I am trying to remember serenity of my small town far away from thechaos and confusions of a crowded city. A town on a hillock on the leeway side of the western ghats. I always think of those mountains to be purple in colour under a clear blue, breathtaking sky. Here on thehills, a few gentlemen began building houses in the late 1960s. Every town has its own character. My town's character is in those single-storied, semi-circular houses with a pillar or two in front anda grilled, large semi-circular window, with a long glass panel runningthe length of the house. My grandpa, one of the founders of the town,had one such airy, lovely home in which most of us lived ourchildhood.
Apart from the lullabies of my aunts and my teacher mom, my child'seyes must have browsed through a daily and a magazine to which mygrandpa subscribed for decades. I began my career in journalism withthe same daily `Dinamani', an anti-establishment paper, steeped inethics. Now, you know that I was initiated into journalism very earlyin life. Surprisingly, I have seen that magazine only by my grandfather's bedside. It had the title `Dharma Chakra'. After half-a-life, I am more or less certain that Dharma is not to be found easily anywhere or in anyone. As a boy, I have read a few passages from that magazine. I think there were articles on goodness of being, the beautyof life, eternal thirst for spirituality and the more importantly the moral code of conduct for a man. I feel grandpa kept reading that mag till it went out of print as there were not many subscribers. That morality though is still shining in him for us to follow.
There are few other traits of our grandpa that many of us must haveinherited knowingly or unknowingly. To me, `Thaneer Pandal' is one of the noblest act of my clan. This makeshift `pandal' is laid on the road to the temple on the local festive day and as children we revelled in the coconut groves and found happiness in giving water,butter-milkand the chocolate coloured sweet drink called `panakaram' to thepassers-by. In simple words, we discovered the art of giving under that thatched pandal.
What do you do as children? Chat, talk and yell, all the time. OnSaturdays, grandpa had this habit of observing the silent penance. Itmeans he will not talk the entire day. As children, we found it funny. It even gave us the freedom to dare him, a stoic. We would run for cover and at times out of the house whenever we saw anger in his eyes at our stupid, childish pranks. Only later in life that we realized the power and magnificence of silence, the self's key to realization.
Another door opened.
Even now, my generation cherishes its unforgettable images from thatornate home. The festive seasons, especially the deepavalis, breakingthe windows at will playing cricket only to see a red-faced grandpa chasing us out of the house, the big, black-eyed girls learning bharatanatyam, the countless hours of television watching, the elaborate arrangements of toys during navarathri festival, and the moonlit dinner nights at the courtyard behind the house and the starry, singing nights on the terrace. We never knew we lived in perfect happiness, bordering bliss.
Then there are the other images like my grandpa doing his morning pujas, his apple-eating style, khadi dressing, the stoic way he sat athis textile shop, the pride with which he drove in a blue Fiat to manage a college, his near death experience before the brain surgery, his morning walks, the scare on his head, not to forget the radianceof his spirit.
There are many, many images from that blessed home. Nothing will endure the image of a frail looking woman, his compassionate partner in life, sitting somewhere and silently observing the happenings in the house. Not many would have credited her with the way the family members has succeeded in many fronts. If no one knew, she is the secret of the family. I am not sure if her very own daughters know it as they, like the town, are in awe of grandpa, a classical example of rags-to-riches story. My grandpa may know all about success. She seldom shows happiness. It manifests itself in her face whenever shesees her grand-children. She is the source of life. She is the soul of the family. My grandma (avva in telugu and patti in tamil), sure knows all the crevices creeping toward the doors of happiness. In her are the rich traits of an anonymous, under-rated Indian woman who silently prays and cares for everyone in the clan. Tell me, why will not a man succeed if his wife has never ever questioned him but has accepted him as he is.
Ageing though is a loving treatise of life. Watching my grandma telling her respected husband for six decades to shut up or asking himto stop watching news to allow the great-grand children watch cartoons and him tending to her needs by giving her the required pills to put her to sleep, taking her hand in hand when she is weak for a stroll inthe house, in essence, living a new life, contrary to the previous life from their prime, you are filled with a rare warmth and tenderness to life as a whole.
Of late, I think I was the first one to be born and brought up ingrandma's new house in the early seventies as I always dream of owning a spacious, well-lit house with a few trees breathing into it with children playing all around. Often, I long to go back to my little town to settle down for a peaceful life. A life not mechanical but with memories and melancholies to liven up the soul. This particular saying keeps resonating in me. There is nothing morebeautiful than being in your own home town, to sprout like a banyan tree, with the aerial roots feeling the winds of seasons, a light heart so pure that it looks up to the limitless expanse of the blue sky as the actual roots breath beneath the moistness of earth, spreading out and sprouting all the time. In our home, we have this peepal tree, the sacred fig, intertwined with the banyan tree.