The half broken false ceiling in the kitchen of our “tharavad” (read ancestral house), became a little too good reason to plan the day’s breakfast from the nearest restaurant. The “marappatikal” (read civet cats) that stayed atop the ceiling for quite some time, proved to be a burden during the last night, when they tried hopping over the kitchen ceiling, which ultimately caused it to break with a loud thud, covering a portion of the kitchen with dust and dirt from the ceiling. The incident added to the ever-increasing views of the elder members of my family, including my uncle. “This is the 5th or 6th incident this year”, my uncle recollected swiftly, noting signs of old age that showed up in and around the house. Standing still at the heart of the city of Koch,I since some 50 odd years, the house has seen 3 generations of my family, starting from my paternal grandparents, my grandmother being the senior most members alive. The same old doors crafted out of ET tree painted sky blue, roof tiles which proudly bore the letters “1943 model”, old-fashioned dull electric switches., the house had its own identity that peeked out from every nook and corner. Yet, our tharavad had been perfectly habitable and had this aura of nostalgic feelings surrounding it. I spent most of my childhood here, same is the case with the previous generation of my family.
Upon my return from the restaurant with food packets, my uncle decided the half broken ceiling to be removed completely. Of course he couldn’t do it all by himself and required help. The recent Malayalam movie “Ustad Hotel” which dealt with the tried and tested theme of grandfather-grandson relationship, but, that centered around an old hotel, inspired me to offer my share of assistance in getting the kitchen fixed, in spite of myself being sick for the last couple of days. “Mel mel mel vinnile, chekeraam kilikal naam. . . . (A song from Ustad Hotel Original Sound Track) ” was the song that matched this new sensation that i felt. New sensations were usually incomplete with a sheepish grin that seemed to flow from my face without my knowledge. It happened this time as well, and the work began instantly without wasting even a millisecond, with my uncle getting ready with all necessary tools and his own custom-made cleaning kit. The sudden commotion and chaos that came with “Mission Kitchen Fixing” gave us a visitor – Paru. Paru was my little cousin, a 6th grader, multi talented brilliant girl. She could sing, dance, draw, the list goes on and on. Because everyone loves to be in the company of kids, we happily let her join “Mission Kitchen Fixing”.
Being the tallest, I volunteered to remove the remaining ceiling, which hung carelessly from the roof. One or two hard pulls, and the entire ceiling came down, along with 17 years of dirt and dust, all over my clothes and well-combed hair, ultimately blacking out my vision. The ceiling had been up there since uncle got married. That was a good 17 years back. This realization struck all of us at the same instant, as if triggered simultaneously by the dirt that fell on me. I washed my eyes and decided to use my helmet to guard me off any dust that remained elsewhere. In the meantime, Paru had her own share of fun, offering live commentary on whatever she saw. Her style of speaking and voice fluctuations reminded me of reality television hosts, who sometimes scared the good life out of dumb viewers like you and me, with sudden and untimely spikes of energy that came from still unknown places in their bodies.
I saw my uncle, a senior government pleader, explaining to Paru, the reason behind “Mission Kitchen Fixing”. The FAQ machine inside her seemed to work quite right; i assumed, and continued with my duty of tidying up the kitchen floor. He further elaborated on his plans of constructing a new house in place of the existing one. Questions and answered poured in one after and another, and I listened to this nice, neat conversation that was happening. Out of the blue, Paru asked my uncle, if he would take up a case on her behalf and present it at the high court, that was located within our neighborhood. I was all curious as to how the conversation was shaping up and asked Paru whom the opposite party was. She replied in a snap, “You know him well, very well”. Clues poured in and we had to surrender. It turned out that the opposite party was my uncle himself. The reason for the accusation? Intention to destroy the old house and build a new one in its place! “I love this house, and I love coming here everyday to see my grandmother. That makes me happy, very happy , and so I don’t want to lose this house”, Paru asserted. The reply puts my uncle and myself in a loop; one that was saturated with thoughts of all kinds. After a second or two, uncle countered with his trademark “Edi bhayankari!” (A slang in Malayalam language which is a rather funny way of saying “You got me this time!”). That was when I realized that whatever I heard and saw today could be of some use to someone, ultimately deciding to present the same as my first independent write-up, straight from the soul.
Footnote: There is an old saying in Malayalam language which goes like “Pilla manassil kallamilla” (read Kids are too innocent at heart). I don’t intend to redefine nostalgia or the way it is perceived by others. The little girl who knew nothing about nostalgia ended up connecting well with the same house which seemed nostalgic to me. Implies, nothing comes to you when you seem to know everything, and everything comes to you when you seem to know nothing. This is the very essence of my first write-up. Cheers!
PS: Young Nostalgia is a guest post written by my friend Avinash Kumar as a part of his quest for the making of a separate space in our blogosphere. Hope you all will enjoy reading it and sincerely support this newbie fella’s entry into our family.