C-rappy Cacophony

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Paati...The tender,iron hearted or the heart rendering irony???

Just as I was going through my routine rounds of India telephone calls to wish everyone of my close relatives for the new year 2004,I stumbled on my maternal grandmother's telephone number.She lives with the youngest of her sons at Pondichery,the reason being that that house has the youngest kids in the family which require "Paati"s nurturing when the parents leave for thier work.
God only knows..yeah even Paati herself wouldn't be able to recollect, how many children she has had to bring up / take care of during thier baby phases.I feel I hold a very significant place in the list because I am the eldest of all her grandchildren.It is very very difficult to explain the kind of nurturing that I got from my grandparents.It is one of the sweetest phases of my life.Although I dint get a chance to live with them ,the few months that i used to spend during my annual/half yearly vacation still stays fresh in my fast diminishing memory.
Whenever I think about my childhood days ,almost in a split-second flash,I get vivid recollections of the time I spent with Paati.As soon as the time-table for the half-yearly or annual exams was put up on the black board or notice board,the first though that would strike was the train journey to trichy for my vacation.Paati and Thaatha used to live in a place called Jeeyapuram ,which was located on the banks of the river Cauvery.It was about 10 km away from the city and possesed a unique scenic environment which I have not witnessed anywhere else.
As soon as the train came to a screeching stop at the Jeeyapuram railway station,I could see my thaatha eagerly waving hands towards us.He was an old but very energetic man sporting a monkey cap,a white vaeshti and a sparingly used shirt which had the skills of the local tailor written all over it.Even though it would be very early in the morning,we could find the streaks of vibuthi(called pattai) noticeable through the monkey cap gaps on the temple of his head and on his hands.He always had a unique smell of this Vibuthi all around him,which was a trademark for his freshness.
Once I set my foot out of the train,I would never have to walk for the next few hours.By default thaatha would lift me and carry me on his shoulders along with 2 or 3 of our luggages.Once I enter the village(known as the agraharam),my life would turn into some kind of a young prince.Almost every house in the agraharam would have got the news of my arrival,thanks to my Paati and her group of other broadcasting paatis who would have been discussing about this on thier thinnais ,since the last few weeks.
Paati ,upon seeing me used to leap in joy.She would grab me and shower me with the sweetest of all words in tamil such as 'chakara kutty,vella kutty,raaja,chellam,muthukutty,which would translate to 'sugar,jaggery,the king,the beloved,the pearl.
Once I brush my teeth with the 'Gopal pal podi',the horlicks or Viva would be waiting for me.I would be amazed to see that Paati would have been "aathifying"(reducing the temperature of a fluid by repeated transfering between 2 tumblers)the Viva for about 5 minutes to bring it to the optimum temperature.Once the morning formality drink was over,its the start of the never ending menu..the ribbon pakoda,the maida cake,the mixture,halwa and the best of all 'paal-covaa'.These were specially made by my Paati herself for me.I would relish them for the next few weeks.
Paati was a wonderful lady.She had the signs of old age very well evident all over her.She was a very thin lady,with the veins on her hands and neck almost about to pop out of her body.Her voice was so soft and carried the unique soothing tone.Yet the strenth she had was amazing.She used to move the huge containers bearing rice,floor etc with no signs of any weariness.Her day would start at 4 in the morning and I never even knew when it would come to stop as I used to sleep in her lap before her day was over.
Her devotion to God and her prayer sessions were totally flabbergasting.I had to patiently wait for the final neivaethyam(offering to God) which consisted of kishmish(dried raisins) and the wonderful Paanagam(sweet concoction containing jaggery and other condiments).Once the food was over,Paati used to specially 'pesanjify'(mix rice with dhaal or rasam) and would start ootifying (offer food to a child) me.She used to tell me wonderful stories,which sometimes had me as the protoganist.In every one of those stories,as you would guessed,I would be the victor against the demons or the raakshashas.Apart from these stories,I learnt a lot of details about the Hindu mythology from her ayyapa/krishna and other deity-related tales.
I have never seen Paati getting mad at anyone.She never spoke ill of anyone and had the kindest words for even the mean-hearted ladies of the village.She had a tender heart which always welcomed everyone.Her life has been laden with so much trials and tribulations,yet the strength she possesses conveys the iron-like heart she has.She lost her mother at a very young age and she had been brought up in a very affluent family,but with all the wonderful characteristics that a brahmin girl should possess.She has been like a mother to her sister's kids and her journey though life as a caretaker of babies has started eons ago.
Although she came from a very rich family,fate had decided that she would be a wife to a middle class man.I still hear about the travails she had as mother to cope up with the family tensions and responsibilties.
Her life has been totally dedicated for the welfare of others.She has not asked for anything for herself and I am sure If God were to appear before and give her a wish of her life,she would ask for the betterment of her kids and grandkids.
Now,let me return to where I started.As the new year dawned yesterday in India,I called her up.She picked up the phone after it had rung 8 or 10 times and when I shouted from the top of my voice.."Paati..Rajesh paesaraen America laenrthu"..I could visualise the joy that she would have had.She had the same soothing tone,soft voice which had slowly started to shiver.During the course of our conversation,she said..."Rajesh..From the money that you sent,I had all my fragile teeth pulled out and rebuilt with strong teeth.I am now able to chew the food that I eat.Rombo thanks paa.."
I felt a huge lump of sorrow in my throat and I feel the same, as I type these words.I could not talk for a moment to her.It was a complete irony of life.I still remember her putting her fingers into my mouth and also my sister's mouth to see if our first tooth had sprouted out and NOW SHE WAS IN A STAGE..where she didnt have teeth and the worst scenario that life had brought onto us, was putting her in a situation to thank me for such a tiny deed that I had done.I still don't know how I can repay her even an iota of her her kindness and all the love she has showered upon me and my cousins.
I sincerely wish that Paati has a wonderful life ahead and hope to see her soon and enjoy her company as always.
Paati..Thank you for what you are.We all owe you big time..Love you always.

Posted by rajesh |

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