“Munpe Poyavar” (മുന്‍പേ പോയവര്‍)

Indira Chechi

ബയോളജിയിലെ താള ലയനം

എസ്. ദേവി , വേങ്ങൂര്‍

വ്യക്തി ജീവിതത്തിലെ പ്രധാനപ്പെട്ട ഒരു ഘട്ടം ആണ് വിദ്യാലയ ജീവിതം. അവിടത്തെ അദ്ധ്യാപകരും, സാഹചര്യങ്ങളും വിദ്യാര്‍ത്ഥികളുടെ ഭാവി ജീവിതത്തെ ഒരു പരിധി വരെ ബാധിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നു. തങ്ങളുടെ അദ്ധ്യാപകരുടെ നല്ല വാക്കും, സമയവും, ആത്മാര്‍ത്ഥത നിറഞ്ഞ പ്രോത്സാഹനവും കൊണ്ട് മാത്രം , തെറ്റ് തിരുത്തി ഭാവിയില്‍ പലര്‍ക്കും നല്ല ഒരു ജീവിതം നയിക്കുവാന്‍ കഴിഞ്ഞിട്ടുണ്ട്. പലമേഘലകളിലും ഉള്ള പ്രശസ്ത്തരും അല്ലാത്തവരും ആയ പലരുടേയും ആത്മകഥകളിലൂടേയും അല്ലാതേയും ഇതിനെ പറ്റി പരാമര്‍ശിച്ച് കേട്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്.

പാറക്കടവ് എന്‍.എസ്.എസ് ഹൈ സ്കൂള്‍ വളരെ പഴക്കം ചെന്ന ഒരു നല്ല സ്കൂള്‍ ആണ്. “ചൂണ്ടാംതുരുത്ത്” എന്നാണു ഈ പ്രദേശം അറിയപ്പെടുന്നത്. ദിവാന്‍ പേഷ്കാര്‍ ആയിരുന്ന കണ്ടനാട്ട് ശ്രീ നാരായണ മേനോന്‍ ആണ് സ്കൂളിന് വേണ്ടി സ്ഥലം സൌജന്യമായി കൊടുത്തത്. അതിനു ശേഷം വില്ലേജ് തലത്തില്‍ ഉള്ള നടപടിക്രമങ്ങള്‍ക്ക്‌, എന്‍റെ മുത്തച്ഛനും പ്രവൃര്‍ത്തിയാരും ആയിരുന്ന ചന്ദ്രത്തില്‍ ശ്രീ നാരായണ പിള്ളയെ ആണ് ചുമതലപ്പെടുത്തിയത് എന്ന് എന്‍റെ അമ്മ പറഞ്ഞ് ഞാന്‍ കേട്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്. അധികം താമസിയാതെ ആ പ്രദേശത്തെ ഒരു വലിയ സ്ഥാപനം ആയി മാറിക്കഴിഞ്ഞു പാറക്കടവ് എന്‍.എസ്.എസ് ഹൈ സ്കൂള്‍. ഏകദേശം നാല്‍പ്പത്തി ഏഴു വര്‍ഷം മുന്‍പാണ് ഞാന്‍ അവിടെ ഒരു വര്‍ഷം പഠിച്ചത്. ആ പ്രദേശത്തെ നാനാ ഭാഗത്തു നിന്നും നിരവധി വിദ്യാര്‍ത്ഥികള്‍ ഒരു മണിക്കൂറോളം കാല്‍ നടയായി വന്ന് പഠിച്ചിരുന്നു അവിടെ. ചുറ്റുവട്ടത്തുള്ള വിദ്യാര്‍ത്ഥികളുടെ ഏക ആശ്രയം ആയിരുന്നു ഈ സ്കൂള്‍.

ഉയര്‍ന്ന ഒരു കുന്നിന്‍ പ്രദേശത്താണ് സ്കൂള്‍ കെട്ടിടം. പച്ചപ്പുതപ്പ് ഇട്ടപോലെ നാനാ തരം വൃക്ഷങ്ങള്‍, കാറ്റില്‍ മന്ദമായി ഇളകിയാടുന്ന പച്ച തെങ്ങോലകളുടെ ചാഞ്ചാട്ടം, ഇവയെല്ലാം കണ്ണിനു കുളിര്‍മയും മനസ്സിന് ആനന്ദവും നല്‍കുന്ന കാഴ്ചകള്‍ ആയിരുന്നു. സ്കൂള്‍ കെട്ടിടത്തിന് പുറകിലായി വലിയ ഒരു കളിസ്ഥലവും ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. ഉയര്‍ന്ന പ്രദേശം ആയതുകൊണ്ട് വെള്ളത്തിന് അല്പം ഒരു ക്ഷാമം ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നത് ഒഴികെ, അന്നത്തെ ഒരു സാഹചര്യം അനുസരിച്ചു കിട്ടാവുന്ന എല്ലാ സൗകര്യങ്ങളും ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അന്ന് തന്നെ സ്കൂള്‍ വളരെ വലുതായി ഹയര്‍ സെക്കന്‍ഡറി വരെ എത്തിയിരുന്നു. അര്‍പ്പണ ബോധത്തോടെ ഉള്ള പ്രവര്‍ത്തനവും, കൂറും, ഏതൊരു സ്ഥാപനത്തിന്‍റെയും വളര്‍ച്ചയുടെ ഒരു നിര്‍ണായക ഘടകം ആണല്ലോ. കര്‍മ്മനിരതരും, അര്‍പ്പണ ബോധവും കൂറും ഉള്ളവരും ആയ ആ വലിയ അദ്ധ്യാപക വൃന്ദത്തെ സ്നേഹ ബഹുമാനത്തോടെ ഓര്‍മ്മിക്കുന്നു ഇന്നും.

