Come summer holidays, me and sister packed up our gears and headed to Perumbur. My grandpa’s and cousins’ place. The days were heady playing all day, and the nights a little scary without mom around. But in one word, it was fantastic. So many of my life’s small milestones were achieved in Perumbur. Learning to cycle, learning to play cards, learning to make milk koa, learning to make lime juice, learning to tickle-play, learning to live without mom around, learning to lookup rahu-kalam, learning to sing, learning to believe in religious things, learning to believe in supernatural goddess and their appearances, learning to watch frogs, learning to plant roses, learning to ……….. so many things :) Did you read the post about gardening? I now remember that the foundation of my gardening started in my grandpa’s house. My grandpa’s house was an individual house (meaning not an apartment or something similar) that stood surrounded on three sides by gardens with all kind of plants, bugs and things. So no wonder that I got hooked to gardening at a relatively young age.
So what do I remember of the times I spent with my thatha? In no particular order, and no thought to readability, here goes…
- Hiding behind my mom, scared to look at the tall tall man who she called appa
- Envying my cousins and sister who enjoyed a jovial familiarity with him which I could not
- The reverence, respect, and at times the fear with which the others treated him with and spoke about him
- Playing cards all day long – In fact, I learnt to play cards sitting under his chair. He was one who taught all of us to play and the mean old devil always said “even if you put sand as your next drop card, am sure to win!”
- Learning to swear like a sailor :) When the game of cards did not go to his liking, my thatha always let forth a slew of curses and bad words which we the young kids were only all too ready to pick up. We used to memorize those words, and wait for the right opportunity to ask an elder for its meaning. Man, when they heard us kids uttering the words with glee, they sure had an heart attack!
- When someone had the misfortune to commit a wrong act or say the wrong thing, he/she fell under the nasty tongue of my thatha. I loved watching him curse them with a wicked pleasure that am sure no kid should enjoy
- Waiting for him to command my ammama to make sweets for us kids
- Watching cricket with him and getting bored to tears
- Sometimes, due to his inability, he depended on others to feed him or give him his drink. At times, that “others” became me. It was usually coffee – and oh god, I used to be so scared. I used to take the cup till his mouth, tilt it a little, and pour a spoonful very carefully into his open mouth. Splutter will come an expletive. “Enna ma, you are feeding me as if I am a dead thing or a young baby, tilt and pour more for heaven’s sake, will you” he used to say. Or “what the **** is this? It tastes like cat’s pee! Can’t you bring it when its real hot?”
- The interrogation of our report cards, how we are studying, what we wanted to become in life…… you get the drift
- I used to get so incensed when he spoke ill about my paternal grandparents
- The many tales he used to regale us with. He had a dramatic way of narrating things and usually he told us incidents from his life and duties when he was an employee at Railways. His recollections of his father and mother and his family while he was young. The days when he could afford everything they needed for the month under one rupee…
- Oh yes, how can I forget? The one thing we really really looked forward to when we went to his house was the money he used to give us. Without fail, we used to get a hundred rupee note – oh, how we used to treasure that. Sometimes, he handed out smaller sums asking us to buy ourselves cakes and chips.
- Helping him do his exercises and physiotherapy
- Watching chithi help him with bathing, and other activities
- Feeling sad for him
- He always used to wait for us at the gate when he knew we were coming. And when he sees the auto stop in front of the gate, he used to call out in a booming voice, “va ma kanna”
- Envying him his green eyes – and scolding my mom for not inheriting his eyes and passing it on to me!
- His advice to always be independent, not depend on the husband, and save for the rainy day
- And so many more things……… I guess I can keep writing till the day ends
Sadly, when we grew up, we spent less and less time at his house. Instead of every other month, it became once in six months, and more recently, almost once a year. In fact, the last time I saw him was over a year ago when I had gone to show him his great grand daughter (my kid). He seemed very happy. And he finally realized that I had made something for myself and had not wasted my life. I could finally spot a bit of respect in his eyes for the life I had made for myself. I proudly told him about where I work and what I do and he was like “ahaaaaaaam, that’s good”.
I think we will miss him. When we go to Perumbur now, we will have no one waiting at the gates for us. No one around to fear and dread. No one to learn expletives from. No one to play cards with. No one to tell us tales.
We will miss him.