Sunday, February 08, 2009

Aayiram Kannumai

I'm sitting in a large well-lit room, surrounded by books and journals. A silent room, in which a lot of people are reading books or working on their laptops. It's a dark Jharkhand night outside - the end of an absentee winter. I have a fat blue book open in front of me - Labour and Industrial Laws by P K Padhi. A blue marker and a pen complete the picture of the faithful ghissu.

Suddenly, in the midst of learning about legal and illegal strikes, I get an image. No, not an image. It's complete with smells and sounds and feelings. I can even feel mosquito bites on my legs.

I'm sitting outside my grandmother's house in Kollam. It's dusk - after six. My grandmother always sits outside in the evenings. She lights the lamp at five-thirty, says her prayers, and then comes and sits outside in the gathering dusk. I sit with her sometimes. There is a half-wall near the gate, with blocks that make comfortable stools to sit on.

We are both sitting in companiable silence. The sun is rapidly setting behind the tall coconut tree in front of the house. Its orange rays come to me through the gaps in the coconut leaves. The call for prayer from the nearby mosque sounds in the distance. Closer, I can hear the sounds of footsteps and voices from the road outside. Mosquitoes bite my legs and arms, and I slap impatiently at them.

This could, really, be an evening from any year of my life - from one of the many summer holidays I've spent there, or maybe the snatched weekends. My favourite house in the whole wide world.

Back when I was a kid, that entire plot of land seemed to hold so many possibilities for excitement. The guava tree was easily climbable, and led up to a nice cosy place for reading on warm sun-dappled afternoons.  The ladder up to the water tank was a perpetual challenge that my brother and I posed to each other. The front yard of the house would become a shallow lake in the rainy season; we would make pristine white boats using fresh paper from our Malayalam tuition notebooks, and make them jostle happily in the water. The jasmine flowers had to be plucked in the evenings. Not that I was ever girly enough to want to wear them on my hair - my poor grandmother always had to give them away to the neighbourhood girls.

Lying in bed huddled under a thin sheet and listening to the rain outside. Being scared every time I had to go to the spooky back portion of the house at night. Reading a book and falling asleep with my glasses on and having grandmother remove them when she came in to sleep. Sitting on the verandah and daydreaming. Staring at the pools and valleys formed by sunlight on the guava leaves.

Were those times actually simpler, or does it just seem so now?

(Title Translation: With a Thousand Eyes. It's a beautiful, beautiful song about longing.)
• • •


Nikhil Narayanan said...

Nice, nice.Liked it.
Like I said,Aayiram Kannumayi has been my fav since LKG :)

That song is heaven


Ninja a.k.a. Talli said...

I like!
Classic post I must say :)
Makes me nostalgic about my vacations at my gran's, but thats another story!

Jade said...

Nikhil: Thank you, thank you. I agree with you on the heaven part. And as I told you earlier - this post is now officially dedicated to you. :P

Ninja: Thanks. Maybe you should write about yours, too.

naween said...

a thousand eyes
and i still see
the same old kid
a thousand people
all shouting inside
and i still see me

lafemmereva said...

Gets me really really nostalgic about my vacation at my gran's. I happen to be from Kerala I can empathise!

InfJunkie said...

Little too late to comment on such an old post, I know :D
But random googling of my favorite song in the whole wide world got me here. And what do I see, a song that speaks to someone the same thing it tells me.


Jade said...

@Inf Junkie: Thanks for making me re-visit one of my favourite posts. :)