Let me give you a small introduction to Andathode – a place where every human being knows the other man’s bio-data blindfolded, everybody is by heart with the registration numbers of different cars moving around with the details as to which car belongs to which house, people go to towns and for purchases according to the bus timings and the list goes on and on. And how I got introduced to this place (atleast when I started recognizing places as a kid), at Altara (the closest bazaar) just ask for Gouriamma’s house and you are there. Gouriamma a good built figure and highly fashionable, my grandmother. A very able lady and smart to the toe was a small time politician. During her times she was among the few who had traveled all alone to Madras to study. Andathode is not actually my native place, its Kanzhara Mookha. It is about 10kms from Andathode. My grandmother’s family ultimately settled in Andathode.
A huge house with 8 bedrooms with attached bathrooms, long corridors, huge dining area, and my favorite place the kitchen and the storerooms. The main entrance was from the never ending lush green fields, the snake width paths and the muddy water. I should admit here I was very proud as a child to say, “this is my house and I own it”. It had a path from its backside for the cars, crossing two ponds – the public and the personal.
I was treated like the prince of the house. People who think I carry attitude that’s from there, the first child of the only child. To go further into the house I need to introduce you all to Latha and Savithiri, two of my best friends forever. They are the two people in my life I can never say a thank you for the endless joy they have given me. Latha would have been around 14-15 years of age and Savithiri around 30 years. I used to come to Andathode not to meet my grandparents but them. They used to take care of the households. I wanted to do all that they did from sweeping the floor to fetching water from the well to washing cloths in the pond and everything. They are the people who have inspired me to put down these words of my childhood. Today when I see them with their kids I am jealous. I used to wake – up very early in the morning it being my holidays; I loved the mornings in here. I wished for longer days. The morning dew, the prayers, the temple bells and the black coffee specially made by my grandfather. A handsome looking grandfather with all that talent I wish I had got myself indulged in. He is a good cook, a great tailor, my first driving lessons teacher… an electrical personnel by profession. What used to wake me up early was the sound created by the brooms sweeping the grounds around the house. The stick brooms gave me the signal Latha and Savithiri are in. My first task of the day would be to pluck flowers for the pooja with Latha. Next were the most exciting adventures of my childhood, run across the field to get milk. The steel containers with a noisy handle used to be my responsibility as Latha had to carry me to run across as I was too small to catch up her speed. Some days she plans to skip me as an option to carry but that was too difficult a task as I would be ready to run behind her and jump onto her. I don’t know what kept me so alive those days, these days are too sad. I think I calculate too much. I would hardly be seen in the front side, backside was my territory. A swing tied up by Sukamaran uncle the man Friday. He was the bodyguard as well as the local newspaper for my grandparents. The easy entrance to the kitchen where I could enter anytime increase the fire by inserting more wood and disturb the preparations that was fun. Helping to fry papads. The silent afternoons when everybody is fast asleep but I am up to exploring the house. Then and now I have a fetish towards antique articles, I just love to have them around me. And this house was a real khazana.
A month of just laying around, too much time to sleep, play, eat mangoes, suck mangoes, to cycle Sukamaran uncle’s cycle which had a headlight. And how can I forget the exciting and wonderful stay of two days at Guruvayoor. I don’t know how much people would believe this but the nights in Guruvayoor have something special in them. The evening shopping of cheap finger rings, variety of one-day useable toys, the decorated elephant figures, all similarly decorated shops with similar articles for sale. What has put strong impressions is the loud traditional music even in the nights and yes the elephant processions. I love Guruvayoor for just its night vision. Even today when I write about Guruvayoor I can smell the place, the only lodging (Nanmini), the only restaurant (Sri Krishna Bhavan). They were all family friends; the closeness still twinkles in each of our eyes.
The last ever question I asked my parents as a child with the ultimate innocence was a month ago; will Andathode get alive again? Will Latha and Savithiri still work for us? Will the paddy fields turn green again? Will the storerooms get filled with mangoes? And last will I be going back to my childhood? I end this note with a special mention of my parents – a pair of human beings who made it possible for me to see and experience all that is above. And not to forget my little sister who once in this world shared all that I had and respects the same. This is just the maternal part of my life, the paternal side is another book, do wait for it and you would realize how different the two worlds are but still they co-exist.
Arvind Ashok Kumar