It’s about 04:30Hrs and there’s not a single soul or bus in the stand. At about 05:00hrs, a tea vendor rides in on his bicycle. I check with him if there’s a direct bus to Pallavur to which he responds in affirmative stating the first one should be leaving at about 05:30hrs. He even obliges to get me on to the right bus once it comes in – Buses in Kerala are mostly marked in Malayalam and unless you know to read the language, It becomes a bit difficult in boarding the right bus. I’m amazingly pleased and gulp about three glasses of his hot masala tea.Buses start rolling into the stand one by one. It so appears that this gentleman is quite popular in the Bus stand and all the Drivers seem to know him by the name. He individually goes about handing over tea and flower garlands[For the deities in the buses] to each of the drivers. Slowly the Bus stand comes to life with newspaper vendors and the omnipresent ‘Lottery ticket wallahs’. [I’m amazed at how the Lottery fever has struck Kerala. You’d find folks selling tickets at any given point of time at any given nook and corner of the state (religious places included!). Some day I should get back and try figuring out how this whole system works!]
At 05:30hrs, as promised I’m ‘packed off’ in the right bus and the conductor is instructed to drop me off at Pallavur. The bus lazily winds up the narrow roads and in about an hour i’m asked to pop off the bus. I straddle through the village roads and finally manage to reach the first landmark that my dad had given – A community pond just beside the Shiva temple. A bit of asking around and I finally make it to that distant relative’s house. This is the first time that I was meeting these people ever since I grew up and it takes a while to figure out where exactly they map on to me in the family tree. My main intention to come to Pallavur was to meet Paruammai. After easing out a bit with my newly found relatives, I check with them how I could get to her. She apparently was staying a bit deeper in the village and I’m told that she should be coming by this road at about 08:30hrs. As I eagerly wait for her I’m lost in thought as to how she’d be faring.
At about 08:45hrs, Paruammai finally comes by. I’m excited looking at her still able bodied personality – She infact looked much much healthier than she was when she left us years back. Must probably be the village air and water! Just one change being that she’s now got even bigger holes in her ears! Apparently, she does not recognise me in first sight but as I talk slowly and remind her of the yesteryear’s she simply acknowledges with tears welling up in her eyes. A long conversation ensues of things small and big, of people and kids she was acquainted with, of relationships sweet and sour and of times that just wouldn’t get back. I show her pics of the now ‘big’ kids[My Brothers, Sisters and Cousins] and their children and in a moments jiffy she runs out of the house, calling in people from the village to tell them how happy she was to see the light of this day – to see the pictures of the kids of the kids who she herself had raised. The excitement in her eyes and voice told it all. That very moment, I realise my Kerala visit and purpose was solved. This day for sure is one of those best days in my life till date…She now is working [still strong at this age!] in a village teachers house taking care of their pet dog.I’m not sure If she would be around the next time I come down. But the photograph and the video that I took with her would remain one of my most cherished possessions for time to come.