ധാരാളം ഓര്‍മ്മകള്‍ മനസ്സില്‍ മായാതെ, മങ്ങാതെ നിറഞ്ഞു നില്‍ക്കുന്നുണ്ട്. ഓര്‍മ്മകള്‍ സര്‍വ്വ ശക്തവും അനിവാര്യവും ആണ്; അതേസമയം അത് ദുര്‍ബലവും ആണ്. സ്ഥായി ആയ ഒരു നിലനില്‍പ്പ്‌ അതിനില്ല. പലപ്പോഴും അതുവഴി കടന്നു പോകുമ്പോള്‍ ഒരു നിമിഷ നേരത്തേക്കെങ്കിലും ക്ലാസ്സില്‍ ഇരിക്കുന്നതായി തോന്നാറുണ്ട്. സ്കൂള്‍ ജീവിതാനുഭവങ്ങള്‍ എന്നെന്നും അയവിറക്കാന്‍ പറ്റിയവ തന്നെ. അനുഭവങ്ങള്‍ കാലത്തിന്‍റെ ഒഴുക്കില്‍ പെട്ട് പോകാതെ, അനശ്വരമാക്കുന്ന ഓര്‍മ്മയുടെ ഒറ്റയടി പാതയിലൂടെ എന്നോടൊപ്പം നടക്കുവാന്‍ ഞാന്‍ നിങ്ങളെ ക്ഷണിക്കുകയാണിവിടെ.

ഇന്നത്തെ പോലെ ഉള്ള വാഹന സൗകര്യം ഒന്നും ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നില്ല, അന്ന്. ദിവസവും ഏതാണ്ട് അരമണിക്കൂറിലധികം രാവിലെയും വൈകുന്നേരവും നടന്നായിരുന്നു സ്കൂളിലേക്കുള്ള യാത്ര. അതും ചെമ്മണ്‍ പാതകള്‍ ആയിരുന്നു അധികവും. പാഠപുസ്തകങ്ങള്‍ ഇട്ടുകൊണ്ട്‌ പോകാന്‍ ബാഗുകളോ കവറുകളോ ഒന്നും ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നില്ല. പുസ്തകങ്ങള്‍ എല്ലാം വീതിയുള്ള ഒരു ഇലാസ്റ്റിക്ക് വളയം കൊണ്ട് മുറുക്കി ഒരു കെട്ടാക്കികൊണ്ടായിരുന്നു യാത്ര. എല്ലാ കുട്ടികളും ഇങ്ങനെ തന്നെ ആണ് പുസ്തകങ്ങള്‍ കൊണ്ടുവന്നിരുന്നത്. അന്നത്തെ രീതി അതായിരുന്നു. ചോറും പാത്രവും അതുപോലെ തന്നെ ഒരു വല സഞ്ചിയില്‍ തൂക്കിപ്പിടിക്കുമായിരുന്നു എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞാല്‍ ഇന്നത്തെ കുട്ടികള്‍ വിശ്വസിക്കുമോ എന്തോ?

ജീവിതത്തില്‍ പല അദ്ധ്യാപകരും ആയി നല്ല ആത്മബന്ധം ഉണ്ടായിട്ടുണ്ട് എനിക്ക്. എന്‍റെ ജീവിതത്തേയും കാഴ്ച്ചപ്പാടുകളേയും എല്ലാം സ്വാധിനീച്ച ചിലരും. ഇതെല്ലാം എനിക്ക് ലഭിച്ച ഭാഗ്യമായി കരുതുന്നു. അദ്ധ്യാപനത്തില്‍ ശക്തമായ അടിസ്ഥാനം ഒരുക്കിയവര്‍, സ്വന്തം മനസ്സും ശരീരവും കൊണ്ട് അദ്ധ്യാപനത്തിന് ഊടും പാവും നല്‍കിയവര്‍, ഒരു ജീവിതം മുഴുവനും അദ്ധ്യാപനത്തിന് വേണ്ടി ശ്രദ്ധയോടെ ഹോമിച്ചവര്‍! ചരിത്രത്തിന്‍റെ ഏടുകളില്‍ സ്ഥിര പ്രതിഷ്ഠ ലഭിച്ച എത്രയെത്ര പ്രതിഭാശാലികള്‍!

വിദ്യാഭ്യാസത്തിന്‍റെ മൂല്യത്തെക്കുറിച്ച് തിരിച്ചറിവും ഉറച്ച കാഴ്ചപ്പാടുകളും ഉള്ളവരായിരുന്നു അന്നത്തെ അദ്ധ്യാപകര്‍ എല്ലാവരും തന്നെ. അദ്ധ്യാപകര്‍ അല്ലാത്തവര്‍ പോലും പഠിത്ത കാര്യത്തില്‍ നിഷ്ക്കര്‍ഷയും, തങ്ങളുടെ കുട്ടികള്‍ എല്ലാവരും പഠിക്കണം എന്ന ആത്മാര്‍ത്ഥമായ നിഷ്ഠയും ഉള്ളവരായിന്നു. അദ്ധ്യാപകര്‍ എല്ലാവരും അറിവും, കഴിവും, തങ്ങളുടെ വിഷയത്തില്‍ പാണ്ഡ്യത്യമുള്ളവരും ആയിരുന്നു. പാറക്കടവ് എന്‍.എസ്.എസ് ഹൈ സ്കൂളില്‍ എന്നെ പഠിപ്പിച്ചവര്‍ എല്ലാവരും തന്നെ അങ്ങിനെ ഉള്ളവരായിരുന്നു. ക്ലാസ്സില്‍ അവര്‍ ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്ന ഭാഷ ഒന്നു കൊണ്ട് മാത്രം , ഒരു നല്ല അദ്ധ്യാപകന്‍ സ്വായത്തമാക്കേണ്ട കാര്യങ്ങള്‍ എന്തെല്ലാം ആണ് എന്ന് കണ്ടും കേട്ടും മനസ്സിലാക്കാനുള്ള അവസരം അന്ന് ഉണ്ടായിട്ടുണ്ട്. “അദ്ധ്യാപകന്‍” എന്ന വാക്കിന്‍റെ സര്‍വ്വ പൊരുളും സ്വയം ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്ന വാക്കുകള്‍ കൊണ്ടും, വിദ്യാര്‍ത്ഥി കളോടുള്ള സമീപനം കൊണ്ടും മനസ്സിലാക്കി തന്നവര്‍! ഇവരില്‍ ചിലര്‍ നേരത്തേ തന്നെ കാലയവനികക്കുള്ളില്‍ മറഞ്ഞു. അതില്‍ എന്‍റെ മനസ്സില്‍ ഏറ്റവും അടുത്തു നിന്നിരുന്ന, എന്‍റെ ഒരു കുടുംബാംഗം കൂടി ആയിരുന്ന, “ ഇന്ദിരാ ദേവി സാര്‍” ആണ്.

