Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pictures from the past ...

For every mother it is hard to let thier sons risk their lives, and for Amma, after the accident, every time Kannan gets on the bike, it is stressful. But the love for his bike, Kannan would go to any length to fulfil his dream of going on a ride whenever possible. Letting go of all the thoughts and enjoying the ride. He would get up early tune his bike to his heart’s desire to hear the heartbeats of the mate, his 350 CC Classic. On his usual shorts and T shirt with a half helmet with his brushy beard, he looked so much out of place from what the loacalites usually see...Kannan mounted the bike and paddled the bike with his legs towards the gate when he saw Amma returning from the temple. 

"Amma ... I will be back soon, going to click some pictures" said Kannan smiling.

The early morning sun had just spread his arms in a hug to the world and the slight drizzle the previous evening had moistened the ways Kannan was about to roll on with his Bullet. Amma smiled at Kannan's statement and carefully searched for the sandal paste in the banana leaf with flowers and a small sweet banana which she carried in her hands from the temple. She took the prasad and smeared a little sandal on Kannan's forehead and closed her eyes in prayers. The moments of silence and prayers seemed to be blessed by God with soothing winds enveloping them in divine grace. Amma's wet hair tied lightly behind after bath, had a few tulasi leaves on it. Her closed eyes opened and she took a little sandal paste and put on the headlight of the bike. Took the banana and gave it to Kannan

"Drive safe... don't speed Kanna... " Said Amma even when his short ride this morning.

Kannan got off from the bike and touched Amma's feet. He always felt there is a bit of heaven under her feet. The prayers would be more important to him than any protective jackets or helmet. He walked back towards his bike, kicked it to start off a journey which he had been wanting to set out on for a very long time... As he moved slowly out of the gates he stopped and looked up. On the third floor balcony Appa was standing to wave at him. Kannan smiled and waved at Appa who kept the steel tumbler of coffee on the ledge of the verandah and waved at him. With all the love prayer and blessings Kannan raised the bike to a full throttle. The change of gears and the speeding bike left behind Appa and Amma praying for his safe return soon. 

He drove through the morning silent roads which extended limitlessly in front of him as every stop he made during this journey was a destination itself. Each one had a special place in his heart. Thinking of the childhood days when Appa would drive his white and green, KLR 6941 from Ernakulam to Trivandrum to Thatha's house. 

He reached the old twin house in Trivandrum, not very far from where Appa and Amma stayed now. The house where he and Akka used to listen to stories from Thatha, the house where the kitchen was more a celebration each day with whatever it had mixed with loads and loads of love. The house where all the mamas and mamis lived together as a huge joint family. 

Kannan saw the ISKCON temple opposite to the house where Natarajan mama used to play the dhol during the evening bhajans. He also saw the remnants of an old shack, which used to be the shop where Thatha bought his betel leaves and supari for the night time pan for 20 paise, the small round copper coin which had a lotus engraved on it. . Thatha used to call it "Nagu's pan shop". Some days where more exciting when he got a chance to buy the small green menthol flavored sugar confectionery dearly called as "Gas muttayi"... 4 pieces for 10 paise, the fairly big flowery aluminum coin which no longer is seen with people as the smallest denomination these days are 5 rupees. 

Kannan took out his camera and clicked the pictures of the old house which no longer was a home for the family but a store house of some trading company. These pictures will remind him of the good old childhood days. He could even see the green and white car parked outside and young Appa and Amma getting out of it with two kids himself and Akka in the back of his mind. The images were not dulled by the passing of time. He could hear Ammamma singing "Sreechakra raja simhaasaneswari sree lalithambikayae ..." (A Devotional song Ammamma used to sing very often)

As Kannan kept clicking pictures of the old house he could hear Ammamma call out from his heart

"Kanna ...." and the child who yearned to hear the call ran out from his heart out to the gates of the house where Ammamma was standing with arms wide open to hug her grandson. 

The well combed hair rolled to a bun of the yesteryear fashion and the diamond nose pin in the shape of a peacock, the flower shaped diamond ear rings, the gold bangles, though less in number as she used to take one out bend it and give it to Venki Mama each time he needed money for something or the other, the fair glowing skin adorned with the beautiful smile filled with love, the smell of the talcum powder "exotica " the peacock blue silk saree with a dark Prussian blue border and the shell frame glasses. Kannan's mentor in many ways Ammamma was close to his heart. The deft hands once dishing sweets and all that he wished to eat, the filter coffee in the morning and evening, the aromatic pulinkari with leaves of the drumstick tree, the coconut chutney and soft cloud like fluffy idles in the shape of a full moon... all came to Kannan's mind.

She would make drums of coconut burfee for Kannan as he loved to eat them and would remain at the Railway station till the train left. Kannan would keep waving at her till the train had moved really far. The young Kannan would try and peep out of the iron railed window to see if he can get a glimpse more of his Ammamma. 

It was during his tenth standard that Ammamma left the world leaving behind strong memories to all. She was a friend to all, a doting mother to her children, a loving grandmother to Kannan and Akka. Her long fight with diabetes and its difficulties all came to a stop. Those last one month, was really hard for her. The glowing skin gave way to wrinkles the eyes that shined bright saw only darkness, the hands that made the delicacies moved no more and she was bedridden for years till her last breath.

It was after Thatha's death they moved to another house. Swaminathan Mama, his wife Jayam Mami and Venki Mama were the ones to take care of her during the last few years. One of those dark nights Venki Mama came home really late. He slept near Ammamma on the floor when she would try to get some sleep in the darkness her eyes gave her all the time. She would hear the TV shows as long as it played, and imagine all that was happening and after which the only sounds she could hear was that of the ceiling fan whirring all night. 

Well past 2 in the morning Venki Mama was woken up by a feeling in his leg. He felt a warm liquid wet his feet. Venki Mama got up and switched lights on to see a rat run away from the bed where Ammamma was sleeping. The rat had gnawed the motionless legs of Ammamma and blood was gushing from her wounded toe. The pool of blood was fed by the blood that was oozing from her toe, while she was asleep. The diabetes had numbed her limbs to an extent where she could hardly feel the pain, and doctors had warned about such difficulties even at an early stage. The only pain she had was that she had to seek help every need of hers. Venki Mama did not know what to do and frantically banged the doors of the room where Swaminathan Mama was sleeping.

