He lost his father to double pneumonia when he was just 9 years old. Third of six siblings he is. An elder brother and sister and two younger sisters and a younger brother. His mother, a widow at 32, had a tough time bringing them up. Sleepless nights, empty stomach and a society that is not easy to deal with, she had. She struggled all odds to ensure that her kids did not get into wrong company.
Playing with the bicycle tyres and umbrella made of palm leaves (ollakkuda in Malayalam), plucking and selling mangoes from the roadside mango trees to pay off his school fees, are some of his childhood memories that he has shared with me during my childhood trips to his village. The shorts he wore to school were made out of his uncles’ old trousers. They were so worn out that he had to stop playing kho-kho for fear of them getting torn and him getting embarrassed. He still remembers and explains the design of a shirt piece that he thought was being bought for him by one of his uncles who had taken him to the shop. That uncle had bought it for his own son as Onapudava (new dress for Onam).
He grew up to be the first one in the family to clear his SSLC (10th board) with first division while his peers within and outside the family didn’t clear it. He wanted to attend college, but his family couldn’t afford it.
All of 16, he landed in Dilwaalon ki Dilli in 1967. It was Holi and a girl from the neighborhood colored him while he was sitting unaware of anything about the festival. Today, he repents having bitten her.
His first income was Rs.2 that he got after guarding a typing institute from morning till night. After a few years, he managed to get into a job that got him Rs.48 as salary. From this he had to send money back home, pay rent for the barsaati where he stayed, and pay his food bills at Sreedhara Menon’s restaurant in Gole Market. To save 20 paise per day, he would walk to and fro to his Rajender Nagar office instead of taking the bus (covering a distance of 4-5 kilometers one way).
I have learnt what friendship is from his relationship with his friend Balan. Those days, both of them used to stay together and since they both didn’t know English language, they found out a way to learn it quickly. They used to read novels and had promised not to speak to each other in any language other than English. In the beginning, people used to make fun of them hearing their Mallu accented, grammatically wrong English, but today he is the one I would ask my daughters to have as their dictionary. He still speaks highly of Sreedhara Menon’s restaurant which used to have a monthly account for him and Balan uncle.
He cleared his 12th boards from Open School while supporting his family back home. He also managed to complete his graduation later and got into better roles professionally. He supported his mom to get his sisters married off decently enough.
I still remember the typewriter keys moving tak-tak-tak late in the night or early in the morning, because he was completing the freelance documentation work that he had taken up apart from his day-time job.
Marriage, two daughters and then a dream home for which he had to take loan from friends and to repay the loan faster, he chose to spend some important years of his life away from his family. By the time he repaid his loan, his daughters had grown into teens and he decided to slog a little more for their future. I always wonder, was it a wise decision? A decade of our life is what we have lost.
He is happy with whatever comes his way. In all these years, I have never heard him complain about life or ranting about his problems. He always says, “Never did I imagine I would reach this place in my life. I am thankful for whatever I have achieved in life.“
From guarding an institute for Rs.2, he is now the PA to Chairman of a prestigious organization.
A self-made man he is and I am proud to be his daughter. The First and Best Man in my life.
Amma is one lucky woman is what sis and I keep telling. Apart from serving him food, mom doesn’t have to bother about anything for him. Of course, Amma has a different story to say, mostly owing to his temperament. 😛 And we do agree with her on this. 😀
Gratitude, time management, honesty, taking risks, organizational skills, maintaining friendships, joy of giving, accepting life with open arms and many more is all that I have learnt from my Dad. Of course, short temperament and a little bit of stubbornness too is something that I have inherited from him. 😀
Love you lots, Acha! 🙂
This post is a part of Write Tribe Festival of Words – 2. Today’s prompt is PEOPLE.