അന്നെല്ലാം അദ്ധ്യാപികമാരേയും “സാര്‍” എന്ന പദം കൂടി ചേര്‍ത്താണ് വിളിച്ചിരുന്നത്. പഠിപ്പിക്കുന്ന അദ്ധ്യാപകരെ നല്ല ഭയവും, എന്നാല്‍ അതിലുപരി, ബഹുമാനവും ആയിരുന്നു. ഇന്നത്തെ പോലെ അദ്ധ്യാപകര്‍ കളിക്കൂട്ടുകാര്‍ ആയിരുന്നില്ല അന്ന്. അവരില്‍ പലരേയും ഇന്നും കണ്ടു മുട്ടുമ്പോള്‍ അന്നത്തെപ്പോലെ ഇന്നും അതേ ഭയഭക്തിബഹുമാനങ്ങള്‍ ആണ് മനസ്സ് നിറയെ. കാണുമ്പോള്‍ അവര്‍ തിരിച്ചറിയുന്നത് നമ്മെ ആനന്ദാതിരേകത്തില്‍ ആറാടിക്കും.

എന്നെ ആ ഒരു വര്‍ഷം ബിയോളോജി പഠിപ്പിച്ചുരുന്നത് ‘ഇന്ദിരാദേവി സാര്‍’ ആയിരുന്നു. പൊതുവേ ഗൗരവ പ്രകൃതം; അപൂര്‍വ്വമായി മാത്രം മുഖത്ത് പുഞ്ചിരി വിടരും. ഞങ്ങള്‍ കുട്ടികളെ ഇഷ്ടമായിരുന്നു. അക്കാലത്ത്, ‘സയന്‍സ് ക്ലബ്, ‘സോഷ്യല്‍ ക്ലബ്’ എന്നിങ്ങനെ ക്ലബുകള്‍ രൂപികരിച്ചിരുന്നു സ്കൂളില്‍. സയന്‍സ് ക്ലബ് ഇന്ദിരാ ദേവീ സാറിന്‍റെ നേതൃത്വത്തില്‍ ആയിരുന്നു രൂപീകരിക്കപ്പെട്ടിരുന്നത്. ഇന്ദിരാ ദേവീ സാര്‍ ബോര്‍ഡില്‍ കണ്ണ്, ചെവി, ഹൃദയം, വൃക്ക, ചെടി, പൂവ്, എന്നിങ്ങനെ എല്ലാം ഭംഗിയായി ബോര്‍ഡില്‍ വരച്ച് വിശദമായി പറഞ്ഞ് തന്നിരുന്നു. ഇതെഴുതുമ്പോഴും, ആ ക്ലാസ് മുറി, ബോര്‍ഡില്‍ വരച്ച ചിത്രങ്ങള്‍ എല്ലാം കണ്‍ മുന്‍പില്‍ നടക്കുന്നതു പോലെ തെളിഞ്ഞു വരുന്നു. എന്നും കൃത്യമായി ചോദ്യങ്ങള്‍ ചോദിച്ചിരുന്നതു കൊണ്ട് എന്നും കൃത്യമായി പഠിച്ചു കൊണ്ടും പോന്നിരുന്നു.

ഇന്ന് കുട്ടികളെ മാതാപിതാക്കള്‍ ഇരുത്തി പഠിപ്പിക്കുന്നതു പോലെയോ, ട്യൂഷന് അയക്കുന്നത് പോലെയോ ഉള്ള രീതികള്‍ ഒന്നും അന്ന് ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നില്ല. അദ്ധ്യാപകര്‍ മാത്രമായിരുന്നു ഞങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് പ്രചോദനം നല്‍കിയിരുന്നത്.

പാഠഭാഗങ്ങളിലെ ചോദ്യോത്തരങ്ങള്‍ എല്ലാം ഞങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് ബോര്‍ഡില്‍ എഴുതി തരും. ടീച്ചര്‍ എഴുതി ഏതാണ്ട് ബോര്‍ഡിന്‍റെ പകുതി എത്തുമ്പോള്‍, ടീച്ചറിന്‍റെ കൈയിലെ സ്വര്‍ണ്ണ വളകള്‍ കിലുങ്ങി എനിക്ക് കേള്‍ക്കാന്‍ കഴിയാത്ത ഏതോ ഒരു സംഗീതത്തിന്‍റെ താളം പിടിക്കും. എനിക്ക് അത് വളരെ ഹൃദ്യമായിരുന്നു. ഞാന്‍ അത് കേള്‍ക്കാന്‍ കാതോര്‍ത്ത് കാത്തിരിക്കുമായിരുന്നു. ഞാന്‍ അത് നിശബ്ദമായി ശ്രദ്ധിച്ച് രസിച്ചിരുന്നു. എന്‍റെ കൂടെ ഉള്ള കുറച്ചു പേരും. പക്ഷേ ക്ലാസ് പരിപൂര്‍ണ്ണ നിശബ്ദതയിലാണ്. അന്നത്തെ വിദ്യാര്‍ത്ഥികളുടെ അച്ചടക്കവും അനുസരണയും എടുത്തുപറയേണ്ട ഒന്ന് തന്നെ ആണ്.

ഇന്ദിരാ ദേവി സാറിന്‍റെ അമ്മയുടെ അനുജത്തി ശാരിചേച്ചിയും എന്‍റെ അമ്മയും സുഹൃത്തുക്കള്‍ ആയിരുന്നു. എന്നുമാത്രമല്ല ഇരുവരും ഒരേ പേരും ഒരേ നാളും ഉള്ളവര്‍ ആണെന്ന് എന്‍റെ അമ്മ സന്തോഷത്തോടെ പറയാറുണ്ട്‌.

