physician who diagnosed it as typhoid.
Her father was a poojary in a far away temple. I have never seen him. “If he takes leave Bhagavan will starve”, said Devi.
So I became her brother as well.
During illness, I shifted to their house with all my baggage. I had to take her temperature, give medicines and do other nursing, like changing the sheets without disturbing the patient etc. which I learned from my books.

One night I heard a terrified sound from the kitchen. When I rushed there, I found Maji pointing towards the corner where faggots had been stocked for burning the hearth.
I saw a cobra, with its fangs fully spread, surveying the whole scene, for possible attack from any source.
I quietly went and detached the brass vessel, used for drawing water from the open well. Then I brought it near the snake, showing the mouth of the vessel and waited patiently. When it was fully satisfied, it entered the dark inside of the vessel, which I carried outside and deposited on the ground outside. That night I slept in Maji’s room.
Even after Devi fully recoverd, I continued my stay there, as my Papa had become a State Minister and shifted to the capital.
I used to talk almost daily to Narasu. We had become so attached to each other that Devi even talked about our marriage.
“You are too innocent; do you know whether he loves me?” , I asked.
She was sure of that.
I loved him in an etherial way, if I may put it that way, like a beatiful sun set or a mountain landscape. I do not want to do anything which may disturb his composure. I have no objection to some other girl marrying him, who can look after him and his children.

I very well knew, such an orthodox family will not accept a half Hindu like me. My Papa’s experience still persicutes me.
There was no secret between myself and my Papa. He knew all about my friendship with Narasu. At heart he liked the idea. He confidentially consulted an astrologer, who after consuting our horoscopes, said I will die if I married him.
After passing tenth, I went back to Delhi where Ma’s family stayed.

Most of our people are engaged in nursing, mostly from middle class families. I had no financial worries; yet I decided to join this group, because I liked to serve people who are suffering.

Time passed into months and then years. Devi was married and then Narasu. I didn’t have much contact with them as I was fully engaged in my day- to -day work. On Sundays I attended churh conclave.

One fine morning Narasu came. I was not excited when I saw him. It all seemed like a story from children’s books.

He seemed prematurely old. His hair had white streaks. His eyes which were lively and searching, has become deadened like an old man’s. It was shocking.

He had a brief married life, resulting in three kids when he became a widower. He had come to Delhi to attend a conference of medicos. He had some difficulty in locating me, he said.

Involuntarily, I moved closer to him and held his hands in mine. I said: it seems His will, that we must unite- Doctor and Nurse.

APN – AINJIKAT PAZHEDATH NARAYANAN

 He is above sixty, having retired from Rourkela Steel Plant in Orissa.

 He worked as a fitter, I think. Even though he married one of my innumerable cousin sisters, only recently I came to know of him.

 What impressed me most, is his zest for work. Whenever I go there, he will be working in his plot, where he grows plantains, vegetables, growing above the earth and under the ground. He never uses artificial fertilizers; instead, he makes compost. He makes a mixture of tobacco stub, which is normally thrown away, and something, boiled in water, as insecticides. He has not heard of organic farming!

 He works as carpenter or mason when necessary. He has recently dug a well, with nelli beams as the foundation, and used tiles for lining the open well, which may be, at least ten feet in diameter.

 He was a good singer and students’ leader when young.

 Normally, we namboodiries are a lazy lot, especially the adhyan variety, namboodiripad, to which I belong. I am very lazy indeed, except when writing.

There is another Pazhedath, in the same campus, where one of my chitassy amma, was given in marriage to Sreemanettan. When we were learning veda at Kirangattu mana KRS (Unni aphan) and myself (seven years old) used to go there, to do sandhya vandanam, a mandatory ritual, whenever we went to Cherpu Bhagavathy temple to attend evening feast, known as varam.

There was a big man with large eyes; he was the son of the same Sreemanettan by another wife who had died. I was afraid of him. His sister Leela later married my brother.

Earlier, they were wealthy; like a number of namboodiries, mismanagement may be the reason for the decline.

CHILDHOOD MEMOIRS-3, TO SCHOOL

Birth of KPC

I have to fill up some gap in the narrative.

About two centuries ago, a girl in my kk family fell in love with a boy in Kunnathur mana (Padinjaredath, after the split into Kizhakedath and Padinjaredath). As he was a younger brother, he should not have married from his own caste; but the lovers managed to marry.

In due course, a bonny boy was born to the couple who lived in-cognito. The boy was regularly brought to the Peruvanam temple for Darshan of Eratteppan (it was recently that I knew about it. Eratta = double; there is a big lingam and a small one, side by side). The smart boy invited the attention of Ittivasu-aphan (Brother-in-law of Shaktanthampuran) who was meditating in the mandapam.

 On being asked: which is your family?

The boy said: Padinjaredath which surprised the aphan!

A boy in my family, unknown to me?

When matters were clarified, he persuaded the elder brother to bring the young family and both lived happily ……till fate ordered almost a violent implosion. My uncle (eldest) and father of the present kpc generaion hated each other, like Duryodhana and Bhima. My brother may know all about it. A separate kitchen was set up. Maternal grandmother who knew Mahabharat so well failed to intervene. Her opposite number was a simple village girl. After protracted cold war, it was decided to partition the property. Neither party had enough money to pay compensation. So they approached Raja of Travancore who purchased the house. Now some social activities are going on there.

