The memories and happenings in life are like the sand in a beach. Its infinite. It comes and goes with the waves. Sometimes some linger on, changing hands, changing forms. A handful is all what my little hands could collect…and I present a day from my album of vision for a nostalgic remembrance.
Gazing through the misty morning’s impressions of rain, reminiscing the days of yore, my shoes kissed the cemented platforms of Vadakara railway station. A Beedi (hand rolled cigarette) stub lay quarter burned and doused by yesterday’s rain. Some traveler would have thrown it in his haste to board. Memories reinvented or did the Beedi rekindle it? Symbolization of a mass movement of the communist prowess of the early 1960’s. AKG holding forte for the enactment of a national law for the protection of cigar and beedi workers in 1966, making Kerala Dinesh Beedi(KDB) the fourth largest beedi firm in India today.
Graying memory searched for the hot brewing cup of tea. The artistic ease with which the 60 year old Kanarettan, used to pour it back and forth from the mug to my glass. Never a drop spilled. “Perfect!!!” I used to compliment him in English. My eyes searched the locale, for no sign existed of a tea stall. On the steps of the nearby shop was squatting an octogenarian. His droopy face obstructing my question to come forth. The puff of smoke rose intermittently above his baldness. His gaze now questioned my stand. His answer was cold. Kanarettan is no more.
My gaze wandered in the loneliness around him. My ears echoed the thumping sound of his tea-glass on the wooden table. It’s only after that I used to sip the brownish hot liquid. The morning gossip of how the government should be run between the sipping mouthfuls of tea and more were vacuous.
I thanked the old man, who had already opened his packet of Beedi for a better puff. The lighter was a coir rope hanging near, its tip burning slowly to a certain death. He rose with the definite difficulty of senile decay, evident from the dragging gait of imperfection. I dare didn’t advice. Every individual needs a reason to die. Some find on their own, someone else is gifted. Deep inside a corner of my pocket lay the 2 rupee coin, worthless today for the tea will never taste the same again.
Only the STD counters had opened shop. The red and yellow ISD on the dangling boards pronounced the reach of the Malayali ‘conglomerate’ to every corner of the globe. The engines of the private buses were already raring for a speed trial. Empty morning = A comfortable seat. In B & W script – Ladies only. Feminism ruling the roost. But they know not that gender inequalities are mocking convincingly at me. Will we change? Isn’t it time for another revolution!!! Who cares? Questions knocked my mind. The cold air was dancing duets with my hair. I get down at the bus shelter. It reads – In memory of the Koothuparamba martyrs. Carved in cement are the letters I yearn to read. DYFI – Democratic youth federation of India. The youth organization of Communist Party Of India (Marxist) found in 1980. A reminder of the long and chequered history of student activism and struggle in Kerala. Comrades, I salute you. The world survives on martyrs. “Jesus Christ being an authentic communist, anti-imperialist, enemy of the oligarchy” -Quoting Hugo Chavez. The first martyr – quotes my thoughts. My countryside. Not a speck of tar. Red soil. Enough of rain to seep. My bladder urges to take the liberty of open air urination. Gals please excuse. Don’t be jealous of my freedom. It’s a boyzone. The dew-wet grass smokes as the freshness of warm drops bathe the leaves. Alarm to wake up for a new dawn. But the touch-me-nots shy away in silence. Zippers in. Home welcomes me, fern filled and slippery. Dry leaves spread lavishly as a cushion for the rain. Does the house face the ignominy of being forgotten? Our urban lives are taking the toll. Yet my Malayali soul yearns for another independent villa. I left for my aunt’s house. Nostalgia followed me here like a faithful dog. Let me brush. Colgate toothpaste. The stand-up tube remains synonymous with the early cock-crows of yesteryears, of the days as a kid and more. I used to wonder. Why are all the thrown away tubes in two pieces? Grandma put the brush inside a half section and an elegant twist. The whole paste kissed the bristles and came out white. Now I realize the value for money. Uncle complaints, “The plastic tubes of today are not fully filled. Air reduces the weight.” I leave no room for debate. The easiest way being silent.