പാറക്കടവ് എന്‍.എസ്.എസ് ഹൈ സ്കൂളിന് നേരേ എതിര്‍ വശത്തായിരുന്നു അന്ന് ഗൌരി വല്ലിമ്മ താമസിച്ചിരുന്നത്. അമ്മയുടെ വല്ലിമ്മയുടെ മകളായിരുന്നു ഗൌരി വല്ലിമ്മ. പാറക്കടവ് എന്‍.എസ്.എസ് ഹൈ സ്കൂളില്‍ പഠിച്ചിരുന്ന കാലമത്രയും ഞാനും, എന്‍റെ അനുജന്‍ നന്ദനനും (നന്ദകുമാര്‍), ഞങ്ങളുടെ കസിന്‍ ഉണ്ണിയും (രാമകൃഷ്ണന്‍), ഗൌരിവല്ലിമ്മയുടെ വീട്ടില്‍ വച്ചാണ് വീട്ടില്‍ നിന്നും കൊണ്ടു വരുന്ന ഉച്ചയൂണ് കഴിച്ചിരുന്നത്. എന്നും വീട്ടില്‍ വയ്ക്കുന്ന ചൂടുള്ള കറികള്‍ സ്നേഹ നിധി ആയ ആ വല്ലിമ്മ ഞങ്ങള്‍ക്ക്, വീട്ടിന്‍റെ തളത്തില്‍ പലകയിട്ട് തന്നു, ഒരു ദിവസം പോലും മുടങ്ങാതെ, തരുമായിരുന്നു. ആ സ്നേഹം ഒരുകാലത്തും ഞങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് മറക്കാനാവില്ല.

ഇന്ദിരാ ദേവി സാറിനും, ഭാസ്കര മേനോന്‍ സാറിനും, ഇന്ദിരാ ദേവിസാറിന്‍റെ കൊച്ചഞ്ഞുജന്‍ മോഹനും (കെ.എസ്.ആര്‍. മേനോന്‍ ) വീട്ടില്‍ നിന്നും ഉച്ചയൂണ് പകര്‍ച്ചയായി ഒരു തൂക്കു പാത്രത്തില്‍ വാഴയില സഹിതം വരും. അവര്‍ മൂവ്വരും ഗൌരി വല്ലിമ്മയുടെ പൂമുഖ മുറിയില്‍ ഇരുന്നു ഉച്ചയൂണ് കഴിക്കും. ഊണു കഴിക്കാനും വിശ്രമിക്കാനും ഞങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് പ്രത്യേകം പ്രത്യേകം മുറികള്‍ വല്ലിമ്മ തന്നിരുന്നു. ഊണു കഴിഞ്ഞു, നന്ദനനും, ഉണ്ണിയും, മോഹനും ഓടി നടന്നു കളിച്ചും, വര്‍ത്തമാനം പറഞ്ഞും നടക്കും, സ്കൂളില്‍ ബെല്ല് അടിക്കുന്ന സമയം വരെ. അവര്‍ മൂവ്വരും ഒരേ ക്ലാസ്സില്‍, പക്ഷേ രണ്ട് ഡിവിഷനുകളില്‍ പഠിച്ചു.

അന്നെല്ലാം, സ്കൂളിന് പുറത്തു ഇന്ദിര ചേച്ചിയും (സ്കൂളിനകത്ത് ഇന്ദിരാ ദേവി സാര്‍) ആയി പലപ്പോഴും സൗഹൃദ സംഭാഷണങ്ങള്‍ നടന്നിരുന്നു. വീട്ടു വിശേഷങ്ങളും നാട്ടു വിശേഷങ്ങളും എല്ലാം ഇതില്‍ പെടും. ഏഷ്യാനെറ്റ് ചാനലില്‍ അക്കാലങ്ങളില്‍ പരിപാടികള്‍ അവതരിപ്പിച്ചു വന്ന സനല്‍ പോറ്റി “നമ്മുടെ ഉണ്ണി സ്വാമിയുടെ മകന്‍” ആണെന്ന് ഇന്ദിര ചേച്ചി പറഞ്ഞാണ് ഞാന്‍ ആദ്യമായി അറിയുന്നത്. കുറച്ചു കാലം അരക്കുളങ്ങര അമ്പലത്തിലെ പൂജാരിയായിരുന്നു ഉണ്ണി സ്വാമി. അന്ന് ഒരു ‘വികൃതി കുട്ടി’ അച്ഛനോടൊപ്പം പൂജക്ക്‌ ക്ഷേത്രത്തില്‍ വരുമായിരുന്നു. ചിലപ്പോള്‍ ഒറ്റക്കും വരും. ആ വികൃതി കുട്ടിയാണ് സനല്‍ പോറ്റി എന്നറിഞ്ഞപ്പോള്‍ സന്തോഷം തോന്നി – ഒപ്പം അത്ഭുതവും.

സ്നേഹത്തിന്‍റെയും നന്മയുടേയും പ്രകാശം ചൊരിഞ്ഞു ഗൌരി വല്ലിമ്മ. ഒരു കൂട്ടു കുടുംബത്തിലെ സ്നേഹവും, ആര്‍ദ്രതയും വല്ലിമ്മയില്‍ നിറഞ്ഞു തുളുമ്പിയിരുന്നു. ഇന്നത്തെ കാലത്ത് പൊതുവേ മനുഷ്യരില്‍ അന്യം നിന്നുപോയ ഒരു ഭാവമാണ് അത്. ഒരിക്കല്‍ പോലും ഒരു അപ്രിയമോ മുഷിപ്പോ വല്ലിമ്മയില്‍ കണ്ടിട്ടേ ഇല്ലായിരുന്നു എന്ന് ഇപ്പോള്‍ തിരിഞ്ഞു നോക്കുമ്പോള്‍ തിരിച്ചറിയുകയാണ്. വല്ലിമ്മയുടെ ഓര്‍മ്മകള്‍ക്ക് മുന്‍പില്‍ ഒരു പിടിപ്പൂക്കള്‍! അന്നത്തെ ആ വീടും പരിസരവും എല്ലാം കാലം മാച്ചുകളഞ്ഞു. ഇന്ന് അവിടെ ഒരു വലിയ പുതിയ വീട് നിലനില്‍ക്കുന്നു – മറ്റാരുടേയോ.