"Swami... swami ... come fast" that’s all Venki mama could say... and they rushed her to the hospital on that morning of November 17th. 

Kannan remembered the whole month when every evening he would be with Amma at the hospital and people came and visited Ammamma, knowing that she had not much time left with her. The hair which lived all the fashion of those days was now just a thin pig tail braided to keep her clean. Weakness overpowered her and hardly spoke a word or two. The drips, medicines and nursing went on and on trying to get her to normalcy. And after all the efforts by the doctors for over three weeks, she was stable and discharged on the 15th of December.

"That’s all we can do for her ..." said the doctor while she was moved in the wheel chair to the car. 

No one expected her to hold on to life so much...even some prayed for her peaceful death seeing her suffer for so long. On the night of December 16, she woke up from sleep. It was almost ten in the night and Amma and Kannan were about to leave for home, when she called

"Paappa..." and Amma was shocked to hear the call. "Where is Venki.." she asked

Everyone rushed to the dimly lit room where she had spent many months in bed. She slowly pushed herself up with the partly paralyzed hands and sat up. The shock in the eyes of everyone there was evident. 

"Appa is here... Even Mahadevan" she continued.

Amma's eyes filled with tears as Ammamma was seeing all those who had died.

"Lalitha has also come... I never thought I could see you all" Amma said in a frail voice and pointed to the empty corner of the room where may be she saw her dead sister standing.

"It’s just a dream...she is delirious" said Venki mama and helped her lie down and get back to sleep "May be the medicines" he added.

The flame which was burning bright all night went off the next morning in sleep. The void she left behind with her passing away, was still there in Kannan's heart. He mechanically closed the lens with the lens cover and put his camera back into the bag. Mounted his bike and started back home. Kannan continued the ride above the flyover....above the railway tracks which carried the old black steam engines in which Amma Akka and Kannan travelled during vacations when Appa was not to accompany them. The smell of the coal, the coal grit in the air, the smoke and the hoots were all replaced with modern engines and electric diesel hybrid engines of these days. But the mind could still show him those old pictures. The picture of Ammamma in her peacock blue saree at the railway station. The child in his was waving at his grandmother who was smiling for him. The ride back home was with a heavy heart but the pictures will make them lighter. 

"Amma would be delighted to see those pictures..." Kannan thought as he returned on his bike with a load of memories.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Journey of Faith ....

The temple arathi was reaching its crescendo when the whole Thiruvannamali temple was enveloped by the sounds of the bells. The lamps, the camphor, the incense and the flowers showered on the Thiruvannamalayan Arunachaleswarar, the deity in the sanctum sanctorum was giving a divine pleasure in the hearts of the hundreds assembled there. Kannan was standing near the doors of the main deity and his eyes were filled with tears of ecstasy, a feeling which can be described with no mere words for sure. The lamps lit behind the deity were giving a glow as if the Lord was present there to receive the lamps offered by the devotees.

Kannan took the prasad from the poojari and walked out of the temple. The evening winds made his salt and pepper long hair sway like the waves of sea. His beard and the vermillion on the forehead gave him a majestic look, like a king of the yesteryears living in the modern age. The fresh evening moonlight gave the smiling six footer in white long kurta and white dhoti a strange peaceful glow. He was setting out on the girivalam, the walk around the mountain, which is a customary practice in Thiruvannamalai. 

Kannan walked fast through the busy streets and finished his darshans of the Brahma Lingam and Indra Lingam temples and moved towards the Karpaga vinayagar temple, when the busy streets slowly gave way to the mountain roads... silent, peaceful and serene. He walked through a small street to reach the Agni lingam temple. Quickly had a darshan and walked out by the side of the Indra theertham.

There were a few buses and cycles moving past him while he walked with his steady speed towards the outskirts of the town towards the girivalam road. He had walked those roads many times before and the faith in his heart gave him all the strength to move forward. There were not many who were taking the girivalam at that time... As the wind wiped a sweat from his forehead, Kannan thought of the fortunes he had in his life. The temples he had visited since his childhood. The ups and downs in his faith. The divine intervention in his life and the blessed moments for which he is thankful even today. 

As a child Kannan was god fearing to an extent of living a sagacious life even at a very young age. He hardly knew what worship is when he started spending hours in prayers. Time changed his thoughts with the life around him when his teens wanted more than prayers and even had a fight with Appa.

"Why is it that every vacation we go to temples, why can't we go somewhere nice..." Kannan asked Appa
Appa smiled and remained silent. Kannan now understands why he smiled. Those smiles just said one thing
"You will know why... when the time comes"

Kannan smiled the same smile Appa smiled and walked towards the Yam lingam temple. As he smeared the holy ash on his forehead and walked forward.

A small boy was walking holding on to his father’s hand... and Kannan heard him ask his father

"Baba... hum paisa nahin denge to bhagwaan naaraz honge kya"

Kannan laughed in his heart as he had the same doubt when he was a small boy. Kannan waited to hear the answer, which turned out to be more hilarious

"Shhhhh... badmash... aisa nahin kehte...paap lagega"

We tend to silence the doubts our children have but not give them the answer or whether we know or not. Slowly enjoying the nightfall Kannan reached his next stop over for the walk which was at the Nirthi Lingam temple. The night pooja was being performed and Kannan was praying for Narayan when the mobile buzzed to life in his pocket. The vibration was felt and not heard amidst the noise at the temple filled with people.

Kannan walked out and took the call as he continued his walk

"Appa... are you okay... how are you ... when are you back" Narayan was eager to know how his Appa was
"I am fine ... just finished a quarter of the Girivalam... praying for you"
"Appa ... does your leg hurt now" Narayan asked
"A little... but its okay" Kannan replied "I will finish the girivalam and call you... you have your dinner"

Kannan cut the call and continued his journey forward physically and backward in his mind. The leaves from the trees cushioned his walk forward... but the time in his life which hurt the most came to his mind.