Brushing finished…. I search my bag frantically for the tongue cleaner made of steel. It’s missing as usual. Forgotten. Back to nature. The midrib of a specific part of the coconut palm did the magic again. How skillfully did my uncle split it making a perfect use-&-throw double-tongue cleaner!!! Mythology too had the analogy in my maddening world of ideas. Equated my uncle to Bhima and the midrib to Jarasandha. Split open to an assured death.
Breakfast is ready. Appam and stew. Mind meanders. Those breezy evenings used to bring a cycle bell ringing. Chandran – The toddy-taper. Cuter, childish & fair like the toddy. He hands over a glass of toddy. I sip a little out of curiosity. Tasting sweet!!! So now I too can proclaim after the vacation- “I too have boozed”. An insurmountable achievement among the 4 th standard guys. But what was toddy really for? It acts as natural yeast added for the fluffiness in the delicacy called Appam in Kerala. What was it this time? My aunty too has gone Yeast, when everyone else is heading west. No more cycle bells. Chandran has left for the hidden fortune in gulf. The dream abode of Malayalis. He said he never found a treasure atop the coconut palm.
Knock on the door at 9am. A man draped in a brilliantly orange hue below his waist. Tied so stylishly around, the muscular legs tend to shiver in might. The huge moustache adding glamour to the chocolate-brown skin he is gifted. The sharpest of his knifes kissed his buttocks, yet a smile adorned his face. That’s Kumarettan. The coconut-climber. The ease of his task leaves me gaping as always. How do his legs grip the palm with a single piece of coir? Magnificent sight he must be having at the top. I go green. I dream. I forget it only when my tongue is pricked with the fizz of a tender coconut. The pyramidal top of the cut coconut. Craft indeed. He leaves taking his due & two coconuts. I tried climbing once. The failure was in getting down. Beaten black and blue – end to an ode. Now no more Kumarettan comes. Coconuts fall at the mercy of God. Some lucky passer by collects it. Its all coke and Maaza to quench my thirst.
My thoughts wandered like the lovely clouds. Those days when as a kid, I dreamt of a moustache. The ladybirds’ inquisitiveness to know who the city-kid tucked in pants and belt is!!! Reflected clear from the questioning eyes. My eyes felt shy and proud together, all bottled a kid head. I was alien to the world of colloquies in Badagara. Now I had a handicap to select an answer about my identity. Should it be in my dad’s name or the house name? My heart pumped ‘lubb-dubb’ every second. Sweat streaked my little forehead. The little hairs as young as my hands too get drenched cold. Finally I juggle my response and walk off by the canal side. Escaped. Now none asks. None cares. Effects of globalization?? I shrug it off as another odd joke.
Yet summer did have inviting glances at me. The small trucks that roared in the silence of the mornings. Empty bellied ones returning with truck loads of mangoes. It grumbled less in the evenings or did I feel so? Now one solitary tree remains. As souls departed from the indoors to a heavenly abode, the huge mangifera trees were taken for the pyre. May the souls rest in peace. This time I noticed the smaller saps have grown handsome & broader. For me and my loves ones. An inner voice whispered. Life is like that. A cycle of life and death. Merciless at times.
Evenings were fertile. Pazhampori (banana-fry) & kalathappam (type of cake) spread on the table. All home made by grandma. And today lures my buds with the bakery spread. They know not that it’s for the small village leisure’s and pleasures of yesteryears that I turned to wander-lust. Those days of voltage drop by twilight taught me the skeleton of a bulb. The filaments in different hues, shapes and figures. A beauty so beautiful. Now none admires a bulb, for tubes & CFL’s have replaced the days of low voltage. My thoughts drift again. The suicidal flies that took wing around the bulb and were engulfed by the lit lantern. How will they have a reason to die now? Senile decay even for those who had a charming death in my vision. Longer life. That’s the positive outlook. The pitter patter has lost the freedom to cascade, yet the rains remain a vociferous spectator. Tiles and thatches finding roof as a possession of the deprived. The night gossips have ceased to exist. Television has taken the waterfalls to a trickle. Everyone glued like the Fevicol ad. Females married off. Older people called back to the pavilion. Some sudden deaths too… and the rest into a cocoon of their own. We have grown in size of our selfishness. The hearts have shrunk. Lives have changed. Time has its mutants. Transition.
Rejil Krishnan is an IT professional based in Goa and an avid blogger