My short stay under the wrap of the Baltimore winter, though in its waning phase, had dampened my spirit, despite the warmth of affection showered on me by eldest son and his family. I was, therefore, moving towards my daughter’s house in Ocala, Florida to seek solace under the solar sky.
Soon after I came out of the Tampa airport, sighed in relief, ‘ah, what a bright son! ‘. It was so refreshing to see the bright sun. For a moment I thought that I was back in Hyderabad. What a difference the climate, like your wife, can make on your mood, thoughts, life and longevity!
While walking towards the car, led by my alludu (son-in-law, in Telugu), I paused for a moment to enjoy the sunlight.
‘You are excited like a school child hearing the evening bell,’ comments Vuday, opening the door for me.
‘Look at those tall, green trees, moving behind us on both the sides of this broad, well -laid road,’ I tell Vuday while we were moving forward. ‘I feel sorry for those cherry and maple trees in Baltimore, deprived of their rich wealth of foliage, by the winter’
‘Why worry about it,’ he asks ‘season’s impact are to be endured and according to the nature of the trees and power of resistance they shine or shiver’
‘Seems to be in a pensive mood, Uncle’, Vuday remarks, turning to me, while reducing the speed of the vehicle to 65 mph.
“Along with those tall trees rushing back, my thoughts too fly back to my childhood and surge around playmate Kamu. I answer without moving my eyes away from the palm trees on the road side. ‘I don’t know whether it is the thought of the fading foliage in Baltimore or the sight of the sportive trees here, which kindles her memory now”
‘Juvenile relationship,’ Vuday wonders with the anxiety of a child, ‘ I am ready to hear your love story.’
‘I was only ten or eleven then, when Kamu’s family moved to Kalpathy, close to my uncle’s house, which I used to visit often. I lived in the small town in the opposite bank but had to pass through the village to reach my high school and later my college. Kamu’s father was in business, mother worked as a teacher and Kamu was their only daughter. I liked that naughty girl, always laughing for nothing, bright, long, lovely bewitching eyes true to her name Kamakshi. We used to play together in the evening hours either in the backyard of her our house where the river was flowing or in the open land before the Kasi Viswanatha swamy temple’
‘She didn’t go to school?’
‘She did, till the tenth standard. Her parents were not inclined to send her for higher education.
‘Kamu was an ultra sensitive girl, used to get scared when two dogs or cats fought on the street. She used to close her eyes with her palms when a cart -man cracked his whip to control the bullock or horse and her ears when her parents scolded her.
I was sharing the waning sun- rays along with her on the bank of the Kalpathy River when she noticed a fish struggling from the fishing rod held by a boy on the opposite bank.
‘’It is dying, it is dying!,’ She screamed, jumped into the waters, pulled the rod from the hands of the boy and threw it into the flowing river. Both of us shot towards the village to escape from the wrath of the kin of the boy, who were bound to chase us’
‘I didn’t sleep last night,’ Kamu told me the next morning, ‘ the fishing rod and the struggling fish were dangling before my eyes’
‘One evening, she had almost finished her bath, while I was getting down the granite steps of the river for a wash. She mentioned casually that her marriage was fixed with a boy from a far away village.
“Do you like him?’
“My parents liked,’ she said and disappeared with the bundle of washed clothes.
That was the last I saw her. I could not attend her wedding. After a few days, she left for her husband’s place in Thanjavur and soon after, I left for Hyderabad to work.
A couple of years later someone told me how the thunderbolts of tragedy struck her life one after the other. Her husband, after gifting her progeny, died in an accident. Her mother-in-law lost her eyesight due to an epidemic of smallpox and soon after, her father in law had a stroke which made him immobile. The responsibility of looking after the invalid old couple and raising the child fell on her shoulders.
Time passed by, as it happens always. I did make some attempts to trace her but did not succeed.
‘It was an everlasting winter for her, Vuday,’ I commented removing my eye glasses and placing it back.
‘It might have been a prolonged winter, not ever lasting,’ my ever- optimistic son-in-law said, ‘her son would have brought real sun light into her life’
‘I really wish so. Anyway, the best part of her life was ruined’
Aparna , my daughter and grand kids, Raagahav and Divyaa were waiting at the gate to receive me . While hugging them close to my chest, there was a lingering pain inside me since the thought on the misfortune of my childhood friend was still churning the inner peace vigorously.
I could not but tell the story to my daughter before going to bed.
‘Appa, sleep well,’ she consoled me, ‘ every one of us is sent to this world with a purpose’
She might be right; but I had a disturbed sleep.
Recently, while coming out of the Indian Society hall in Ocala after attending the Ugadi celebration, Alludu introduced me to a physician friend of him who invited us for dinner in his house the next day.