The young blood and the association with the Extreme Left thought teacher Suresh Sir gave him a period of rational thought. Seeing God as a lie told to fool and scare people. Kannan turned to be an Atheist against what he used to be during his late teens. Kannan's eyes filled with tears as he thought about those foolish days when he argued with those who had the faith and asked him to keep the faith in the supreme power. Kannan's phone rang again... He looked at the screen and the name flashed

"God's Gift"

and Kannan answered.... "Narayana...., what now? I said I will call you after I finish"
"Nothing pa... just was worried about you" and he cut the call.

The bond between the aging father and the young son in his late teens was beyond anyone could understand. Kannan moved to the next temple which was Surya Lingam temple. As the night sky was getting darker, the full moon was lighting it more. Kannan walked forward and stopped at a tea shop and had a tea... sipping it, he was thinking of the moments at Udupi temple during one of the vacations.

"Kanna..." called the priest as Appa, Amma, Kannan and Akka were walking out of the Udupi temple.
Kannan looked back at the frail hermit with dark short hair and a thick beard clad in saffron smiling at him. All were surprised as Kannan walked towards the head priest in charge of the temple for that period. He was Swami Paryaya from Puttige Mutt in Udupi. A person never seen before, calling him by name and that did not astonish Kannan. 
"Will you have lunch with me" asked the saint
Kannan smiled and agreed.

Those memories sweetened the thoughts hurt by the memories of being an atheist for a period later in life. Kannan gave the change and smiled at the tea vendor. His walk was to the next temple which was Varuna lingam temple... Many temples crossed the minds of Kannan as he walked forward.

"Kanna... I did not know that I was pregnant when I was at Samayapuram temple" Kannan remembered Amma's words, and the eyes that lit up when she said that. "I prayed for a baby boy at Guruvayoor and you are His gift to me". The talk with Amma echoed in his mind as he walked forward to Vayu Lingam temple.

Kannan swiped the screen to open the gallery and see some old pictures while he walked forward. In the heart of hearts he thanked every happy moment in life. He saw baby Narayan's picture and smiled. "God's Gift" He said to himself, as a horse cart trotted beside him.

"Sir... savaari" asked the horseman
"No thanks" said Kannan and walked forward.

The speed which he started was slowly ebbing off as he reached the Kubera Linga temple. Kannan sat there for a while and drank some water from the stainless steel drinking water cooler which had a list of donors name written on it in red paint. As he got up Kannan had the two remaining destinations in mind. The idukku pillayar temple and the Eesanya Lingam temple which would complete his this year’s girivalam. Slow yet steady steps lead him to the small temple which had an opening hardly that would let a baby boy through. The belief is that if you come through it it’s more a rebirth and all your sins are atoned. Kannan went around and put his arm first through the opening. With great effort he started pushing himself through the opening.

"Saami... even more bigger guys come through it... you can... push" Kannan heard the voice of a roadside vendor who was standing near the temple. Kannan slowly pushed himself through when a hand held his outstretched hand and started helping him. "Who could it be" Kannan thought as the hands felt so familiar. As he pushed himself through and came out through the opening Kannan saw a smiling tall teenager holding his hand.

"Narayana ..." Kannan called out in amazement
"Did not want you to do it all alone .... I was just behind you" Narayan said with a smile.

Kannan hugged him, bearing the Idukku Pillayar (Ganesh) as a witness to the love between the father and son. The last stretch of 3 kilometers were devoid of thoughts and filled with smiles when Kannan put his arm over his son's shoulder and walked towards the last of the temples in the Girivalam.

"So you said you did not want to come and what brings you all the way" Kannan asked mockingly
"You ..." was the answer from Narayan.

Both of them walked towards the room after the darshan at Eesanya Lingam temple completing the girivalam. The walk had made Kannan tired and slept off reaching the room, woken in the wee hours of night when he felt something cold in his feet. He opened his eyes and the misty eyes saw Narayan by his feet in the brightness of the night lamp. He was awake applying cream on the blistered legs of his Appa. The smile on the face of the two was similar to the divine emotion the previous evening which leave no words to describe.... Love is simply divine.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prayers ... as simple as it is.

"Dear students... Happy fathers day to you and today we are proud to have one of our old students amidst us. Before I welcome him, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce him to you, though he is a man who needs no formal introduction" started the school head boy.

The School auditorium was full and students were eager to meet one of the well known speakers live for the next 40 minutes. Some were pulling each other’s neck ties in fun, some seriously ready to take notes and some already feeling bored thinking about the talk. For Kannan it was yet another opportunity to share his thoughts with the generation to come. Some students assembled there were talking to each other about the videos they have seen on YouTube and about the way the speaker makes it really interesting. 

"I have seen his videos... have you"
"Yeah I have... I like him... will he sign my autograph book"

Kannan heard two boys behind him talk in hushed voice, while the head boy went on and on with the two page introduction about himself. There were cute boys some with spectacles, some well groomed, some really naughty, some with chubby cheeks and a cute little paunch, some by the looks revealed that they were the nerds of the lot, "Stu" as they are called, short for studious and the looks of those kids reminded Kannan about the same auditorium where he would stand along with his classmates for the morning school assembly. All his friends and the teachers came to his mind.

"... It’s my honor and pleasure to welcome our school's old student and a successful creative director, known for his work, motivational speak, inspiring millions, Mr. Kannan Iyer"

The hall reverberated with claps and Kannan's eyes shed a tear of joy. He walked up to the podium, gave a pat on the back of the school head boy, who seemed to be excited and eager to listen to Kannan speak. He rushed to his seat in the front row where the principal and some old teachers with some new, not known to Kannan were sitting. 

"Dear students... Happy Fathers day to you all. It’s really a proud moment for me" Kannan started without the usual four folded paper which many carry with a written speech on it. “I have come a long way before I come here before you today and to speak to you. I owe what I am today to my Appa"

The naughty noise of the students subsided and the voice was the only thing heard in the hall and yes... the fans on the roof, which made the background score for Kannan's words. 

"I don’t want to bore you with a long speech, but want to ask you one question"

The kids who were taking notes from the first word Kannan spoke looked up and stopped scribbling on the notebooks. 

"What do you want to be when you grow up ..." asked Kannan and waited for an answer

Kannan knew the obvious answer and there came a roaring mix of "Doctor", "Engineer" "Pilot" and even "Actor" and "Singer"

"Well... then let me ask you individually" he asked the students with a smile. Kannan was bending down to reach the microphone set to its maximum height, and still falling short of Kannan's expectation. He was bent over reaching the mic and with one hand on the podium folded like a news presenter and the other hand pointing to a smart young boy on the second row.

