Mani periyappa

Polayaadimone. That was his standard swear word. Depending upon the intensity of the tone you could figure out, if that is a serious telling off, a mild scolding or a benevolant appreciation. That one swear word was sufficient for mani periyappa to express his feelings. He was second eldest among the four brothers, of which my father is the youngest.

I dont know much about mani periyappa’s childhood, but from several anecdotes, it seemed he had an interesting one. My grandfather had a hotel business in Tamilnadu and Mani periyappa’s earlier schooling was in tamil. (He used to tell us couplets from thirukkural, occasionally). But the studies stopped, as my grandfather eventually moved to kerala permanently. The only clear information about Mani periyappa’s childhood came from my grandma who used to narrate stories from the past.

It seems that once when he was a kid, he got very upset with his mother over something, and threatened to commit suicide. Grandma narrated the tale with a chuckle, as how periyappa climbed a tree with a chaaku charadu (jute thread) and prepared the thread for ending his life. My grandfather came to know about this and immediately grabbed hold of a strong rope and came to the scene. The situation now got worse, as my grandfather threatened periyappa, that if indeed he came down without committing suicide, he will be beaten up, which he guaranteed that wont be forgotten for a long time.

My grandma was wondering who was more mad, my grandfather or periyappa standing confused and in fear on the tree with a jute thread hanging off the branch now. As my grandfather personally offered to replace the weak jute thread with strong coir rope the situation only offered two possible resolutions. 1. commmit suicide on the rope provided by my grandfather, or 2. climb down the tree and hope that grandma will save him from the imminent beatings. Sense prevailed and option 2 was taken.

After my grandfather settled in perumbavoor, Kerala, Periyappa got a job at Rayons factory, a job that he continued till the company locked out. Meanwhile he had got married to Narayani periyamma and had two kids – kumar anna and latha acca – the only sister for us 8 brothers of the joint family. Braving ups and downs of a life when the factory closed, leaving him unemployed, the family survived on murukku/pappadom business and kumar anna chipping in with his part-time work at a ration shop. But life’s sudden downs didnt break his will to go on. Years flew by as we all kids whom he had mentored, grew up braving those periods, got married, settled down. He grew older. Though his health was failing, his will kept him going.

I still remember the carrom board games, that he used to play with my father and friends, how my father would keep on losing the parippuvada/pappadavada/cigarette bet playing against periyappa, who was a master in his game. We kids used to watch his play in wonder, be it the carrom or rummy and other card games. I remember the day when I fractured my wrist, he was the one who rushed me to hospital, stayed with me for 3 days till the doctors sent me home with the plaster on. A father figure who kept a watch on all of us. I would gorge the thin crispy dosais he made, myself and periyamma would almost fight to have his dosais.

He is no more. I got a phonecall tonight – “Periyappa is gone”, my brother Prasanth told me over phone. That was it. He was in hospital for a nearly a week, and he passed away, just like that. As I heard the news over phone thousands of miles away in UK, nothing made sense.

I remember the last time I spoke with him over the phone. He was scolding me for not having kids yet after 4 years of marriage. “shandan ennu koopuduva ellavarum”, (people will call you a eunuch) he said, “vegam pillere undaakkikkoo” (make kids fast). “Not to worry,” I said to him laughingly, “it doesnt matter what the world calls me, I need no kids to prove I am a male”… He laughed at me, and shouted over the phone – “polayaadimone”.

Loose weight, become gora

As my cold is slowly on the retreat, I am getting back to my favourite pastime. Fitting myself snugly lengthwise on our ikea sofa and watching the telly.

Richard Dawkins was presenting a documentary about the root of all evil. Himself being an atheist, he was contrasting science with religion and the re-emergence of the christian equivalent of extremism. I was expecting him to bring Buddhism and Hinduism also into the documentary, but it didnt come at all. I was surprised, when I went to the channel 4 website for that program; they had eastern religious imagery on the left side of the page as background and the abrahamic religious imagery on the right. Though the program had not even mentioned eastern faiths, I was wondering about the appropriateness of that representation. I will have to assume that maybe in next episode he will bring in eastern religions also into context, to justify the imagery on the website.

Following that was a Paul McKenna programme to reduce weight on sky one. Unfortunately my wife was there before I could change channels, and I had to go through the whole program. My wife considers me a bit unhealthy, and wants me to loose a bit of weight. I would happily classify myself as being endowed with “extra muscles”. Later I found on the website that within 4 weeks of this plan, I could see how I have faired. Maybe the program is to “loose weight, become gora.”

Loose weight, become gora

Futile life

Its stuck between nose and mouth. No not on the outside, from inside.

Its that time again, when one feels the futility of whole life. Life becomes totally suffocating and pointless. You begin to wonder how you are going to have a normal life again. The whole being seems to have let you down, and you just pathetically bide your time. You try to sleep, but you feel as if both the nose are blocked and you cant breath even a bit. You wonder how you are still alive.

Somehow you drift into sleep, and you wake up to find the same problems all over again. The agony seems eternal, you think about buddha, who said “life is full of dukkha” and wonder how truthful these words are. You feel like a prisoner from the childhood stories, fully chained tight, tight even to breathe. You shuffle in your bed trying to think some positive thoughts, how things could be better tomorrow, but the reality forces a sneeze out of you. Looking at your hand you realize the sticky stuff that has been holding you hostage.

Yes, the common cold, and that bit of pleghm thats stuck between the nose and the mouth. No, not on the outside, from inside, irritating you.