Muthachan (grandfather) had vast farm lands, some inherited from ancestors and some bought by him. He used to earn by getting farming done on those lands. That was his only source of income. He had a beautiful wife and four children to take care of. Things were doing pretty well for years with excellent harvest and good sales in the market place.
Around the time when my Mom, his eldest daughter, completed her 10th grade exams, my grandfather had a real bad time and was in debt. He decided to stop Mom’s education and get her married off when she would be around 18. He had two sons and another daughter to take care of too.
It was then that my Mom’s Ammavan (maternal uncle; grandmother’s elder brother), took charge and ensured that she studied further. He took her with him to his home in Trichur, Kerala and made her complete her +2 (11th and 12th standard) and Bachelor’s in Science from Vimala College. Later she also completed her B. Ed from N.S.S. College, Ottapalam.
Mom tells us various stories about her stay at Trichur with Ammavan, Ammayi (his wife) and their three children. The way Ammayi used to handle all four of them and her job at the Telephone Exchange.
It is only because of their efforts and compromises that my Mom is now a TGT teacher in a Government Aided School and is financially independent. Ammavan and Ammayi have sponsored education for many more children in the family.
During our summer vacations, we had to sleep by 8.p.m. because we did not have a T.V. or any other source of entertainment as me and my sister were the only children available at that time. Then we used to wake up at around 4 a.m. when Ammamma (grandmother) and Mema (maternal aunt) used to chat and gossip with my Mom. Waking up so early, we used to fall asleep again by 5.00-5.30 a.m.
Ammavan used to come daily from Trichur to Vaniamkulam, my maternal birth place, by the first bus which reached the bus stop right in front of our gate, at 7 a.m. However deep in sleep we were, the moment the bus stopped and we heard Ammavan open the gate, it used to be a marathon between me and my younger sister, Renu. We used to neatly fold the bed spread and tuck it beneath Ammamma’s bed and then vanish like ghosts. I used to be inside the kitchen till Ammavan used to disappear and Renu after a while would try to squeeze out and will get caught. We were afraid of Ammavan for he had this real hoarse voice and used to look very strict. Once he caught up Renu, he’ll start asking her mental math problems or asked her to recite the tables or recite the numerals in Hindi.
Once it so happened, that he asked me to recite the table of 2 multiple number of times and I was so engrossed watching our domestic help peel coconut, I muttered, “2×1 = 2, 2 x 2 = 2, 2 x 3 = 2”. I only remember a loud voice:
“Is this what they teach you in schools in Delhi?”
I guess that was the last time I ended up in front of him. I always used to hide myself behind the kitchen shelves or within the store room till he went out.
Once Renu went invisible upon his arrival…. we were all busy attending to him and didn’t check on her. Once he went out, we started searching for her. We searched everywhere including the pond and the well within the compound, but couldn’t find her and were worried. I came back and sat on the bed in one of the inner rooms and was praying loudly to send my sister back safely from wherever she is. There comes a voice:
“Has he left? Shall I come out?”
It was Renu from under the bed. She comes out and says again,
“I have vacations. I’m not going to study. From next year, I’ll not bring my books too.”
But honestly, he is the one who taught me tables, while teaching Renu. I used to hear everything from inside the kitchen and I don’t know when I memorized them so perfectly. Just like Abhimanyu learned Chakravyuha from within his mother’s womb.
Once when I and Renu went with him to an orchard where he cultivated various fruits and vegetables, he was digging up and planting mangoes and other plants and I curiously asked,
“Why are you planting these? These will take years to bear fruits. Isn’t it?”
To which he replied,
“I ate fruits that someone had planted much before I was born, so if I’ll plant today, you can eat tomorrow.”
That’s exactly when I realized he was Doing what was Right by helping children in education and by planting more and more trees.
He still keeps learning. He learnt Sanskrit after 80 years of age. I remember Amma buying books from here for him before we went for our vacations. An amazing, hard-working and inspiring personality Ammavan is.
We have grown up eating mangoes, banana, guava, chambakka (rose apple), jack fruit, and so many others cultivated by him. Ammamma was blessed to have had such a wonderful brother who used to come daily only to meet her till her last days. We too are blessed to be a part of the family and to have enjoyed the blessings of such hard working elders.