The young boy stood up and boldly started "Sir... I want to be a science teacher..."

"Ok" interrupted Kannan and asked the next boy

"Sir I want to be a pilot ... and make a lot of money ... so that we have a good life" was his reply

"Interesting" said Kannan and pointed the next boy

"Sir... I don’t know... I just want to be like my dad when I grow up"

Kannan paused. He took a deep breath and asked the boy to sit down. Was that the answer he was looking for?

"Let me tell you about my father ...My Appa is a simple man and once I asked him the same question" Kannan resumed from his silence. He saw his teachers look at him with the sense of accomplishment and happiness. As he narrated, his mind was being filled with that day when he was on vacation and the day started early owing to the jet lag. Appa's day starts early in the morning when he gets up at 4 in the morning. He would slowly without making noise walk out of the bedroom and head to the pooja room. The lights of the pooja room would be turned on and he would stand there with folded hands. Kannan saw him praying silently with a  
sense of contentment on that day too. It was then he relished that Kannan was sitting there punching something on his Smartphone and he smiled

"You did not sleep"
"No pa ... jet lag... I am fine... shall I make coffee for you"

He smiled again and said "No... I will have to go for a walk now... will have a tea there at the tea shop near the temple"

That was his usual morning routine, the walk, plucking flowers for pooja, a tea at the tea shop and humming some song to himself as he walks back home.

As he changed to his usual walking shirt and dhoti and came to the hall, where Kannan was sitting, he turned and asked

"Do you want to come for a walk?"

Kannan smiled and said "No... you enjoy your walk"

As Kannan finished the steaming hot filter coffee, which filled the room with the aroma, and the newspapers, Appa was back and he continued with his daily routine. The wash, the pooja, and then the visit to the nearby temple and back for breakfast. Kannan was intrigued by the never broken routine of Appa and while having the idlies with the special sambhar which smelt of the masalas and coriander, and would be enough to gobble down another dozen of idlies. He asked

"Appa ..." Kannan started the conversation while the devotional song was playing on the CD player" Can I ask you something"
Appa looked up and had another mouthful of the soft idlies...which Amma refers to as "Soft like jasmine idlies"
"What do you pray at the temple” Kannan asked
"Nothing" was his reply
"You mean you just go and pray... pray what" Kannan was curious
"Nothing... I don’t say anything... I just get the pleasure in being there... and ask nothing"

Kannan was spell bound for a second and again asked

"You have asked for nothing all these 70 plus years"
"ah.... yes...  once ... when I had given my exam for CA... I was finding it tough and prayed that I passed" Appa replied

Kannan smiled and thought "The greatness of my Appa is truly his simplicity"

Kannan narrated the incident to the students and continued his brief yet interesting speech at the school

"God knows what is good for us and our prayers are heard... but do you really need to ask what you want when God knows what is best for you?"

The pin drop silence in the school auditorium was broken by a thunderous applause and continued so for a few minutes. 

"Thank you and keep praying...Happy Father's Day" Kannan concluded, feeling choked, overwhelmed with the love he had for his Appa.

As he walked back to his seat in the front row, Kannan ran his fingers through his hair and without anyone seeing wiped the tear on the corner of his eye, smiled to himself thinking

"We pray for so many things... silly or not .... but I can never be simple as my Appa... who achieved everything from being the best dad for his children... a role model for those at work and a friend to all... without ever asking anything for himself in prayers... But I pray for his health and happiness... and I will keep doing it"

Kannan it was too much for the students or himself to follow but knew that there would be very few in this world who would be as simple as Appa, who would walk the world and make it difficult for others to believe...

But it was Fathers day and Kannan remains proud to be a son to such a simple father, whose simplicity remains even today with him and in Kannan's heart. Deep down in his heart, he wished that Appa was there to listen to the applause for him, but was sure that he would just smile and walk away...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A new name for the past ... fate.

The setting sun seemed to be too tired with the day’s events and just wants to plunge in the cool blue ocean lashing the sands and Kannan stood there watching the sun move fast into the arms of the ocean. The wind caressed his hair like a mother would do when she sees him worried. The heat of the day left a few drops of sweat which was being wiped by the evening beach winds. His eyes were wet yet tried to hide them as there were others watching the sunset. But they would be having something else and each one will have a different feeling looking at the sunset. Kids were flying kite and the kite had a shine on it like the dreams and hopes of tomorrow. Kannan was thinking of the time that was while he saw the speeding sun diving into the ocean.

Four years in college, the fun, the pain, the exams, the sessionals, the rough records, the workshops... Engineering was not the first choice for Kannan, but he seemed to enjoy it then. The companionship and camaraderie, the love and the silly fights and all that came along with it. It was for Amma and her alone.... for her words were

"You get me the degree certificate and then do anything you want to do ...."

The initial days in college in the C1 batch of Civil Engineering students, Kannan was a loner. Probably the tall stature, huge and matured look, kept others away and Kannan was not in a mood to confront those issues. He would walk in and sit in the front bench and hide everyone behind him with his wall like body and gave them the freedom to pursue their antics. The Seniors in college thought he was in his M.Tech or some other master’s course coz his size never gave him a look of a first year student. The UFO's (Unidentified Flying Objects) hurled from behind on Salim Sir who used to give sedative lectures on Economics, which put almost everyone to sleep, the exchange of film magazines, the discussions of girls about the new trends in churidars  an accessories... all seemed not to be Kannan's cup of tea. 

Kannan reached Vattakottai on his bike just to see another sunset as he watched with his friends in college 8 years back. The excursion to Vattakottai from college was to get acquainted to each other and spend the next 6 semesters together. But that trip changed Kannan's life. It was the day he spoke to his friends in his class. Kannan was sitting on the same ledge on the fortress where Priya, Jyothi and a few others approached him on that day. 

"Are you Tamil" asked Priya
Kannan smiled and said "Yes."
"Oh Me too ..." the 5 foot two stout girl with a white T shirt with a picture of a sunset and huge brown shell frame shades over her big eyes,  which covered her high cheek bones and a pony tail tied high replied.
"I am Priya ... and you ..."
"Kannan... Kannan Iyer" said Kannan
"Bond ... James Bond" was the reply and they all laughed.