Uncle moved to Kuttapuzha which is very fresh in my memory, as construction of the new house at Naruvakulangara was going on under the supervision of my father. There were a number of wooden vessels used to store sambar etc during feast and we used  to play in them as boats !From Kuttapuzha house we would climb the broken corner wall of the temple and collect marod- a long flat piece of baked earth used as tile-rendered waste after the temple was renovated, with manglore tiles. We would make multi storey structures with marod. Krishnammaman, of my age, was my playmate. Ma’s father married a second time to dispose of my ma’s elder sister(here was a tragedy before which ma’s fate pales into insignificance; at least, ma enjoyed brief spells of affluence and happiness) Krishnammaman was son to the second wife.

One day there was a commotion. My stepsister was running towards the fence. Maheswaran’n elder brother, who was later to be closely associated to me, was trying to come down from a bamboo tree. A thorn had pierced his eye. They took him to Nambisan’s clinic at Trichur, but could not save the eye.

School

My guru died, followed by several of his brothers, on account of some epidemic, I think. Vedic education came to an end. I wanted to go to school inspired by the fact, perhaps, that all my cousins in ma’s house went to school.

Somehow, I had a half shirt and half trouser. I changed into this new dress and approached uncle Vasudevaphn, who was working at high school at Cherpu. He was reading something at his bungalow at kottical. When he heard me, he quietly gave me a four anna coin (25 paise) and dismissed me.

I went straight to ma’s house at Naruvakulangara and requested the one-eyed Aniettan (Neelakanthan)to help me. Next day at 9 am we started for the high school, where he was studying. In front of the Karayogam School, he asked me to wait and proceeded further. At 10 the bell rang. I panicked and followed the children who went into the first standard. I sat with them on a bench. There were no desks. Ramankutty master (there male teachers were called so) must have been surprised. He did not say anything. I immensely liked the new atmosphere .The masterji drew a fine pumpkin on the blackboard which looked like a real one.

At lunch break, he gave me a form and told me to get it filled by elders. I do not remember who signed it. Perhaps my second uncle. I dutifully handed over the form to masterji.

That was the happiest day in my life! Goddess Saraswatiy must have been very pleased. My parents or anybody in my family, probably, did not know about it, until I returned on Friday evening.

Pidikaparambu

After partition of property between Vasudevaphan and our family, when we came away, we became refugees in our own village. Who would take responsibility of a young widow and her four children without any wherewithal? We were housed in an old uninhabited cottage. A faithful maidservant remained with mother even in her woes. Across the fields my brother and I would run to join our cousins who are children of Ramaphan, who happened to be patrnal great grandfather’s youngest son. Recently I happened to see the latter’s cousin, something like a character from history. I did not know that such a person ever lived. This is a peculiar nature. I never cared to know anything about anyone. Now I want to have a record of each member of our clan. Living ones are more than sixty in number.

Ramaphan’s son Unni (KRS) is only slightly elder to me. At that time, we were about thirteen. Next comes Vasudevan and Raman. Their orchard is very large and has a big pond and two or three wells. In the night we all used to sleep together.

At the Shiva temple Othootu was going on. Yajurveda would be recited every day for forty one days continuously, from morning till midnight with lunch break of an hour or so.

Morning breakfast at 8, lunch at 1p.m., evening light food at 6, and dinner at midnight .There were oil and vaka (powdered bark of a tree) and crushed leaves of hedge for shampoo (what a healthy life style !) at the temple tank for our use (only for Namboodiris) Our bath may take a long time, massaging, talking and swimming…..

Practically we children enjoyed the time.

Poor ma once woke up in the night and saw something hanging from the roof .The only light was from a small bottle lamp (filled with kerosene and fitted with a perforated lid through which a wick is inserted) She woke up the maid. It was a SNAKE, probably poisonless (Rat snake) chera, but remember that father died of snakebite !All through the night, they kept vigil lest it may harm the sleeping girls…

Thiruvallakavu temple, now famous for initiating kids into the world of letters, is only two miles from our house. People offer appam (rice powder and jaggery mixed and made into balls which are then fried in pure cows’ ghee) We walk the distance , circumventing the hill, with hardly any dwelling in that are (now there is bus service, tarred road, plenty of terrace buildings and Santa Maria School) and stray dogs with menacing looks, reach the main Trichur-Kodungallor road. At 3pm is the pooja. The appetizing fragrance of ghee diverts our attention while praying for sadbudhi (wisdom). We may eat the appam then and there.

One day a stranger appeared, wearing khaki trousers and half-sleeved shirt. He smiled at us and started talking, as if he knew us. He was hefty and well built and had leadership qualities. He organized local farmers to form a Kisan Sabha.We were easily entangled into a Balasangham.He became a hero-comrade M.N., later; a warrier also became an activist.