Seeing the photos of the musical trinities on the wall, I asked, Sekhar, our host, about his interest in music. ‘My wife sings; she is from Kalpathy’
‘In Kalpathy, every child comes out of the womb of its mother singing a swara or beating a thala And you are from?’
‘Thanjavur; you would have visited our town’
‘Yes, I love that place. My first visit was in search of a childhood friend of mine, in a village called Kapisthalam in Papnasam district’
‘I am from Kapisthalam, though my family shifted to Madras, when I was a kid’
It did not take long to learn that Sekhar was Kamu’s foster child. My face beamed, eyes sparkled and sharpening my ears, I sat closer to him to know about Kamu’s life history.
‘kamu Chithy was our neighbor in Kapisthalam and she used to help my mother in her household work,’ Sekhar continued.
‘My mom, I was told, delivered me on to her hands as chithy was the only person available for help when I was born at midnight.
Raghu, chithy’s son died when he was hardly five and within a couple of months, her in laws also passed away. She was alone. Acceding to my parents’ request chithy joined our family and we shifted to Madras. I was five years old then.
‘Within a few months after shifting to Madras, while returning from a relative’s house, a turbulent , speeding lorry knocked down and killed my parents . I escaped unhurt as chithy pushed me aside. Then on, she was my, father, mother, care taker, guide and living God.
‘Some money was available for my studies and day to day expenses but she had to struggle to augment the resources especially when my higher education started. As a caterer initially, then as a teacher and Insurance agent and then as a dress designer and in many roles she earned enough money to provide me professional education and then for my foreign trip and studies abroad. Words are inadequate to talk about the sacrifice she made for my uplift.
It was a real saga , a great yagna of self sacrifice of a single woman which brought me to this peak in life.
‘Chithy had no wants, no desires, and no aspiration except my welfare. She hardly thought about her. She was always seen with a genuine smile on her face. She laughed often, sometime loudly. With so many burdens on her shoulders and so deep in problems, how could chithy remain happy always, I used to wonder. ‘How is it possible, chithy ? I asked her once, ‘for you to smile so child-like and laugh like a mad one?’
‘Those are available free of cost, available with in and I need not step out to buy them. Then, where is the problem?’
Her last wish was to have a dip in the Kalpathy river, walk around the village, touch Siva’s chariot once, recline on the river bed for some time and pick up some pebbles from the river bed. The smell of the soil was inviting her.
Last year, around this time, I took her to her village. She roamed around like a kid, smiling and talking to every known and unknown woman met on the streets. Threw and cracked a few coconuts as offering and wept for a few minutes before the Chathapuram Ganapathy ; went down the steps to touch the tail of the elephant which was tied to a tree on the river bed, relaxed there for some time, walked along the river side, spent an hour looking at the Western Ghats, jumped into the river, drank palm-cup full of water several time, washed her sari beating it on the granite step producing loud sound, swam for a while, climbed the steps up and worshiped at the Viswantha temple for an hour. She would have perhaps rolled on the soil, which gave her birth and raised her, had she been alone.
‘Okkaruda kanna’. She sat on the sand floor before the temple and asked me to sit close to her.
‘The sun is about to set,’ Chithy said looking at the sinking disk in the western sky. “If I die here, immerse my ashes in the waters flowing below and that is the place where the last rites are to be performed” . She showed me the appropriate place in the temple premises.
“What happened to you chithy?” I was shocked, “you never used to talk like this!”
“chumma chonnainda madaya – I was just joking” . She made some sound and it was unclear whether she was weeping or laughing. Then she slowly, got up holding my hand, turned towards the temple to have a last look at the sanctum.
In Kalpathy, the Viswanatha temple is at a level lower than the village ground and steps are there to go up or down. The river flows further down and again steps are there to go down, from the temple. While climbing the steps to reach the village, holding my hand, chithy said that she wanted to touch the chariot which was parked on the ground above. But before reaching the ground level, she collapsed on the granite steps. Her pulse was becoming weak and she was sweating profusely. I knew that it was a massive heart attack and her end was imminent. I collected her on my hands, took her near the chariot and pulled her right hand towards the divine mount. My eyes were swollen and watery by then and therefore do not remember now whether her hands could really reach the chariot or not.
But I am confident that her soul would have reached the great Occupant of it. Because, He was with her and within her always, available to her free of cost and she had no need to step out to possess Him.’ Sekhar got up from his seat and moved towards the wash basin.
Unwilling to reveal my facial expression in front of others, I too moved towards the window, picked up the paper tissue from the hands of my daughter who had silently followed me and pressed it close to my eyes.