Though in the same class, they never communicated much. But very less they knew that the acquaintance was for the next 8 years. The next three and a half years in college changed the friendship towards support for each other. The time to share their studies, notes, thoughts, and difficulties... It was the end of college and time for them to decide what they should do further in life. They did ... and got married. The night before... on December 7th, there was so much of excitement. Kannan could hardly sleep. All night he was hushing on the phone about the next morning's arrangements. Got up early and had a quick wash and wore a white silk shirt and dhoti. Appa saw him in the strangest of morning wear and asked

"What’s special?"
"I am going to the temple after I drop you at the station" Kannan said with a smile

Though he was telling the truth, it was not the whole truth. The results of his exams were not yet out and he was going to get married without letting anyone know, but a few friends who were a part of the plot. Probably that’s why the oath at the court asks the witness to say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Kannan was silent as the white Fiat KET 3080, moved steadily with Appa beside him to the railway station.

"I will be late" said Appa... Kannan nodded. He got out of the car and bent down as if to pick the coin he had dropped purposely and touched Appa's feet and said nothing. But his heart spoke a lot then. He needed his Appa's blessings.

He drove to Priya's house, where she was equally tensed. She was dressed simply in a green saree and a golden blouse. A simple chain on the neck and a couple of bangles as if it was just another temple visit. The moment they had been waiting for was just a couple of hours away. There were a thousand butterflies in his tummy. No one knew about the marriage except Priya, her parents, the one and only friend of her father Ramakrishnan, a few friends and Venki Mama. 
Venki mama was all so tense near the temple when they reached. He had ordered a tea and did not drink it... instead he ordered a bottle of cool soda and did not have it... He did not know how Appa would react when he comes to know that he knew. It was more like Venki mama was on the delivery table and he was about to give birth. The birth of a new chapter in Kannan's life.

The temple gave a feeling of being blessed by God. All were waiting for the moment. The lamps, the smell of the burning oil in the lamps, the incense and camphor, the garlands, the music on the speakers in the temple, the brass utensils and the December morning wind outside. The tension was ebbing off. The poojari came out from the sanctum sanctorum and gave the yellow thread well covered in turmeric as it is supposed to be sacred and auspicious with the gold medallion... which would be the sign of the marriage. 

The wedding knot was tied in front of the deity. Venki mama gave Kannan one of the white tube rose garland with a red rose as decoration on it and the other to Priya. The garlands were exchanged without much pomp and splendor. There were no special band to play the wedding bells, but only the temple bells and a devotional song playing in the temple sound system. There were no special gatherings of people but just a few who witnessed. The fragrance of the garland filled their breath and their hearts with happiness amidst all the tension. Kannan and Priya stood there for a moment in silence with folded hands. The life changing moment. Two people who were friends at college now from then on were husband and wife. There was a moment of stillness, probably never before or never after. The rites the temple were over and the husband and wife signed on the temple register. They lifted their heads, looked at each other and smiled, not knowing till when the smiles would last. 

All the four years of life flashed in Kannan's mind. The starting life together, being there for each other, working together for a while in one office, the quick lunch outings and the late night movies, the long bike trips, travelling to Hyderabad for further studies, their life and difficulties in Dubai and return, the long hours of work and not giving each other the quality time, the scuffles and fights and last but not the least, all the people who crept into the relation as mediators, soothsayers and problem solvers worsened or rather distanced the two. The flashes of thoughts were many... some sweet, some sour, some happy some painful, some of togetherness and some of being away, but it was a wild storm of thoughts indeed when others were enjoying the serene sunset.

"Here ... take this" after one of the daily fights Priya stood before Kannan with the medallion, the sign of marriage in a chain, in her hand. Threw it to the floor expressing her discord in the fight. Gone are the days when the insignia of marriage need be around the neck of the wife. It has now turned to be just a fashion accessory, which can be worn or removed as per convenience... at least the sentiments no longer exist in many. But, this day marked the end, end of all the decisions and thoughts... ended so soon... What started with laughs ended in tears.

The smiling face in their mind were being taken over by the angry visages. Like the left over milk curdles over time, the relation too curdled with days passing. Kannan wiped his tears and a chapter ended in his life. Tears came to his eyes as the heart was stuffed with hurting memories of the past, as it was not usual for people to share their struggles with others with an obvious question in the end... "What will they think?". Yes men do cry... they do have tears to shed, but life is strange and has so much in store, but we never know what is round the corner. Kannan took a deep breath and exhaled the thoughts along with his breath. He kicked his 350 cc Bullet to a heartbeat and drove back with memories washed by the golden sea at Vattakottai. As he distanced from the beach, the sounds of the waves faded away and Kannan had made up his mind to move forward in life, leaving the broken dreams and memories there in the beach for the ebbing waves to wash away. The sense of adventure and happiness on December 8th was being replaced with scars of the wounds of life ... as memories. He drove into the darkness of the night full throttle giving the 8 years one name ... fate.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Everyday ... a celebration

Kannan was not sure whether it was late night or early morning... but he felt something touching him ... a small soft hand on his face, on his beard, trying to pluck his beard. The hand smelt of baby lotion and powder, more it smelt of love. The soft skins on the palms were like feathers of silk. The curly long hairs on the forehead were like overflowing honey from a jar of sweetness, or that’s how Kannan felt when he saw it. He heard the giggles of love and his eyes saw his son trying to wake him up. Those giggles were more than any sweet music of the world to Kannan's ears. Narayan ... The bright big eyes, sweet smiles, big nose and drool sweet lips calling out to him. He was the reason for Kannan's smiles day or night. He lifted him with both his hands and placed the small Narayan on his chest and asked

"Are you not tired of playing with me.... now what does my Narayan want...?”
"Gaaa... gurr...he..."