കുറുമശ്ശേരിയില്‍ സിനിമ തീയറ്റര്‍ വന്നതും സിനിമ കണ്ടതും പിന്നീട് കണ്ടപ്പോള്‍ ഒരിക്കല്‍ ഇന്ദിരചേച്ചി പറഞ്ഞു. ബാലചന്ദ്ര മേനോന്‍റെ സിനിമ പ്രവേശനവും, കുറ്റിപ്പുഴ യിലേക്കുള്ള യാത്രയും എല്ലാം സംഭാഷങ്ങളില്‍ വരും. സാധാരണം എന്ന് തോന്നി അവസാനിക്കപ്പെടുന്ന കണ്ട് മുട്ടലുകളില്‍ അസാധാരണമായ പലതും തിരിഞ്ഞു നോക്കുമ്പോള്‍ കാണുവാന്‍ കഴിയുന്നു.

മൂന്നു മക്കളാണ് ഇന്ദിര ചേച്ചിക്ക്. മൂത്ത മകള്‍ ഗീത. രണ്ടാമത്തെ മകള്‍ ഷീല. മകന്‍ സുനില്‍. പെരുമ്പാവൂര്‍ സ്കൂളില്‍ ഞാന്‍ പഠിപ്പിച്ചിരുന്ന കാലത്ത് , കാലടി മാര്‍ക്കറ്റില്‍ പഴം വാങ്ങുവാന്‍ ഞാന്‍ പോകുമായിരുന്നു. പഴക്കച്ചവടത്തിനു പുകഴ് പെറ്റതാണ് കാലടി ചന്ത. പതിവായി ടീച്ചര്‍മാര്‍ പലരും അവിടെ പഴം വാങ്ങുവാന്‍ വരുമായിരുന്നു. അങ്ങിനെ പലപ്പോഴും ഗീതയെ ഞാന്‍ അവിടെ വച്ചു കണ്ടുമുട്ടാറുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. ഗീത മാണിക്യമംഗലം എന്‍.എസ്.എസ് സ്കൂളില്‍ പഠിപ്പിക്കുകയാണ് അക്കാലങ്ങളില്‍. ഗീതയെ കാണുമ്പോഴെല്ലാം ഇന്ദിരചേച്ചിയെ ഓര്‍മ്മ വരുകയും, ഇന്ദിര ചേച്ചി ഇന്നില്ല എന്ന അറിവ് മനസ്സില്‍ ഒരു ചാട്ടുളി പോലെ കൊത്തി വലിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുമായിരുന്നു.

മഹത്തായ ഒരു കുടുംബ സംസ്കാര പാരമ്പര്യത്തിന്‍റെ ഉള്‍ക്കാമ്പില്‍ നിന്നും ഉരുത്തിരിഞ്ഞു വന്ന സമ്പന്നമായ ഒരു വ്യക്തിത്വത്തിന്‍റെ ഉടമയായിരുന്നു ഇന്ദിര ചേച്ചി. നമുക്കറിയാത്ത തിരശ്ശീലയുടെ അപ്പുറമുള്ള അനന്ത ശാന്തിയുടെ വിഹായസ്സില്‍ ഇരുന്നു കൊണ്ട് ഇന്ദിര ചേച്ചി നമ്മെ നോക്കി പുഞ്ചിരിക്കുന്നത് എന്‍റെ അകക്കണ്ണില്‍ ഞാന്‍ കാണുന്നു. ആധുനിക ജീവിതത്തിന്‍റെ അതി വേഗ പ്രയാണത്തിനിടയില്‍, പഴയകാല ജീവിത ശുദ്ധിയും ആയി, ഇന്ദിര ചേച്ചിയുടെ ഓര്‍മ്മകള്‍ക്ക് മുന്‍പില്‍ ഞാന്‍ ശിരസ്സ്‌ നമിക്കുന്നു.


ഒരു കൊച്ചു തേക്കുപാട്ട്

As you take a sharp turn to the right after the Choondamthuruthi bridge over Chalakkudipuzha on the way from Aluva to Kurumassery, the NSS High Schoolwould be seen on the left. This was the school where a majority of the residents of the village studied as it was the only high school in the area for a long time. The school was built and donated to the NSS by Dewan Peshkar Kandanat Narayana Menon.

My mother went to this school, and so did I. The school was on a hillock, the premises were very dry and dusty. Bang opposite the school, across the road, was the house of Kurup Saar, which was always green with many different types of trees and plants. Kurup Saar was known for his communist leanings and respected by many. He was a teacher and my mother and uncle were his students, as were several others.

An interesting note from a boy ….

Kurup Saar’s wife was Gouri valliamma from Kandanat. Kurup Saar was always dressed in white, and had thinning, white hair. As I recollect, he taught mathematics, which is why perhaps we were, as kids, a little scared of him. Gouri valliamma was of small build, and had black hair. My cousins Nandan and Unni and I used to go to her house to play during intervals and also to drink water in summer. She was kind, except when, while playing in her yard, we sent the ball shooting into her window.

The house was situated in a large compound with a small courtyard and a pathway leading up to the gate. Gouri valliamma was nice enough to spare a small room for us during lunchtime. My sister, Indira Devi was a teacher at the school and we would eat lunch together at a table kept at our disposal. Sometimes, Gouri valliamma would also give us some curry. In another room, my cousins used to have their food.

An attraction at the house was the irrigation mechanism at the well of their house. They used to have ‘thekku’ which is a long horizontal pole on a fulcrum, which was tied to another long vertical bamboo pole. The horizontal pole had a weight tied at the other end. The vertical pole had a conical, rotatable, wooden bucket at the bottom. One could lower the vertical bamboo pole down into the well, turn the bucket to fill water and thanks to the weight and the fulcrum, lo, the bucket would easily lift up. When Kurup Saar was away at the school, we used to try our hand at this contraption which thrilled us no end. I distinctly remember that the water from the well was so refreshing and it did taste so cool and different.

