Meeting Paruammai

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.

Paruammai at Pallavur – 23rd March 2010 from Srikanth Perinkulam on Vimeo.

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The long pending meet…

Well, today is the ninth day as an ‘Outfoscion’ and despite the initial hiccups the transition has been real smooth. It took me a couple of days to let the feeling really sink in and to get adjusted to the relaxed carefree schedule of my self imposed ‘break’ before I join TFI.  The first two days were probably the most demanding in terms of getting ‘acclimatised’. I wake up at seven in the morning and I already have a feeling of not having done anything. Preparing a relaxed breakfast [ as much as I was looking forward to] for some weird reason looked quite  boring.12:00 at noon, I realise there’s no company for lunch. And at about six as I sit before the lappy after a long siesta, the peace seemed to be even more troubling than the incessant honks from the traffic that my ear has got accustomed to from the past three years. But after a couple of days it was as if the sea had calmed down altogether. I could swiftly alter my body cycle to adjust to this ‘new phase’ of my life and the days are no more ‘boring’.  Every other day I’m reminded of some job that I’d long left unattended and to see them being closed out one by one by itself gives me  some kind of an achievement…Well, Now is when I guess I best appreciate when people say It’s kinda nice to slow done every once in a while…

Late tomorrow evening I would be off to Pune to attend an informal get-together with other folks who would be joining me for the TFI fellowship. Even before I meet them in person, I’m thoroughly stumped by the diversity that each of them are bringing with them in terms of their past work/study experiences. Excited is just not the word I can use here! And then after the Pune visit, unless my ticket gets confirmed I guess I would be traveling in a unreserved compartment for about 32hours to reach Palakkad[Kerala]. During this break, I initially wanted to tour all around Kerala as I was sure I wouldn’t be getting this opportunity again..But giving it some more thought, I figured I wouldn’t really gain much just roaming around and decided to spend more time with my people out there. Eventually It loomed on me that I should take time out and visit Paruammai . As far back as my memory traces, Paruammai’s been one woman in the whole family who has seen my generation take birth and grow up to what we are today. She moved in as a maid and became a intrinsic part of the family. Overtime as she grew old and moved back to her village – Pallavur with a wish to spend her last days there. It’s been a while that we’ve heard from her and I hope she’s still moving around in the village. She would probably be in her 90s now!! At times I wonder how we as humans just keep moving on and on without taking time out to stop, appreciate and thank those who’ve done so much for us…With a hope that age hasn’t taken a toll on her, I just cant’ wait to see her in person and have a long long chat with her.

Post the Pallavur visit, I plan to head directly to Trivandrum and spend some real good time with my grandmom. Then there’s this Munnar trip saddled along with a friends’ wedding blocked during the last week of march. If things don’t take an wild turn I probably would be back to Hyd by 6th of April. Haven’t as yet figured out what I’d be doing till the end of April. At least for now, the Ladakh or North East plan stays canceled for various constraints. But I’m not really bothered, Will take things as they unfurl…

The Woman in the Mundu!

The bus jerks along on the road as I get back home from Office. It’s only 6:30pm and I’ve still got about 20kms to traverse. That effectively translated to an hour’s time given the traffic situation at M’patnam. A colleague seated beside me is hooked to the Fountainhead in her hands and is already drooping. Damn and I’m here still awake. My gray cells surprisingly show no signs of tiredness and at the same time my mp3 player gets discharged totally.How better can things get !

All I get to do is gape out of the window thinking nothing worthwhile. All of a sudden, there falls a drop on my semi protruding head and even before I realize, it starts drizzling. The first summer rain! People on the road start flurrying on the roads and kids start jumping all around. Amidst all this my sight chances on a frail old woman in the typical white malayali mundu( Dhothi) trying to stop an autorickshaw. For a second there was a sudden thought impulse passed on to my brain- Was this Paruammai?

I spring from my seat , literally jerk the female beside me and jump out of the bus. Fortunately, the bus was round a corner and there wasn’t much traffic. But even before I get close, the Auto driver pulls the rod and pushes off.All I get to see is a part of the mundu flirting with the wind.

Paruammai was more of a family member till a few years ago. She’d come in as a servant maid and soon became a part of the family . She’d helped taking care of me and ideally most of the kids in the family at Hyd right from when we were born! She’s been a part and parcel of every family function that I remember and would easily be notching 90 now. About four years ago, she left for her own native – Andhra, a place in Kerala. Old age was taking its toll and she wanted to spend time with people from her bloodline.

I jump into another rickshaw and ask him to follow the other one. He skeptically gives me a look but nevertheless accedes. Traffic makes things worse and we happen to trail for sometime. The other auto takes a left a bit ahead and even before my guy follows the trail and turns around we’ve lost track. Lanes and diversions!

I hop out and start walking across almost giving up. Just when i decide to get back, I notice a rustic building a few yards away. Something urges me to check it out. I walk towards it and there sight a board fading to cry out – Dasmar Old age home. The woman I saw on the roads is now walking towards the door with a pole in her hand. I knock uneasily on the gate to get her attention.

She turns around and I realise this wasn’t Paruammai. The woman limps towards the gate slowly and even before I open my mouth in a hoarse voice she blurts out – Maakevaru oddhu! Avalsinantha ayipoyindhi! ( We dont need anyone. All that had to be done is done!) .

I’m at loss of words. All I do is shamelessly walk back trying to find my way out of the maze. Back on the roads I hurl myself into an auto and am back home…Hope Paruammai is hale and hearty wherever she is!

Forgoing one’s own relations for petty benefits? How insane people can get!!!


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