Hardly did Kannan understand anything but that was what Narayan told him sitting on his chest as if he had mounted the biggest tusker on the earth. His hands were still reaching out to his salt and pepper beard... Kannan moved his head and held him with one hand and reached out to the spectacles on the side table. The night lamp was switched on and the spread smelt of baby powder alone. The sun was rising in a while and the sky was slowly turning its shade. The mild orange light was peeping through the window and the glow on Narayan's face made him look divine. His curly hair and the smile made Kannan call out to him

"Narayana ... gopala... kanna..."

and for every name called out the small Narayan nodded his head as if he understood everything. Kannan lifted him up as he got up, put him on the bed and started playing with him. Kannan with his warm hands rubbed Narayan belly and he would start laughing... he would softly hit the tummy with his head and he would laugh more. Kannan rubbed his nose on the stomach and the baby laughs would fill the room, slowly getting lit by the sun, who was smiling outside seeing the father and son play early in the morning. 

Kannan lifted Narayan and placed him close to his heart in a warm hug and walked towards the kitchen. Kannan boiled the milk while singing and adoring the little Narayan. 

"Krishna Krishna Mukunda Janardana ... Krishna Govinda... Narayana..." he would pause and sing again "Narayana..." as the little Narayan would look surprised at his Appa singing songs for him. His eyes would sparkle as Kannan called out "Narayana 
" in between. The sparkle said it all. Kannan would smile as soon as he sees the sparkle in the big eyes. Every blink of the eye was magnetic and so captive. Kannan softly kissed the soft ball of wool cheeks and continued singing...

"Krishna Krishna Mukunda Janardana ... Krishna Govinda... Narayana..."

Narayan would giggle to the song as if he was trying to sing along with his Appa. Kannan carefully managed to hold Narayan in one arm and cool the hot milk carefully with the other. He poured the slightly warm milk in the bottle, sweetened it with sugar and poured a drop on to his skin to check the warmth and a drop on to his tongue to check the sweetness.

"Yes... it’s warm and sweet" Kannan thought to himself

"Come one come one my sweet one ... time for your morning milk" said Kannan as softly as he could. The whispers reached the sweet big ears of Narayan and he blinked in affirmation. The lips were still drooling and Kannan pulled out a soft napkin from the box and wiped Narayan's lips. Narayan would not stop looking at Kannan while he happily drank the sweet milk from the bottle. His hands were still on Kannan's beard and pulling them with all the strength those little hands had. The nipple of the bottle was trying to hide the smiles of Narayan as he did smile with every attempt of his to pull the beard out failed. 

Kannan carefully put Narayan to bed and lay down next to him on his side. The warmth of Kannan's body brought Narayan more closer to him as he was slowly dozing off with smiles on his lips. Kannan kept gazing at the sleepy eyes as Narayan gently closed them. The eyes seem to slow down the world, gently with all the love in the world. To put him to a sleep... Kannan softy sang a lullaby that always put Narayan to sleep ...

"Omana thinkal kidavo ... nalla ... komala thaamara poovo...."

Is it the lines of Irayimman Thampi for Swathi Thirunaal or the raag neelaambari or the love Kannan had for Narayan was debatable. But the lines put Narayan to a sound sleep. Kannan unknowingly slept with Narayan alongside like a baby. 

Kannan was woken up by a touch on his shoulder... firm hands, warm and Kannan woke up from the sleep to see a tall man, fair skinned, with the same bright big eyes, long hair, sweet smile and the long nose...

"Happy Birthday Appa"

It was Narayan and old Kannan with long white beard and skin aged with wrinkles, still having the sweet smile as ever woke up to a morning hug from his 20 year old son. Kannan rubbed his eyes and looked at the most auspicious gift God had given him 20 years back .... Narayan. The father and son exchanged hugs and Kannan said, in the bassy old voice

"Even my dreams are full of you ... there was a time when my dreams were of the future... but now my memories have turned to be my dreams"

Narayan held Kannan's hand and the tall old man with the slight hunch of age took the shoulder of his young son, who looked exactly like the 20 year old Kannan. As they walked from the bedroom to the kitchen for their regular morning coffee, which Narayan made for Kannan, Kannan said

"God sometimes gives you rare gifts and you are mine ... Every day is a celebration with you"

And it was another birthday celebration at Kannan's home over a cup of coffee, the son made for his father.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The night that was ...

"I don’t want even to see your face ..." and the door closed on his face.

Those words from Priya were too harsh for him to take and Kannan was heartbroken. Silly household fights flare up when the fumes are given air by the words of those who should put it off. Misunderstandings, miscalculations and misinterpretations are all spinsters with a mis as a prefix, and with those in mind, we miss to live our life. Kannan got on his Enfield Bullet 350 and paused before he kicked it to life.

"Should I go home to Appa and Amma.... they don't deserve to be hurt with our silly fights" Kannan thought as he changed the gear and the bike moved away. He broke his ride and looked back whether Priya is there at the window. But she was not. The night time roads were as lonely as his heart. With a heavy heart he rode away from her house. As the street lights, some lit and some flickering moved past his as he moved forward his thoughts were running faster. 

"Enough... enough of this life" he thought to himself.

It was the same window which flashed in his mind... that night on Priya's birthday, when he had reached at the wee hours of night just to wish her a happy birthday, climbing the wall. He stood there then, watching her sleep in peace. Did not wake her but stood there looking at her. The same window where they used to stand together and wave at friends after the  
dinner gatherings. His heart was sinking like a rock in the sea and it hit the dumps of the bed.

In the meanwhile at home Amma was getting worried

"Kannan is not yet home, getting late, should I call Priya to find out" Amma asked Appa. But he was silent.

Appa kept looking at the door and was waiting to hear the calling bell eagerly. He was a person who would be in bed at 10 but it was almost midnight and still no sign of Kannan. He went to his room, took an address book and was searching for some number. He frantically kept looking page after page and finally got it.

"I will call Ram, he will would know or Kannan might be with him" Appa told Amma.

With eager, yet sad eyes appa looked at the clock as he waited for Ram to pick the call. 

"Good evening uncle..." came the reply from Ram
"Is Kannan with you... he has not called and not yet home" Appa said to Ram.
"I will check" said Ram and hung up.

Kannan drove up to a lodge near the railway station. "Central Lodge" he saw the board in front. The yellow board with faded red letters with a bulb that was more a veteran still serving the last few days in service. The dull light reflected his mood. The darkness around was his attitude towards his life. He entered the dim lit reception and saw a man sit on the chair behind it sleep. 

"Excuse me" called Kannan with a shiver in his voice.