Thekku was a distinct signature of village life those days. Early in the morning, some farmer in the distance would bring up water from the well using thekku to irrigate his fields, and he would sing, in the vernacular dialect. I can still remember some tunes of that thekku pattu that wafted into my sleepy ears in the small hours of the morning.

Gouri valliamma had four children. Harikrishnan, Kanakalatha, Jayakumari and Sundaresan. After ever so many years, it was heartening that Jayachandran, son of Jaya chechy, got in touch with us finding the family site on the net. It was one of most rewarding moments for us. We pay homage to the memory of Gouri valliamma and Kurup Saar. KSR Menon (Mohan)

Nandakumar writes…

It was the year 1966.

My father ( PTI Govindan Nair, subsequently known as Yogacharya Govindan Nair ) had just then retired from his services in Kottayam, where he was the Bureau Chief of PTI news agency. Freshly relocated to my mother’ s ( Kandanat Saradkutty Amma ) ancestral home in Kurumassery, it was an exciting place for all of us four children, in spite of the hardships we faced in relation to a fine life we enjoyed in towns like Kottayam and Ernakulam.

We lived in Kurumassery for the next two and half years that followed, while my father was constructing our new house in Vengoor, near Angamally. There was no electricity in Kurumassery when we started living there. I still remember the days I used to do my home work under the kerosine lamp. Once, even my hair got burnt from the naked flame that shed light over my note book. My father was one of the pioneers to bring electricity to the village. One of the first tasks that my father accomplished in our tharavaad in Kurumassery was to construct a modern toilet and bathroom. Very soon thereafter, one evening, electric lights shed its brilliant light in our tharavaad for the first time.

Why Vengoor ? After the initial enthusiasm and thrill have subsided, pragmatism set in. Kurumassery was collectively assessed as a difficult place to live and commute to colleges in Aluva or Kalady. Vengoor is walkable distance to Sree Sankara College at Kalady. My elder sister ( Vijayalakshmy, now living in Sunny Place Apartments in Edappally ) was studying in BCM college, Kottayam . She did not particularly like the hostel life . Eventually, she opted to reach Kurumassery, rather than staying in a hostel and pursue her studies. Hence , college was a top priority for my father. However, much to the relief of my parents, with in few months she got married and went to Calcutta. Loosing no time, my father started building our house in Vengoor, before we – the juniors – become ready to go to college.

Both myself and my second sister ( Sreemathy Devi – ex Principal, Amrutha Vidyalaya, Perumbavoor, now residing in Vengoor ) were enrolled at NSS School, Parakkadavu. My younger brother ( Gopakumar, Software Developer, now residing in Chennai and who wrote the ghost episode in the last edition ) joined in the Govt Primary School at Kurumassery junction.

Every day morning, all of us would  walk to the school with my cousin Unni ( Ramakrishnan, Chief Manager, Federal Bank, Aluva ) . Looking back, it was probably not too-long-a-walk, but at our age and time, it was long enough to carry our lunch box with us. Being in smaller class, Gopan could go home for lunch.

My mother was in a dilemma. What to cook so early to prepare   lunch boxes?

It was at this time that Gowri Vallimma enters my life as another “ amma “. Gowri vallimma told my mother “ Sarade, not to worry. Just send the kids to me for lunch. I will give food for them. Unni ( Ramakrishnan’s pet name) is there, anyway. Indira , Bhaskara Menon and Mohan get their food there and have it there  every day there . I will take care of your kids for lunch” .

Remember, those were not the days of abundance for anyone. Those were not the days like what we experience today, where everyone is living in their own private world and dwelling on our own private agendas. Gowri Vallimma had the time and willingness to care for us . Vallimma was a synonym for “ love and care “

For the next two and half years of my studies at NSS High School, Parakkadavu, we had lunch at Vallimma’s house, which  was right opposite to our school. My mother prepared just rice every morning and placed it in our lunch box that we carried to school. So does my cousin Unni’s mother for him. At lunch time, all three of us would head for Vallimma’s house and sit in her dining room. Vallimma will give us delicious hot curries from her Kitchen – it could be Saambaar, Oolan, Arachukalakki, Kaalan, Chakkakkuruvum Maangayum…whatever she prepared that day. That was a great experience. The taste of her curries still linger on my tongue.

Indira Chechi, Bhaskara Menon Sir and Mohan would be having lunch in the adjacent room, for whom freshly prepared lunch complete with plantain leaf would arrive from their home. It was their domestic maid Kalyani who used to bring their lunch. She would hang around the house to take the lunch carrier back home.

That was the routine for us, until the time we shifted our residence to Vengoor and changed school.

After the lunch, we would wash our lunch box at the well, drawing water from it. Thereafter, we would play in Vallimma’s yard around the house. The compound was full of trees. Behind her house, there was a trail that lead to a private access to the river. We would walk upto the river at times and wet our feet in the flowing water. At times, we would draw water from the well using the ‘ thekku kotta ‘ about which Mohan had written. It was one of these lunch breaks that I met Mohan for the first time . That was the beginning of a life long friendship.

Vallichan was very fair in his complexion and had a serious appearance. Coupled with the fact that he was a teacher, we were bit afraid of him. But he had never scolded us for anything. He was always gentle and smiling when ever our eyes met.

Kanakachechi’s marriage was around this time. I remember going for her wedding at Aluva Krishnaswamy temple. Soon after the wedding, she went to Jaipur. Harikrishnan chettan was in Avadi and hence we rarely met him. Jayachechi was studying. Sundappan was much younger to us and occasionally joined us for playing .

Years have passed. Vallimma and Vallichan are no more  now. Another modern house stands tall in that compound today. Even today, when we pass through choonaanthuruthi, I look in the direction of Vallimma’s house, in the silent memory of a period four decades ago. I bow my head in the loving memories of Gowri Vallimma and Vallichan.

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LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT…………….one of Dad’s bed time stories.

Sathees Koopat, USA

Kandanat Kumara Menon (passed away on Dec. 31-1965) & Koopat Narayani Amma (passed away on March 31-1982)

I still remember our Dad’s favorite bed time stories. Some were scary  and  ghostly; but this was so romantic because it was his own life story.