Our Cochin state was an independent entity, ruled by a king, area comprising of the land south of Bharatapuzha and Travancore state in the South, beyond Ernakulum district. There was demand for peoples’ representation in the administration and people were becoming politically conscious. A private road leading to a temple was closed to lower castes. They were agitating for the right to use the road. Police mercilessly beat them up. M.N. was among them. We saw him coming with several injuries. Our tender hearts melted, we gave the appams we were carrying, to comrade.

At that time I took Savithri, my sister to Vallachira School and enrolled her there. I do not remember any of our relatives visiting us. Not even maternal grandmother!

Avanavil mana had three elephants. The youngest Ramachandran became out of control and refused to come out of the temple tank. We all went to see the fun. It was spectacle worth watching. The animal was swimming and diving, sometimes only the four feet visible above water, moving from corner to corner within seconds, muddying the water, putting the mahouts to an ordeal. They taught him a lesson, after he was ultimately enticed with a bunch of plantains, beating him right and left. The poor creature was simply enjoying a dip in water. He was a waterfriend. I almost wept. Why do we not allow these forest animals their freedom?

Pazhai

Ultimately Veembur kadalayil mana adopted us and we moved to a cottage adjoining their’s, purchased from a nair family, marking the beginning of a lifelong relationship with V.B.S, my guide and mentor until I left Keralam for good.

The lady in white, my maternal grandma ,belonged to this house which was earlier located at Thalore.

 Pazhai(gone waste)

 The very name is a thrill. In the village library, I found my first novel(Translation of  “The Wreck by Tagore “), I devoured every word, like a thirsty man drinking dew drops. I was disappointed, when Kamala returned to her lawful husband, whom she had never seen! The love between her and  Romesh, the hero, was pure and devoid of selfishness. Alas, such love wilts under the heat of married life!

There was an ashram of Vivekananda Mission, near the river (now under RSS).The plot was donated by maternal grandma’s uncle. The library had children’s English books which I greedily read, though half the words were unknown to me.

VBS’s cousins and their children, my maternal uncles and occasionally, politicians used to frequent the VK house and, in short, a certain intellectual air prevailed there, very stimulating and invigorating. There, I learned the basics of Marxism. Gorky’s books were a favourite. Ralph Fox, Steinbeck, Howard Fast etc. were too familiar, even though, Trotsky’s autobiography was read only recently in Dyal Singh Library (he was unjustly maligned by Stalinists. He was a genius of the rank of Lenin, M.N.Roy, Mao etc).

PERUVANAM TEMPLE

 According to legend, Puru Maharshi did meditation at the hill, where the temple of Shiva now stands. It was a dense forest in those days; hence its name Puruvanam, which became peruvanam. The rishi brought the image of Shiva, the Lingam, a half cylinder, to be installed on top of the hill. Afterwards, the upper half of the hill, leaving the small area where the Lingam was placed, was razed down to its present size, making a vast plane, with the central high ground standing tall (MADATHILAPPAN) which is protected by massive walls on all sides, with twin temples of Eratteppan and Madathilappan, the latter standing tall, with a number of granite steps leading to the sanctum, from where, you get a sky view of the surrounding landscape. I am never tired of watching it, from childhood days, as my mother’s home was near the southern Gopuram (gate).

There were several venerable, old trees in the compound, including peepal tree and one perillamaram (meaning- tree without name, as it was a stranger there), all looking very old and about to die. New trees have replaced them.

 The big koothampalam, where chakyar koothu was a regular ritual in those days, is rare in the other temples.

The koothu is a sort of mono act and Ramayanam is the theme. The Chakyar will make fun of any body among the audience, however high his status!

Once, the chakyar came very near to the man, a VIP who had just entered the hall, stood there  for a few seconds, and commented: a real monkey, only the tail is missing!

 One is supposed to suffer and grin, never retort.

Every year, for one month or so, there is thevaruseva, when there will be feasting, both times in the day, only for Brahmins. The dining hall is very long, some four feet in height, cut into three segments to allow devotees to pass through. As children we had difficulty in jumping up on to the dining place.

Throughout the year, there is simple food served to brahmins which we avoided as something below our status. Tamil Brahmins made use of this facility. My maternal grandfather’s brother lived at the western gopuram, eating the free food.

The circular sanctum of Eratteppan ( there is one big lingam and one small lingam by its side, hence this name) is very spacious, with a circular covered veranda, allowing the poojary to go from Shiva in the west to Parvathy in the back of the sanctum. In Keralam, Shiva is alone; in rare cases, where she is allowed inside, she is at the back of the temple.

The eastern entrance, where the gopuram was destroyed by the soldiers of Tippu Sultan, leads to the broad sloping arena, where seven elephants can stand side by side, during pooram festival. Farther down is the spacious temple pond. All the villagers take bath in this waterhole, with steps to climb down and a pucca shed on one side, where the poojary takes bath before entering the temple.The pond will not dry up even in summer, in rainy season it will be full.

Mekavil Bhagavathy is near the western gopuram. Oorakath Ammathiruvady, Thiruvullakavu Sasthavu, and several other temples are in the vicinity.

The location of the temple is twelve KM from Trichur, on the road to Triprayar temple of Lord Ram.