When I started the vehicle, to take him to the hospital, one “Ottappattar” (single brahmin) came from the opposite direction and though I do not believe generally in ‘sakunam’, I waited for a few minutes, went inside the house, drank a cup of water and then only started my car. I sincerely prayed that the guy who came from the opposite direction was not a brahmin but a chettiar or of any other poonal wearing caste !” stroke is a ‘brain attack’ that happens in the brain rather than in the heart”, explained,Dr.Rao.”Every minute lost, from the onset of symptoms to the emergency contact, cuts into the limited window opportunity for intervention. Longer the delay in getting the medical treatment, the more damage a stroke can do and the chances of recovery are less.”Dr.Rao admitted Seshumama in his own ward and said,” You did a good job in bringing him here in time. He will be under my direct supervision, though another expert will treat him.You all can go home and relax. The hospital will take care of his food and medicine requirement”None of us went back and in fact everyone came from home and also some friends, hearing the news.
I know that Dr Rao doesn’t like a crowd in wards. So, we all came out and after sending others home, I stayed back, seeing Vishnu Namboodiri, clad, as usual, in his ‘kasavu double’ and ‘melmundu’ and sitting under the tree, chewing pan, completely relaxed and smiling. Well built, fair skinned, pleasant mannered and jovial, Namboodiripad is, in looks and character, opposite to the dark and dry like a stick, ill mannered and irritating, Chamianna. Namboodiri has nothing to claim as his own, no house, no source of regular income, no family, except music and melody and love and goodness flowering in his heart; He spends every moment of his life, singing Sanskrit slokas and Malayalam poetry and katahkali songs, when he doesn’t chew betel leaves, which of course, he does every alternate hour.
“Periase, varu, onnu murukkam” (come, let us have chew of betel leaves). Vishnu invited me . I am not a regular pan chewer, but to do that along with my friends is a pleasure, inherited from my father. For my father, it was a celebration as well as a tonic to remove the stress and strain and also a constant companion. It was a pleasure to watch him slowly opening his silver casket, removing the top and bottom parts of the leaves, cleaning them by a gentle rub on hands and applying the calcium paste, slowly and leisurely as if the very purpose of taking birth in this world was to enjoy eating betel leaves.
Whenever there was a kathakali program around Palakkad, Krishnavadyar used to come all the way from Perinkulam, and as a child, I remember accompanying them to watch the shows. Both of them used to sit in the front row with their ‘chellappetty’ and enjoy the dance and songs as well as eating betel leaves, through out the night. How content and happy they were, with these small pleasures, I used to think often, when, at later days, I used to spent sleepless nights , due to some worry or other, real or imaginary, even after obtaining, fortunately, almost everything I asked for, from life.
”Look at that coconut tree’, Namboodiri said,”every part of it, the stem, the leaves, the seeds, even the outer shell of the seed are useful to us. When they die, apart from their flesh, the animals leave, their horns, claws,and skin, for our use and birds, their feathers. Only man, leaves nothing useful, when he quits the world”
“Be thankful to the Creator for that, Vishnu”, I said, ” Otherwise, we would not be talking like this, enjoying betel leaves; Someone would have killed us and taken away our skin or bones or nails or teeth.”
“yes, she got down at Coimbatore and I will be getting down at Erode or Salem. Ithoru theevandi yathrayado,Periyase !”(life is nothing but a train journey)
He got up, put his melmundu on his shoulders and closing eyes enjoyed the Viswaroopam of the Lord,”Anekabahoodara vakthra nethram—” kings and slaves, humans,animals and birds, sun , moon stars and sky, everything living and non living,seen and unseen, heard and unheard, rushing towards that huge mouth,in terrible speed.
“What a magnificent woman Leelavathi was?”, I thought while walking towards the car along with Vishnu, “And she was his only asset, and when she was taken away, Vishnu became not living, though alive, a walking corpse . He could, however, manage to hide agony by wrapping it with with his loud laughter and infectious smile.
Seshumama was brought home after a week and Liz wanted me and Meera to join Seshu family for dinner that night. Dr.Rao with family also was invited.
” I have made all arrangements for the wedding of Ravi with Lakshmi. Give me the matter for printing the invitation card and arrange for your purohit”, Dr.Rao said. “The wedding will be performed strictly according to your customs and there will be no interference from our side”
‘Won’t it be better to perform Pitchumani’s wedding also on the same muhoortham?”,I asked, “because there are hardly ten days left for their return to U.S.A”
“Ya, Pitch’s wedding also can be performed the same day,” said Liz,” but not with me. My short stay in this house changed my thinking, my vision and attitude towards family life. I have decided that I will not stand in between Pitchu and his parents as, all said and done, there is bound to be a vaccuum between me and the elderly couple who speak different language and are used to a different type of living. I will not be able to cook what they like when they come to US and I will not even be able to share their feelings. Pitchu was not born in wilderness as a cactus in a desert; he was raised in a garden. I never realised before coming here that the family bondage could have such an influence on an individual. l love Pitchu now, more than any time before. We had discussed this issue in detail and Pitch agreed to accept my decision reluctantly.
I have found a girl for Pitch in Meera, whom I feel will be an ideal partner for him. Dr.Rao has already spoken to Meera’s parents and they are willing for this alliance provided Meera agrees for this proposal.. I think Ravi already had a talk with Meera yesterday and her response is positive. Athai is happy about this alliance and she has agreed to obtain the permission from Pitch’s parents. I am sure that Perias too will have no objection.
“I have now a second home in Hyderabad and have found my parents in mama and mami. I will come here every year, for Mother’s Day”
”Mera thamaak karabh kardiya, thum” I told Meera and hugged her.
While going to bed, I remembered what novelist R.K. Lashmanan, said while concluding his short story ‘ My old home’.
” Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said to not exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually, the earth had no roads to begin with, but when men pass one way, a road is made”
Weather we walk through the roads already made or make new roads, let us not claim them as our own.
‘There is apparently a force in the Universe working towards order than disorder”, my father used to say, “call it by any name you like’
It is very sad that the saga of Pitchumani has to come to an end
Thanks for being with me to hear this story patiently.
Love and regards,