When Dad (Late Srr Kandanat Kumara Menon) was living in Moozhikkulam in his early 1920’s, his large  family including his famous uncle Kandanat Narayana Menon (Dewan Peshkar) used to visit Annamanada Siva temple to watch  Kadhakali, in a grand style.

One night,  while they were watching Kalamandalam Kadhakali from a specially  arranged seats near  the banyan tree. Time was the wee hours of early morning ,  around 1 or 2 AM.  Dad heard an innocent but shrill  cry of a young girl together with the loud yelling of a drunk man (a family member), as if they were fighting.  The cry was coming   from where the girl’s family was seated on Paaya, some where further   back in the gallery. Dad got up and spotted the girl  crying .  He rushed to the spot to rescue her.  He had  later said  that he felt his heart melting at  the minute he saw the gril’s face. Something told him to run out there and  save her, he said. Dad was a body builder and  strong man. He ran out there instantly, chased the drunken man away   and comforted the young girl, who would later become our dear mom.

Dad said Mom was so beautiful with an innocent crying face, he was so much in love with her  at first sight that he could not leave her, so he told us that he proposed to her then and  there itself  in front of her parents.

The rest is history  and our family folklore ; Mom  and  Dad married shortly thereafter, settled in Valoor  and  started our family. Mom had a young daughter Subhadhra chechi at that time  and  had 10 more children with Dad. I will write about our present generation  and  our memorable moments of visits with Dad’s family in Moozhikkulam on a later date.

Now, if this bed time story cannot put you to a nostalgic sleep, what else can?
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I was privy to this love story from my childhood. I precisely remember it was this story which set Kumarammavan apart. Surely it would have been part of the family folklore then, as it would be now – KSR Menon, Dubai from Editorial Board

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Suku Koopat writes……

Dad was a footballer and used to play  at football teams in Madurai and Trivandrum ; He  usually played  in  forward positions. Goal keepers used to be afraid of his strong kicks, which  could potentially blow a  bullet like shoot , if they are not extremely careful.

Dad used to do regular exercises right throughout his life,  at the  improvised gym of his own. He had a tough muscular body. Even Maj.Gen. TNRamachandran Nair ( Ex.Dir Artillery) used to be his student at gym.

Dad had represented India and went to Colombo and played football there; Since  Ceylonese  appreciated  Malayalees for their  magic shows, Dad together with his  group performed  a magic show  to an audience there.

He used to lift  huge gunny bags holding some 20-30 paras paddy with one hand to lift and drop them on and off from boats.

He used to swim across the Chalakkudy puzha ( that runs through Moozhikulam )  and bring the boat from the other shore to ferry us across  in the wide river. If  it is just two of us there to be ferried – me and Ravi chettan – he used to lift us with one hand and swim us across one by one.

There were annual mega occasions  of fish harvesting  using  large nets across the flooded fields. We used to get a portion  of the catch at Valoor. It used to yield  twenty to thirty varieties of fish at times. Once one crocodile got in the net (and started eating all fish ) and they tried to kill it by putting a large bamboo in its mouth!

Along with Dad, we used to walk from Valoor to Alwaye to see Sivarathri,  perhaps,  through some short cuts. On  one such  Sivarathri trip, we went to a teashop to have avil and tea. Only avil was there;  that too was some  leftover .The bearer of the shop  was drunk and brought unclean avil  placing it on  banana leaves which evidently looked like previously used.  Dad  asked him why could n’t he bring it clean on a clean leaf. The bearer replied that it is all they have and we can very well have it. Angered by this curt reply, Dad  gave him  a severe blow  and the  bearer fell down unconscious !

All the marriages of our sisters were conducted in  pandals,  labouriously constructed and  superbly  decorated  by Chami Chetty, specialist from Paravoor. It used to be a process for a week. For Rughmini Chechy’s marriage,  they had to postpone the function due to RDPs fathers death. We used to feed atleast 500-1000 people including all from neighbouring villages. He was very particular that even last person should get all items. Thus, many workers used to carry home   bag loads of foodstuff. The gratitude and happiness  in their  eyes were really worth the mammoth  efforts.

There was a time when I was pursuing  the land reformation cases, in the court .  It is a  legislation brought in by the Communist party that came to power  and  gave the ownership of the Land  to those who physically  tilled the land , which transformed  the Kerala Society to a new era of  economic reversal between the landlords and workmen . As a result  landlords lost majority of their land holdings. . I argued in the court  that  being in Air Force I could not till the land, which , nevertheless, did not prevail much in the court .  Dad  used to console me saying that most of these  lands were given to him by poor farmers when they had tragedies at their families, and we should not pester them. He was such large hearted person.

Dad never hated any person. The word ‘ hatred’ was not in his dictionary. He only analyzed persons and events and tried to understand them.

He used to bring best breed of Alsatian dogs / puppies and we brothers used to vie one another to get our turn  to pet them.  Those dogs were so cute and intelligent, so as to know when  Valliattans car from Madras reaching at least 3 to 4 kilometers away.

During rainy season he was very particular on preparing goats soup and fried lamb, which used to go on  for few months in Bharanis.

He used to be an expert in making banana chips and sweet sarkara upperies, the taste of which still lingers on tounges even today.

There were many other cherishing memories about our dear father,  stored in my memory,  like putting up a machan to guard banana plantains in the night, listening to his innumerable ghost stories, analyzing different type of characters like virasa sarasan , discussions about purchasing gold ornaments from Trichur, watching together  the makeup process of Kadhakali artists in the night at temple grounds during festival days, putting of oil massage on his knees by our sisters,  manual  tooth extraction that he used to  perform  on us as children ….

It was the story of long affectionate  relationship, being held so sacred and protected in my memories.

One of the  reasons that  I left Air Force was  associated with my dear Dad’s demise. I was waiting in front of Group Captain’s  (Commanding Officer) office for hours on end,  in order  to get a few days leave sanctioned  to see my dear  father’s dead body. I was  a trainee Pilot Officer and  was the officers’  course leader. Time was running out and I needed to act quickly.  Finally I decided to go without getting the leave sanctioned .(Of course , I knew  that a confidential punishment of holding the  rifle up  and running around parade ground would be awaiting me upon my return from unauthorized leave ; I only hoped that other officers would not be seeing this ) .

