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.

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