Sunday, April 3, 2016

All in the family ...

"Kanna ... come have this idly at least..."

Amma was finding it hard to feed the four year old Kannan. He was excited and running all over seeing so many people gathered for the function in the evening. He would have a bite and run away and Amma had to hunt him down with the small plate of idlis, before giving him the next mouthful of idly with sugar and ghee, the way he liked it. 

It was the anniversary function of the Lakshmi Hospital, which Kannan's paternal grandfather Late Mr. Kannan Iyer, the famous lawyer in the city, had built for his son, Kannan's Sambashivan Periyappa, Appa's elder brother. The hospital staff, relatives, friends and their family all were there for the evening function. Dr. Sambhashivan's house was more of a pent house atop the hospital building. It had nice gardens with flowers at its best, a tournament sized badminton court for all the kids to play and a home adjoining it where his family and his sister lived. It was the center of activity for the day as the open area was turned to be the arena of events as a part of the Anniversary celebrations. From evening onward, all were busy decking up the place at its best. Chairs were arranged for seating the invitees, staff and relatives and there were many patients and bystanders who had come up to enjoy the festivities.

It was already getting late and Amma had to feed Kannan before he would get tired and doze off. Amma's world revolved around her two kids. Pachai was big enough to have her dinner, but Kannan... mothers know it better. Pachai was having fun with all the other cousins as usual and finished her dinner with them. The Kitchen of Dr. Sambashivan's home was more of a catering centre for the evening. Crates of Soda was piled up on one corner, huge drums of idli and vada was being moved out to the dining area for those who were already there having dinner. The smell of coriander in the sambar was enough for people to gobble away two idlis in one go. There were nurses and other staff who were getting ready for their part. The stage was dishing out programmes for those who wanted entertainment. The Tableau which was the highlight of the evening had just finished, which had Krishna, Mohan's Son as the patient, Dr. Parthasarathy as Hippocrates and Dr. Vasantha as his assistant as seen in the Hippocrates' famous painting. Amma rushed into the kitchen and took idlis to feed Kannan and was running since then behind him. The first idli took more than 15 minutes and it was the turn of the second.

The upcoming performance was a Kathakali dance recital and the artists were getting their makeup done. The face was painted and the beard, typical of Kathakali made of rice paste was being set for the main performer. He was lying on the mat on the ground and Kannan was standing and watching in amazement. Amma got a glimpse of Kannan standing there and rushed to him.

The green and the black with the white beard of rice paste, anyone would watch in amazement how it is done. The Record for the thickest make up in the world belongs to this dance form of Kerala which remained a temple art and now commercialized as short capsules. The artists had to lie still for hours to get the makeup done. Kannan was looking at the red eyes of the artist being give the makeover looking at him.

"Kanna.... have one more piece... please good boy" Kannan could hear Amma venting her helplessness.

"I am watching" said Kannan in his sweet voice with sugar all over his face and ghee smeared in the repeated attempts of feeding which failed.

The Kathakali artist smiled at him and Kannan was not so sure whether to smile back or not. Amma finally caught hold of Kannan's hand and pushed a piece of the sugar and ghee soaked piece. Kannan kept looking at the makeup and the artist in amazement as he started chewing whatever had been just given to him, without even relishing the taste. It was a novel experience for him to see the preparations for Kathakali. The room had other artist getting their steel finger nails, red paint on the face, the ornaments for the dance, the long starched cloth being tied round and round to make the umbrella like dress for another dancer. The music from the stage could be heard, it was a classical vocal recital being performed by Deepika, Mohan's daughter and Pachai, Kannan's Akka. 

The artist, who was on the floor, said something to the person who was doing the makeup and he got up and brought a banana. He took it from the makeup artist and extended towards Kannan. Kannan was scared and stepped back...

"Amma..." Kannan shouted in amazement.

"Go take it" Amma told Kannan and thought to herself, that’s an easy way to fill Kannan for the night.

Scared and surprised, Kannan slowly nudged towards the artist on the floor and took the banana from his hand and ran back to Amma and held on to her sari. Hugging her leg and hiding behind it. Amma took the banana from Kannan's hand, peeled it and gave it back to him

"Eat quickly, see that man is looking at you, he would snatch the banana if you don’t have it. Eat it quick.... otherwise you would get stomach pain... that man is watching you eat." Amma's explanations and threats made Kannan eat the banana. The mission to feed Kannan was accomplished and Amma took Kannan to the wash basin and washed his face and wiped his face with the edge of her sari. For a moment Kannan did not want to lose sight of what was happening around him and moved Amma's hand and sari to continue seeing the sights around him. 

Amma took Kannan and went to the front row before the stage where Pachai was sitting with Appa. Sat down when the speakers gave out the Kathakali music and the performance started. The whole family sat there watching the performance reach its pinnacle and the curtains were down. 

"That was an amazing Kathakali Recital by Dr. Sambashivan and team" The announcement was loud and clear. The curtain went up once again when Sambashivan periyappa, the man who was getting ready for the recital, the man on the floor who offered him the banana, came forward and smiled at Kannan. The young Kannan realized that the person whose performance he was adoring all this while was his periyappa, and so did Amma realize the same. The shocked and shamed look on Amma's face for what all she said about him remained on the face for weeks. 

It’s all in the family....Dr Sambashivan had never asked Amma about the incident, but his smiles said it all.

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