The man jolted awake as if he was attacked by a ghost. 

"I need a room for one night" said Kannan.

Half in sleep, the man pushed the register in front of him and Kannan filled it up as if he was in a hurry. Yes. He was in a hurry to put an end to everything. The solution he had in his mind, was the decision many had taken at such junctures, to end his life. A shabbily dressed young boy led him to the room. He put his office bag on the wooden cot with dirty sheets  
and rock like pillow on one side of it. The smell of the laundry and the insecticide filled the room. The Lodge and the room seemed to be haunted or at least past living conditions, but still in use. Kannan was not in a mood to scrutinize the cleanliness or the condition of the room. All he had in mind was his last supper. He rang the once bright and yellow switch  
now darkened with dirt with a bell marked on it. 

A few minutes later the young boy was at the door "Sir... what do you want" he asked.
"Something to eat... vegetarian preferably" said Kannan
"Dosa and rasa vada" He asked

Kannan took the money from his shirt pocket and gave it to the boy. As Kannan sat thinking about the mistakes and worried which kept worrying him, the boy returned with a small red polythene bag with Dosa and vada from the street vendors, wrapped in newspaper. Kannan took the bag and the balance from the boy and was about to walk in to the room, when he stopped and turned to the boy who was still waiting there. He gave a 5 rupee note to him and smiled. A smile after hours of stress. The boy smiled back and took the money and ran happily through the dimly lit corridors of the lodge. The old clock on the walls of the corridor ticked loudly reminding Kannan of the little time left in his life. 

At home, Amma was getting more restless and was pestering Appa with questions for which he had no answer. His tired eyes were red with sleep, but couldn't get a wink of sleep. What was keeping Kannan so late and no calls from him yet, thought Appa.

The phone rang...

Amma picked the call and was silent. Appa could hear Priya shouting on the top of her voice on the other side of the call. Amma was not saying anything, but tears rolled down her eyes. The shouting continued for a while.

"I will talk to Kannan, everything will be alright" said Amma and kept the phone down. Appa and Amma exchanged glances and that said it all. Appa called Ram and informed him about the fight that was keeping Kannan away from home.

"Did he call you" asked Appa.
"No... but dont worry... I will find him" said Ram

Every moment of that night was taking long to move. The stillness of the night was just the opposite of the waves that lashed the old parents hearts. 

Kannan quickly finished the dosa even without knowing how it tasted. At that moment it tasted like saw dust pancakes sloshed with water. He left the newspaper and the polythene cover on the table and washed his hands in the wash basin on the corner which was attacked by rust and dirt alike. 

Kannan moved the left overs to a side and started writing on the writing pad he had in his office bag. 

Dear all ...
I say farewell to you all. Good bye. Have nothing more left in life. And I have nothing more to say ...

The page was as blank as his mind then. He folded the letter and was writing the address on it, intending to leave it with the reception. That was when the mobile rang ... Kannan was eager to see whether it was a call from Priya... but no. It was his friend Ram. Kannan left the mobile ringing, removing the ring he wore in his fingers and the chain from his neck with the
locket "K" and put it in the office bag. He removed the watch and looked at the time for one last time... The phone rang again... it was Ram.

"Hello ..." Kannan answered with all the reluctance he had then
"Da... I want to meet you now ... the project you had designed has been approved.... want to meet you now" Ram was excited and went on talking with no response from Kannan. After a while he stopped and asked 
"Da... are you okay... where are you... I will come"
"OK... I am in Central lodge room 103."
Ram hung up with a quizzical feeling. 

As time ticked forward, Kannan had made it up in his head that Ram would be the last person he would meet. Ram was trying to race against time, to reach out to Kannan and bring him back from the worried moments. Kannan was restless... thinking about all the happy and sad moments in life. He thought about his time with Appa, Amma, Thatha, Ammamma, Akka, Venki uncle, his school, college, the love, the passion, his art, and what not. Everything seemed to whiz past before his very own eyes. He heard a bike stop outside, breaking the silence and the sound of the crickets.

Kannan heard the knock and opened the door. It was Ram, smiling at his best. The tall, well built Ram with green eyes, was smiling like a child. His shirt was soiled but spirits high. His thick moustache gave him a beary feel, but he was breathing like a rabbit. 

"Come... it’s time to party..." Ram dragged him out of the room, "take whatever you want... or leave it..."
He dragged Kannan out of the room, who was being literally pulled and put on the bike. The kick on the starter and the adrenalin rush of the engine was all over the place tearing the silence away. Ram kept on talking while riding at his best speed possible. He screeched the bike to a halt and Kannan realized something he was not thinking of. Ram had stopped the bike in front of his own house, Appa and Amma were waiting at the gate.

"I knew it"... said Ram and smiled at Kannan. Kannan just walked in without even looking at Appa or Amma. Went to his room and dumped himself on the bed. It was almost morning and all night Appa and Amma were trying to find where Kannan had gone and what had happened to him. Ram shook hands with Appa and mounted his bike

"Bye Uncle... He will be fine ...Let him get some good sleep. I will come in the morning "

The moment was averted and life had much more happiness in store for Kannan, which he would have lost the previous night. Ram had gifted a life in those few moments. Time wiped the thoughts of the night, but the pain still remains in the hearts of three people - Appa, Amma and Kannan.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Touch ... the home remedy

"Achoooo ..." his sneeze shook the apartment... and it’s sounded like a thunder.
Kannan smiled after the sneeze and told himself... 

"God bless you"...

Being down with a cold or fever was not a common thing for Kannan since the time he left his stressful media career a few years back. Starting to enjoy life to its fullest, Kannan was not deterred by the fever and was enjoying the hot cup of coffee with ginger powder. For night it should be kanji (Rice porridge)... steaming hot, with payar (lentils) and pappad, he planned.

"Have this cup of coffee... its special and your fever will be gone in no time" Amma used to tell him in childhood days handing him the cup of coffee and dried ginger powder sweetened with palm sugar. The taste of the ginger, soothened his throat, the sweetness made it palatable, the coffee gave him the freedom from dullness, but what made it special was the mother's love which was in it. While the little Kannan in bed, had his coffee, Amma used to rub his forehead and ruffle his hair, while checking from time to time whether the fever was down. The touch was more powerful than any medicine in this world. For Kannan household medicines worked much faster than any English medicine available in the market then. Even now Kannan tries all the household tips and tricks to get better or to just remember those glorious childhood days. Though Akka is a doctor, she too loves to try out the so called "Grandma's tips and tricks" the quick fixes for life.