“I will come for dinner another evening, Sekhar. You and Shyamala should excuse me,’ I told the hosts and was about to move towards the car, when Sekhar held my hand. ‘Uncle, you should always smile like your childhood friend; come and eat whatever you can. An ever green tree she was, unaffected by the onslaught of the summer or winter’
‘And appa,’ my daughter added, ‘remember what I said last night- everyone is sent into this world with a purpose.’
I never question the wisdom or words of my children.
Respected Siva Mama,
Excellent and wonderful piece of write up … torn out of somebody inner core of the heart! when I finished reading, I had developed a lump in my throat and my vision a bit blurred and they were wet!
Thanks …. Small things they may seem, but they mean a lot! Please keep writing.
Radhakrishnan, Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia
Dear Siva Anna
What a touching real time life story. My eyes filled with tears and could not control their fall on my cheeks……. reading about Kamakshi and the tragedies that she meted out………………
Extremely saddened about her and once again proved that the world is small where you come across people that you thought will never ever. Mr. Sekhar is truly sent by God to calm your memories that are rekindling you about your childhood friend or sweet heart Kamu.
Take care……. Happy Vishu.
Dear Kamu’s lucky friend,
The tale you just narrated so well was not only poignant but should stir the hornet’s nest in every soul.A similar tale, well written by M K Indira “Phaniamma” in Kannada was as absorbing and I think kamakshi was either related to the novelist(she happens to be Mysore Iyer) because it is hard to think kamu as a fictional character. That you were bestowed by her friendship platonically, gives me an urge to visit Kalpathy with you and Meena and perhaps film those places and just add the character of Kamu and you would have made an epic. Very well narrated and the dialogue with Vuday and chance meeting with Shekar comes once in one’s lifetime. Preserve the tale to posterity.
April 17, 2011
What a poignant story ! I wish Shri Sivasubamanian had met the physician earlier or that the doctor had brought his “Chitthi” to Florida for a visit and perhaps Shri Sivasubramanian could have met his childhood sweet heart.
“Our Sweetest songs are those that tell us of
Saddest thoughts”.How prophetic Shelley’s words were!I agree with Shri Sivasubamanian’s daughter that every body is sent with a purpose. Sometimes even to complete an unfulfilled task of the earlier birth.From the flow of words I could gauge the intensity of the feelings. This real life story would remain long in the minds of those with poetic sensibilities.
15 April 2011
Dear Sri Perinkulam Sivasubramanian Maama:
This mail of yours literally made me sob and cry aloud. To be burdened with an aged imbecile in-laws, a child, and herself a young widow, my goodness, after all how much sorrow can a human heart endure!! ? But your Kamakshi, she endured it all. She had a wonderful death. I pray for her to have a happier birth full of wealth, health and prosperity, and a satisfying one. May her childhood love (I am sure she must have had you in her heart before she was married) fructify then.
Maama, I can understand your feelings. You must be a great soul to have such sublime endearing thoughts after so many years spread over continents. It must be a privilege to be even acquainted with you!
With best regards,
Dear Sri.Perinkulam Sivasubramanian,Very well narrated.In fact i too was looking for a napkin to cover my moist eyes the moment i had finished reading the mail.
Keep it up SIR :
With Warm Regards,
S R Iyer
Regarding such a poignant narration early in the morning, makes my eyes misty. I can empathise with you for your feelings.
The message made me to weep. wonderful anecdote.
Story of Kamu is really touching. Most of us have some one in our younger life. I too had some one and miss that friend even now, wwhen I am 65.
I could not slee3p after reading Kamu story. I wish I am there with you to console you.
Home: +91 44 24934730
Mobile: +91 9962 117 843
I am touched by the story of Kamu. Needless to mention, there might have many Kamus in this world living just for others’ sake. They might die, but their souls live ever for generations to come!
N Raghupathy, D6/14, Kendriya Vihar, Yelahanka, Bangalore 560064; Tel: 22930014 / (M) 9844172976
Date: Sun, 17 Apr 2011 10:25:08 +0530
Subject: Re: [Iyer123] Kamu, my childhood friend
I am a great FAN or your’s and I read all ur WIRTE UPS More than once and I enjoy it.
Just yesterday I was very much moved after reading ur write up on MADAM KAMU and tears in ur eyes at this age.
Really Sir you are a nice and noble person and I pray that the Almighty give you a very long healthy life and always be happy with your SON,DAUGHTER AND THEIR FAMILIES.
The summary of my life so far ( AGED 59.5 now )nearing the grave,is
EVERYONE NEEDS ME BUT NO ONE LIKES ME
but still I continue moving the same way with everyone and continue to think good of everyone friend or foe because as your Daughter says
EVERYONE IS SENT WITH A PURPOSE.
