The sound of the cart wheels as it rumbled along the pathway. Ravi was pulling it using a rope made out of coconut husks – the ‘kayar’. I was perched atop the cart in all the local splendor, a young chieftain of bygone eras. Come here to re explore the old guard during my summer vacations from school at Calicut, 100 kms away.
Memories are at most times flashes, and one can often pause to wonder whether all this was a true replication of what was, or was the spice already added?, committing ourselves to noble thoughts while some things where never were?. I am too muddled to explicit the reason. But hopefully my recordings will be as close to reality as possible.
It was my maternal grand mother, Kalipurayath Sarada Amma, the surviving matriarch, who was my attraction in pouncing on yet again onto the serene soil of Punnayurkulam, in nearby Trichur district. Guruvayoor, the famous abode of Vishnu, was close by, and the purity of that place was encapsulated here, complete with our own family deities, temples and ponds. The Kalipurayath family of Ambazath house was the landed gentry, while the neighboring intertwined family of Nalapat were the custodians of the letters, through history by personalities such as Nalapat Narayana Menon, my paternal grand mother Nalapat Balamani Amma –often referred to as the mother of Malayalam poetry, and of course my beloved and courageous Aunt – Kamala Das, nee Madhavikutty nee Kamala Surraya – Names cannot comprehend such an exhaustive figure. Kalipurayath’s had its interest in literature too, with the likes of the half Indian half Irish Aubrey Menon, my mother’s cousin. So it was Land and Letters for a mixture like me, or so it seemed.
Perhaps the memories of the early years, of sitting on the lap of my Grand father V.M.Nair, who ran the newspaper “Mathrubhumi” for umpteen years, watching the BBC news through the Telefunken radio complete with its spiraling antenna which wove around the room’s ceiling, the tough decisions during difficult times as the paper was progressing – all contributed to a deep sense of introspection at an early age. This was combined with Gandhian feelings in the house hold, of course literature and such talks taking central stage without effort or further thought.
It was 1977, the emergency withdrawn, and I was back from schooling in Shiraz, Iran. My parents would join me later. My grand father had just passed away, and the state and such mourning were over, except of course, as usual, within the house hold. I got into the habit of sleeping in “Achamma’s” room – with my grand mother, who was fighting waves of profound grief, while attempting to keep her pen afloat. She used to say that one has to pen down thoughts as it comes, or it vanishes. This used to translate into staring at her at midnight as she penned down her thoughts, which more often turned out to be invaluable poetry. This must have paved the way to what my friends refer to as my midnight ramblings – more the early morning variety for me. She was, as it should be, uneducated in the conventional sense, just like my famous aunt – a mere matriculate, while all the others were graduates in medicine. They were experts in their own fields, and all flaunted the pen well, but were mere spectators at her command over the languages, just as my grand mom was with Malayalam. Do we need education? – A brick on the wall!!!.
It was in those early years that I overheard discussions on ‘distancing’ oneself, and I imbibed this in earnest, immersed as I was in being temporarily separated from my parents and only sister. This should have provided solace at the departure of my grand father – but he was too towering a figure in actual life to be merely immortalized. Generations of journalists in Kerala and elsewhere would vouch for that.
Distance yourself from what?. Neighbors, family, friends? Or mere thoughts?. “Distance yourself from your knowledge, only then can you become the president of your thoughts”. A dichotomy here?, or mere presentation? The Mosaic does get muddled.
In the Ramayana, after the great war, Rama summoned Hanuman and asked – The war is won because of you, what can I offer you, take what you desire – the reply was – “Oh Bhagavan, remove from me that desire to have”. Which brings one to ponder – is that a possibility? Ahom, the atom, exists. When one says “I am doing this for so and so” – be it mother, child or friend, are we finally not doing it because it could prove beneficial to us, maybe at many levels – monetary, happiness ET All? Can we overcome the individual? The “I”?
My pen lingers, thoughts fail. Am I to accept that thoughts and ideas over the years mixed with the experience of a life time can be encapsulated within a mere two or three pages? Is the vessel empty? Or has it been cleaned, devoid of the merest speck. I must go on…
It is recent years, maybe just over five or so. I was back from a meeting late on Saturday night. The woman was awaiting me at the front door, an odd consequence since she sleeps when she wants, and my nocturnal entries are normally with the help of the duplicate key in my possession. I was tired, and after a brief Hi, I was climbing the stairs replete with a coat on one arm and balancing the brief case with the other. I heard her mutter from behind – AMMIOPPU HAS CONVERTED!!!. The impact did not hit me for a moment, and when it did, I turned to stare at her. What? as if my ears were plugged. On ascertaining the truth, it was a long wait till morning when I could ring her up and ask about her well being. Difficult times, you must be careful, I intoned. I am fine, Cheria mon (I was referred to by that-literally meaning small child – all with my near six feet height). There are a lot of people here, and I feel fine and secure, she added. The problem was answering the queries of society, on a matter on which neither she or the family or I had any specific views. She felt fine doing it, and she was happy. Who could cause complaint? And then the literary and semi religious world blew up. In the end, as usual, the news papers won, circulation could not have been better!!!
Krishna and Allah all meant the same to her. It was mainly the science of the different religions that attracted her. This coupled with her innate sense of the unorthodox, of having the capacity to fly and view perspectives from different angles, made her seemingly different and liberated. She was in reality one that often pined for the unfortunate, unfortunate both in means and mind. It did pain her to see the happenings after the conversion, coming from across many spectrums of society and sometimes the family, though never from ones close to her. This proved a solace in her later years, the experience after the publication of “My Story” much earlier would always remain a wound in her beloved soul. The family just accepted, and all was well.
She had been battling a number of diseases from early days; the winner as usual was anybody’s guess. She used to take all that in her majestic stride, replete in earlier years decked up in bright red saris and the huge ‘kumkum’ on her forehead. This changed into the ‘Burka’ in the later years, but the innate charisma was the same. The smell and sound were different when you were in her company, never knowing what will come next.
Jiddu Krishnamurthy talked about the ‘platforms of Thought’, when with her you experienced it. Perhaps my grand mother’s famous poem about the mind soaring into the skies (Vittayakuka maanil ___) had some innate effect? Or was it creativity just born?
She and I were having dinner at the Bubble Café in Cochin, where I had dragged her so that we could be alone. She started a physical description of the young woman occupying one of the adjacent tables. No vulgarity, plain truth, but then the blood circulation of a thirty year old could not be tampered with. In her usual tempo, she burst the balloon in her typical style, when on reaching the description of the abundant posterior – she commented – such girls will deliver easily!!! POOF !!! That was her.
There is nothing called good or bad. It is all happenings. ‘Things’ happen. Just like a fire cracker – expert hands and time consuming before it is used. Then the ‘bang’. It happened – The Bang. Only the smoke remains, to be gently whisked away later. What is good – beneficial – for one, maybe, is not so for the other. Here the good and bad try to occur. It just ‘happened’.
Have you ever tried to strike up a friendship with oneself? The variance for most is alarming. Let the mind lead.