Sometimes, sometimes often certain individuals come into ones thoughts. They come in like gentle whiff of fresh soothing air, and tickle ones hair pits, one’s heart and soul. As the native Indians, the Sioux say, “The heart soars like an eagle”! Perhaps I may be too enkindled about the feeling the thoughts bring forth? Nevertheless they bring sweet memories in an otherwise cantankerous, perfidious world and people.
In this world nothing comes free and everything has a price more than any value and altruism is a premium trait, if not a dying or a dead aberration perhaps noticeable in a few. In such a society this man who I must call as P, for the shortened version of his name and his relationship to me (he was my father’s first cousin and elder to he ). I called him “Perappan”. He was an exception,insofar as I knew in his relationship to me and my sister at least!
Memories of him dates back to my very young age of about six or seven and he lived with us , which was then a joint family of sorts .He was unmarried and died a bachelor boy well into his eighties. He was an early riser and used to engage in serious manual labour. The vegetable garden which was then a prideful thing was his creation. He used to gather about fifty odd buckets of water from the perennial well to water his fave garden. Spinach, Egg plants, cucumber, gourds, red chilies’, bananas, and yam the list was endless! Then the cows- the baths he used to give them (I in tow as an assistant of sorts) by the well.
I remember walking about with him questioning and inquisitive about his work here and the one he did there. Sometimes he would relent and let me do the little job when I was petulant about his refusing to let me do something along with him.
He was a craftsman .That doesn't mean he sculptured femme fatales, charming princes and abstract forms raved by the vain. He was a simple tailor. A maker of men’s formal wear, the tuxedos and suits and he was quite well known in a small elite circle for his exceptional skills in tailoring. The patterns that dissolved into ones symmetry, that coalesced as a second skin!
If I had had tasted the little things in early life that a child holds close to his heart they were from him. He was in a way my God of small things.
The first Chandamamam ( Ambiliammavan) monthly children’s book till they ceased publication , the occasional matinée movies, the circus , the fairs , the visits to the zoo and the beach, the overwhelming journeys in the admired double decker bus that were grand relics in Thiruvananthapuram, the refreshments and short eats out in restaurant, the Parry’s chocolates and toffees, the peanut chikkis, the regular supply of shirts and trousers, the unfailing supply of firecrackers for Deepavali , the little doles ( Vishu kaineetam) for Vishu, my first shuttle badminton racket…...! Thank God! If there is one, he was the one, the God of small things, things that now I feel made my life as a little child. They now tower large. Seem to be huge, very big, priceless and of incalculable value. Things that all the bullion may not suffice to square off. Things that are priceless but are invaluable the most.
I remember him desolate when I strayed a while in my early teens and in shady grouping of supposed friends. .Shiver me timbers!
Years later when he was living with his nephew (his sister’s son), I used to go to him often when I was in Thpuram, sit with him for a while. He was always pleasantly thrilled to see me and perhaps he also may have sighed that I did not disappoint him as he once feared I would. When I bade bye to him at the end of each visit, I used to leave in his palm one hundred Rupee bill. I often noticed a glint in his eyes, a shimmer. Gradually when he was ploughed under by dementia, he used to just sit in the chair and smile when I held his hands. The familiarness, recognition and the glint in his eyes ebbed not too gradually. They became washy from age and I saw he was surely going down, the smile too. The last time I saw him, he was not smiling, but sat with a void look into the distant, or was it into the blank vapidness of the white wall in front. The eyes were of living dead – no glint, no shimmer, and was foggy.