Sunday, May 22, 2016

One more candle ...

The doorbell buzzed and Kannan opened the door to see a man standing there at the door with a package

"Sir ... courier for you .... Mr. Kannan Iyer?
"Yes" Kannan replied

He signed the document with a smile and asked the courier boy who was in his red and yellow uniform, sweating as if he just had a shower, as he had been out in the sun. 

"Would you like to have some water?"

He smiled and his eyes thanked Kannan in return. There was no verbal communication but the gratitude was conveyed as Kannan handed him a cold bottle of water. The boy, who should be in his 20's, took the signed paper back and walked away smiling with a relief.

Kannan opened the grey pouch to see a gift pack in it. He opened the package and saw a purple colored aromatic lavender candle with a purple ribbon on it tied in a bow. There was a card in it from the sender. Every time Kannan sees a candle there are a million thoughts that rush to his mind. Thoughts about the time he spent in singing and fun with Akka during the power cuts at home, the candles that he lit in the Church, the candles which he blew to celebrate his birthday, the candles which were lit to light the fire crackers for Diwali and the lamps for Karthika, the candle which lives for a few hours and finally burns out giving memories to him.

During his teens, the power outage was very common and all family talks happen during that time of the evening. As usual, the very punctual electricity board switched the power off in the area. Kannan happily jumped from his table as studies could wait another half an hour. He heard Amma call out to him

"Kanna .... the candle is on the fridge top ... careful..."

Kannan tiptoed in the darkness to fetch the candle and heard Akka start singing a classical song, 

"Paripalayamam .... sree padmanabha murarae ..."

which was a mode of the power cut entertainment schedules and a way to practise, when she is not busy with what she liked the most - studying. Kannan walked towards the dining room where Akka and Amma were sitting and the light of the candle brightened to dark room to reveal the two blessings in his life - Amma and Akka. Akka was being trained in singing since childhood. 

It was a special music instructor who trained Pachai in singing. Tall, dark and slim young man, with thick hair combed back, long black beard and stern eyes. His forehead always had a white ash smeared in a thin line. The loose full sleeve shirt and white dhoti, on the back Hercules cycle with a green leather seat cover, made him look like a new age poor man's warrior. The sight of the music teacher, who looked more like dark complexioned Jesus with his long black beard and slim body, sent shivers down Akka's spine. Most often the classes would end up in a scene worth a mention. There would be a loud shout from Chandrasekhar, the music teacher

"Where is pa .... " when she misses a note in her singing.

The music notes would be all over the place and the leaves of the book flying around as if it were the fall and the pages were autumn leaves. Akka would be sitting near the harmonium which would have gone silent by then and Akka crying with her face covered after the thunderous shout. The chair would be empty and anyone could hardly see Chandrasekhar bang the door and fly out in lightning speed to his cycle and would pedal away in anger. 

But for Kannan she was the best singer ever. Kannan would sit and admire her singing for a short while and try his luck in matching her in the song along with her, for which she would shout back and the whole story would end up in a fight between the loving brother and sister. But power cuts helped Kannan learn singing from one his best teachers his Akka - Pachai. It was with her he learnt about the ragas. She still remains the Kadanakoodoohala raga which is a rag in the Carnatic stream which can even make the sad person smile. It was her notes that Kannan tried to trace and mimic and learnt singing. 

Many years later, the power cuts were a common entertainment time at home, when both of them joined in singing classical and film songs, where in the darkness Amma would wipe her tears of joy listening to the two gems she had given birth to. But never tell them about her pride as she always believed they might be arrogant, if she praises them. 

Kannan was reminded of the candle Thatha always lit in front of Alphonsa Amma's picture in his pooja, transcending the faith. The candles he and Amma lit before the St Antony's Church for Appa, when someone had suggested that lighting candles at the church will help Appa get well soon. He thought about the pack of candles he lit before Mother Mary and Immanuel’s church by the beach every night, till the morning he left for Dubai. There were no power cuts in Dubai, but still Kannan had a pack of candles always with him as they reminded him of his days, the memories and all the good things in life. 

Kannan took the card from the box which held the candle and there was a note on it:

"I was in Pondicherry and saw this candle .... I thought of you... Spread light and aroma like this candle Love Pachai"

Kannan's eyes were moist with tears of joy. Again a candle which will rekindle the light of love and affection and spread the aroma of one of his first gurus, his Akka. Sure candles have a duty to spread the light and shed light on those happy memories and whenever Kannan lit a candle his heart heard him and Akka sing together the famous Swathithirunal Krithi "paripalayalam sree padmanabha murarae ..." the carnatic classical keerthanam in Reethigowla, Akka's favorite rag.

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