MY Namaskarams to you SIR, and wishes to all in your FAMILY.
Interesting and a moving story!
Thank you sperinkulam.
ashok k <firstname.lastname@example.org
Pranams to you ,Kamu chiti and ofcourse to your Daughter and son in law who were their to support u .
It is very much true every person in the world would have a balya kala sakhi which they cant forget in their life till the last breath the luckier together and the destined away,
but its truth that definitely they will meet in their life time again before their last breath like in your case in the form of shekar .
Thanks for sharing your experience
A k Iyer
jai ramnath <email@example.com>
A truly gut wrenching story – destiny, unwavering purpose & simplicity, all intertwined to deliver a simple yet strong message in todays turbulent times where in pursuit of temporary & meaningless goals, most of us lose the essence of Living a simple yet effective life
I am sure that the story has touched a nerve among all readers, meaning different things for different people, remembering an incident, a distant relative, another simple soul whom we have all known in our lives and most important – a strong message on ancient values that we need to pass on . . .
Jai Ganesh Ramnath
I JUST WENT THROUGH YR SERIAL -NAY REAL STORY OF SOW.KAMAKSHI, YOUR CHILDHOOD FRIEND, ADHEREVERLASTING MISERIES, BUT EVER SMILING FACE.I WAS REALLY MOVED FOR A WHILE BUT WHEN I READ THE OORUKAIPADAM OF YOUR BELOVED DAUGHTER, “EVERYONE ISSENTTO THIS WORLD WITH APUPOSE” I COULD CONTROL MYFEELINGS,SILENTLY WIPNG MY TEARSWITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OFMYBELOVED DAUGHTER INLAW WHO WAS BUSYIN THE KITCHEN MAKING SOME DINNER.
MY HUMBLE REQUEST TO YOU WITH FOLDED HANDS PLEASE CONTINUE WRITING SUCH ARTICLES.IT WAS VERY INTERESTNG, INFORMATIVE AND OFCOURSE A BIT TOCHING, B/COZ UR TAKING THE CHARACTERS TO THE VERY FRONT OF THEREADER. MAYGOD GURUVAURAPPAN BLESS YOU WITH SUCH BRILLIANT IDEAS TO KEEP THE READERS HAPPY.
Krishnamoorthy Pazhayanur Shivaram <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am also as old as you are now.
The childhood friend’s story is very touching and tears were rolling down my eyes
as I was reading the final return of your friend Kamu to Kalpathy.
This has taken me back to my own younger days in Pazhayanur where I had the
same experience and now lost forever.
Words fail me to write further, sorry
I read your post “Kamu, my childhood friend”.What a real life story.
It brought tears to my eyes.Many helpless women would have given
up after such successive disasters in their life and languished their life
in self pity and depression.But Kamu chose to adopt a neighbor’s child
and made her life meaningful.I salute this courageous woman.
Thanks for this post.
Natraj from Canada
ou must be enjoying the Florida sunshine and your flare of the Englishlanguage is outstanding indeed. Every wordin your recent writing email was excelent and if Shakesphere was here
he would have prostrated in your “Padam” I like it very much.
So here is how I satart my day:
OH GOD THOUGH ART THE GIVER OF LIFE
REMOVER OF PAIN AND SORROW
THE BESTOWER OF HAPPINESS
OH CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE
MAY WE RECEIVE THEY SIN DESTROYING LIGHT
MAY THOU GUIDE OUR INTELLECT
IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
ATHEIST’S PLEADING TO THE UNKNOWN POWER OF THE UNIVRSE.
ENJOY FLORIDA. WHEN R U LEAVING FOR INDIA? WHEN U RETURN DONT FORGET THE MAHANI KIZHANGU PICKLE.
Dear Shri Siva Subramanian Perinkulam,
That was one of the most touching write-ups I have ever come across. The goodness and determination in the hearts of many unsung heroes is often not known to us and the life of Ms. Kamu hold valuable lessons for all of us. She is truly a great inspiration. Thank you for sharing this tale of courage and sacrifice with us.
Incidentally, my father-in-law Shri Perinkulam Ramaier Subramania Iyer carries the name of your village. He migrated to Ceylon in the 1930s and died there in 1983. I marriied his 3rd daughter Lalitha. My father (Lakshminarayanapuran Narayanaier Krishnamurthy) also went to Ceylon from Lakshminarayanapuram in the 1920s. He too passed away in 1995 in Colombo. My father and my father-in-law were life-long friends. I have heard so much about Palghat from both of them. Although we lived in Colombo we used to make regular trips to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. I now live in Sydney, Australia.
With respectful namsakarams and fond regards.