With a cup of hot coffee I sat down one afternoon underneath the huge Peepal (Sacred Fig) tree in the endless lawn in our ancient ancestral property. Flood of thoughts as usual, I had in my mind. The effect of coffee it might be that I slowly stabilized and could focus on a few weird ones, as usual. 😀
There was a Moovandan Maavu (mango tree) right in front of me. It surely might be more than my Amma’s age, coz I’ve heard stories from her about her childhood and the important role the tree has played in it. There was also our Sundari Pashu (cow) that was grazing in the vicinity. She’s a few years elder to me in the family, coz Ammamma used to tell me that she was brought in just before Amma‘s marriage. In that hot and humid afternoon, it was now just the three of us in a magical dream world created inside my thoughts…the Maavu (Mango tree), Sundari (the cow) and myself. Each one of us were lonely in our own domains, talking to ourselves, contemplating about life so far. But together we weren’t lonely souls any more.
We spoke for hours at length…or so I felt. The Mango tree shared it’s story of how Amma (my mother), both my Mamas (my maternal uncle), Mema (maternal aunt) and their cousins used to play around her, climb upon her, enjoy her fruits and how they even used to escape punishments by hiding amongst her branches. She was so loud and clear that I could actually see all of them in their childhood playing and enjoying around her. It was almost real. She even mentioned how she had witnessed Ammamma and Muthacha‘s marriage, then their children and so on. And today, there my kids were playing in the lawn. What Pride…isn’t it? 🙂 😀 😉
It was Sundari‘s turn to pour out. She mentioned of how she had witnessed Amma-Acha‘s pennu-kannal (the occasion where the groom comes with his family to see the prospective bride). Then their marriage, my birth, my sis’‘s birth and of all the marriages of my Mema and Mamas, births of their offspring, and in between the demise of Muthachan and Ammamma. She was also boasting of how she was flooding the house with prosperity with her rich milk supply. I actually wanted to tell her how many litres of milk I had spilled down the drain. But I didn’t, for fear that someone might overhear and I would have had to listen to Amma‘s hour-long lecture on why milk was so very essential for a growing child. 🙂 😉 😀
Finally, both of them stood there looking anxiously at me, probing me to start my story.
Yes!!! I too had a story which I had shared that afternoon in that dream world of mine with Moovandan Maavu and Sundari.
28 years back on a fine winter morning around 4.30 a.m., I find myself standing with my Amma, my 2-year old sis, Raj uncle, Kiran aunty, Babu uncle, Geetha aunty and Ravi uncle, our neighbours, waving bye to my Dad who was going abroad for better prospects. Life changed irreparably for me that very day and probably more during the course of the time.
Few days later Amma told me, “You are the eldest; you should be responsible and should take care of your little sister.” Though it wasn’t easier to comprehend for a 5-year-old, the tears in Amma’s eyes somehow made it register in my subconscious mind.
I had transformed myself into someone I wasn’t. Till Dad was there with us, though he could hardly spend time with us because of the multiple assignments he had taken up, life was pretty. 5 years of my life, I had only had Dad as my bestest friend. No, nothing wrong with my Mom, she was the best I could have ever asked for. It was only that the person who spends less time with you scolds you less, gives lesser lectures, and supports you more. Mom had a 2-something Renu and the obvious sibling J-factor too had slowly crept into me. Later as I grew I wore a mask to keep myself away from the fast and cunning world…the only thing that was on my mind was I am supposed to protect my Amma and little sis from everybody. I never used to go out with my friends (only once after my last board exams to my friend’s place for a few hours), never went for any movies (except ‘Kareeb’, that too because my dear friend wanted to go and her parents wouldn’t allow her out without me), never enjoyed anything…all this to hide the feelings, kill the dreams of a very basic girl with natural dreams and aspirations. I somewhat succeeded in my endeavour.
Dad still was my bestest friend through the hundreds and hundreds of letters I used to write to him. A huge void Acha’s absence created within me…though I was always in touch with him through my endless letters. But now I had things that I had to hide from him. No, no, not because I was doing something wrong. But, because I didn’t want to hurt my Dad who was all alone miles away. That 5-year old little soul was scared that her Dad might cry alone and there’ll be no one to wipe his tears. So she never spoke about her mental fears, the struggle that she was going through and thus no one ever knew. I was fighting a battle deep inside. I used to be upset with Amma (I always used to think Amma was the reason that Dad had to leave us behind), at the same time I used to love her a lot. Of course! Else why would I not tell her anything about my fears, my insecurities as a child. I didn’t want to increase her burden, as I knew she already was over-loaded with enough and more.
I used to save a piece of every little delicacy I was offered for my Dad, be it school, home or vacations at Ammamma (maternal grandmother or Naani) or Achamma (paternal grandmother or Daadi). But, after days when the item started rotting, I used to quietly throw it away and with it went away a portion of my faith that I could meet my Dad soon. Dad used to come for vacations once in two years for 15-20 days. Something I used to eagerly wait for and it used to get over in a fizzy.
I had made myself quieter. Loved to stay away from people and places. I refused to get dressed up for functions. Amma always thought I refused because I wasn’t interested. No, Amma! I refused to get dressed up for I feared someone might follow me, stalk me, hurt me and in turn hurt all of you. I suddenly wanted to be your son, who could protect all of you, share your burdens, be your pillar of support. Only my late friend Latha knew about all these that I am sharing now. Miss you dear! 😦 😦 😦
With just this I could see Moovandan Maavu starting to wither and Sundari already had tears rolling down her cheeks.
Memories of that innocent little 5-year old I keep revisiting…
People nowadays tell me, I have changed. Yes! I have changed, I have changed a lot, I am no more the same old person who never had anything to do with herself. I am more confident, more mature, much more assertive, happy, cheerful and optimistic…all because I now have my Dad with me along with the one who has taught me to be brave all the time, expect the unexpected and be prepared for the worst.
Mr. Right, I owe you myself. You brought back life into all of us.
I am sure, this that I am having now is the best part in my life, and I feel blessed to have such good friends with whom I am re-discovering myself, rather re-living those years that I lost years ago. It was always family and friends. Now, I have started living for myself. I have started enjoying life, I have started doing things that I wish to, I have started buying things that I personally like, I spend time doing things I enjoy, I take out time for myself, more than all I now have someone I could share things with, without any fear…
All this is true, but I really miss the old ‘Me’ with the mask…
…she had so much to tell me…and I had so much to tell her…