But this time, when fever struck Kannan, he was alone at his apartment and the age old techniques were gone, and replaced with instant ginger coffee powder, which lacked both, the taste and the love. Kannan sipped it and looked outside through his window. The evening sun had just started smiling the farewell for the day, giving the sky a new hue of red. There was a small bird at the window outside the glass looking at him, or he felt so. The other days, he never had the time to pause and look outside to the nature or the colorful skies.

"Is being sick a privilege??" Kannan thought for a while.... and started recollecting the past.

The time when he was on vacation to Thatha's place, the change of climate and food had given him a very bad stomach ache. Thatha had just finished his dinner and heard Kannan cry.

"Awwww... my stomach... its aching"

Thatha looked at the clock... it was well past 11. He was concerned as all the nearby medical shops would have closed for the day. He went into the kitchen, took a steel tumbler, the typical coffee cup for any Brahmin house for the morning filter coffee. Put some kayam (Asafoetida), hing as they call it in the north, in it and mixed it well with water. He ran back
where Kannan was crying.

"Lakshmi" Give this to Kannan, Thatha gave it to Amma "It will cure the pain soon" And as he gave the tumbler to Amma, he would close his eyes and pray. Was it the love or the prayers, but the pain vanished and gifted the small Kannan a good night’s sleep.

There were times Kannan remembered the touch which lessened the pain. When he had an accident and was at the hospital. The tears which dripped from Venki Mama's hands which wet his hands while he remained silent by the bedside. The warm hands of Appa on the forehead, when he would come and check if the fever is down and smile. How comforting a touch can be, only those who enjoyed it will know.

There was a moment in life when Kannan could give that touch of love and care to Appa.... for once. Appa was to be hospitalized for a surgery, a couple of years back. Kannan reached the previous night and Appa was a bit tense with the surgery the next day. He was a person who would never think of taking rest or be concerned about not being well. He would have a wash and set out on his work even he was down with fever. All he wore is a smile, which still remains radiant in Kannan's mind.

The hospital was busy in the morning when they arrived. There were patients going out of the hospital with all the belongings after their discharge. There were people waiting to see the doctor, waiting impatiently. The people waiting for the lift, the nurses in their white sarees, the attendants pushing the stretchers on wheels, doctors running busy with their coat and stethoscopes as garland on the shoulders of the life savers. All that rush was not seen on Kannan's eyes. He just was holding Appa and looking at him as they walked to the room. The room was comfortable, where the admission procedures finished and Doctor came for the check up before the surgery.

"So Gopal... how are we this morning... it will be over in an hour or so... nothing to worry" said Dr. Akbar, the senior surgeon who was doing the procedure. He was about 5 foot 10 and with grey ruffled hair, curly and grey. His specs were on the edge of his nose, which would be praying to God that it does not fall of the ridge of his nose. Carelessly he adjusted the glasses from time to time. He smelt of smoke more than medicines, but everyone entrusted their lives as he was one of the best in town.

Appa silently smiled and said nothing. He was scared deep inside, but would never show it out, or rather should say that he never knew to express his fears or worries. The nurse walked in and gave the scrubs to wear for the surgery. Appa changed to the scrubs and laughed at the funny look as he was being taken to the theatre. He was asked to lie down on the stretcher. As the stretcher started moving, Appa held Kannan's hands tightly, as Kannan used to hold Appa's hands in childhood. There were emotions of assurance and hope being given in those looks and grip of the hands being held. Kannan smiled and told Appa.

"I am here, don't worry ... everything will be alright".

The surgery was over in a couple of anxious hours and he was moved to the post operative room. The Nurse came up to Kannan and said

"You can see him now"

Kannan walked into the sterile post operative room. The room smelt of disinfectants and medicines. He saw the corner bed, where Appa was under the influence of the sedatives, and slowly recovering from the sedation. Kannan walked up to the bed and smiled at him, as he saw the eyes drowsily open a bit. Appa smiled back  

"There is a little pain, but I am alright" said Appa in slurred voice.
Kannan held his hand tight "You will be alright soon, just need a few days of rest"

Kannan gently touched Appa's forehead and caressed it with love. He was being a mother to Appa for a moment, who lost his mother when he was just 27 days old. The mother's touch can do wonders, they say. But do they mean only mothers have that touch. May be. But for Kannan, that moment was realizing motherhood. The touch and care he got from Appa and Amma all these years found a vent to give back the same to Appa. The touch can make you feel better for sure. The father and son, got time to exchange the love they had in their hearts for years, but never got a chance to express. The days taught them the magic of touch more than the medicines. For sure...touch is the best medicine, a touch of love, the happy medicine Kannan could give Appa on that day after surgery.

The medicine worked for Kannan in the form of mother's touch, the parting shake hand when Akka was leaving for US, the hugs from the friends after a silly fight which made things alright, the pat on the cheek with love from Thatha, the fond caresses from Ammamma, the touch of his beloved that seemed to melt away everything that worried him, the touch on the head by his teachers and elders as a blessing, the touch of a child with a smile that gives hope, the hi fi's, the touch of a friend on the shoulder telling him, we are with you.. till the last cold touch, which no one has ever felt themselves. The touch... touch of love... touch of care ... remains the best medicine for all ills. But a few medicines are no longer available as Thatha is no more to give the pinch of holy ash clasped between his fingers during his prayers, Amma is far away from Kannan to come and keep her warm hands on the forehead, Akka is in the US, far to come and take care of him.

All through Kannan's childhood, he saw Amma's eyes fill up with tears when he fell ill. He saw the concern in Appa's eyes which turned red when he was tense. He saw the care Akka had when he was in bed. Thatha, Ammamma, uncles, all had a heart which cared for him. Now he was not feeling well and the warmth of the thoughts seemed to give him the coziness he badly needed when the big man curled up under the blanket like a little child in the bed. He would be hale and healthy cured with the thoughts of love for sure.... to see the sun smile again in the skies.