My father still lives in my memory alive like an eternal flame, just as my dear mother does.

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Balappachettan

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Nandakumar, Dubai

Late Sri Kandanat Balakrishnan Menon

Balappachettan was one of the heroes  from my childhood.

During my occasional visits to Kurumassery,  he was the natural  and undeniable   leader of a  small army  of cousins who  made the annual visits to my ancestral village  during the mid-summer vacations memerable .  Like migratory birds , for few weeks we will all be together and then in a snap,  all will be gone. This happened year after year.

Balappachettan was tall . He  had a deep shrill voice that was  both powerful and gentle at the same time .  He had good command over English as well as Malayalam. He wrote both languages  in a beautiful  flowing hand. Some would say it was beautiful to look at but hard to read but I admired his hand writing.

Reading his class notes  was my favourite  pastime  , which was so enjoyable and informative. Unknowingly, I had emulated him in many ways.  He was particularly good at writing compositions.  His opening statements were always remarkable. The sentence was short and packed with meaning . No beating about the bush and straight to the point. That was always his style.

He always had his own views and opinions on everything. In hind sight , today I can confirm that he was blessed with wisdom and greater  understanding  far beyond his age.

He created  beautiful objects out of natural waste products like cigarette packets (picked  up from streets ) , cardboards, coconut leaves  and gifted them  to us . Sitting on a  bench placed in the portico of “ puthen pura “ ( an out-house )   Unni ( my cousin –  Kandanat Ramakrishnan, Federal Bank ) and myself used to watch his craft wonder eyed. It could be a car or a puppy  or a spring shaped snake – it could be anything. He would not tell us what it is going to be  and we would be dying to know. We would impatiently wait with the hope that it would be gifted to us  in the end. He would always give his work of art to us but made sure that we did not handle it carelessly and destroy it.

Once in Kottayam, he took me to  a restaurant  and treated me with masala dosa, which an unforgettable experience for me as a young boy. He was in college at that time and I was probably in 5th or 6th standard.  He gave me an advice : Not to drink water  before we eat –  especially cold water – some thing that I  follow up to  this date.

He soon left Kerala and started working for Reserve Bank ofIndiain places likeBombayand Ahmedabad. He used to write letters in  his inimitable handwriting.

He used to visit us occasionally  during his visits to Kerala. After one such visit,  he did not return to Ahmedabad and instead got admitted to a hospital due to renal failure.

Within weeks , his health deteriorated and he sank into a coma. It was a rude shock to us. My cousins Radhakrishan , Unni and myself took turns to attend to him in the hospital.

It was monsoon. I still remember the giant mango tree that silently stood in front of the hospital room fully drenched in rain . It was getting dark and towards   nightfall . In the room, Balappachettan was fighting to survive . Someone in the neighbouring room was listening to a radio station playing “ ningal aavasyapetta chalachithra ganangal” . The song that was playing  from the  next room was “ chinnum ven thaarathin  aananda vela, engum malarsaran aadunna vela..”

After few days,  Balappachettan passed away, leaving us in indescribable grief.  He was just 26 years.

Nearly 4 decades have passed since then. He died young but during his brief life he was a source of inspiration to all of us. He was someone who symbolized loving care and adventure for us. He had a maturity beyond his age.

Even today, whenever I happen to listen to “ chinnum..ven thaarathin “ , it transports me to the time I spent with him and my psyche is filled with grief.

കുറുമശ്ശേരിയും കുമാരമ്മാവനും

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 –  ശ്രീമതി ദേവി , വേങ്ങൂര്‍  

 

 

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Kochayyappa Chettan and the legendary mugging of Rama Chettan

By Mohan (KSR Menon) , Dubai

Kochayyapachettan with his family – photograph taken in circa 1950

I should start this column with an apology. It is not my wish to fill the pages here with only my memoirs. Our website welcomes and appeals to all members to contribute features for this and other sections. That would, all may agree, lend more variety and better perspective to the story of our family.

Kochayyappa chettan was one of the few successful entrepreneurs of the Kandanat family as he ran a ‘supermarket’ (if a grocery in Kurumassery can be truly called that) near the Post Office. (The other success story was that of Gopalakrishnammavan). The palacharakku kada had paneled shutters, the type one can see in the Dubai museum, which attests to the time-tested ties between the Gulf and our God’s Own Country.

The government primary school was bang opposite this shop, and Kochayyappa chettan was quite friendly with kids. Once in a while, my friend Unni (Ramakrishnan) and I used to hang out in front of the shop, after buying a slate pencil (it may now looks like Paleozoic age to many) and Kochayyappa chettan would give us a piece of jaggery or sweatmeat.

At times his brother Kochu Rama Chettan (hereafter referred only as Rama Chettan) used to man the shop. He was known for his wisecracks and he would shoot questions in English like “What is your name?” to people who he knew very well and make them laugh.

Ramachettan mostly came to the shop in the afternoon and would do the evening shift, pull down the shutters and go home. The road from the shop to his house would mostly be deserted. The stretch from the Narayanapuram temple (currently under renovation) running in front of the old tharavadu would be pitch dark.

Once, as Ramachettan was passing through this scary stretch, a thief sprang at him. The thug was waiting with a big, open sack, the kind which is used to carry paddy, and pulled it down over Ramachettan’s head and shoulders. Rama Chettan, unlike his brother was very frail, and the thief after a proper recce must have concluded that he was an easy prey.

Far from it. Rama Chettan was wiry but tough. Instead of handing over the day’s collection, he caught the thief in an iron grip and started shouting for help.           As luck would have it, Rocky who used to work at the Church at Moozhikulam was returning home. He was tall and hefty and came running to help Rama Chettan. The robber had applied oil all over his body so that he could not be easily caught and luckily for him, Rama Chettan’s grip did not hold and he made good his escape. The robber would not have attempted his luck with Kochayyappa chettan who was strong and known for his guts.

Rama Chettan did not lose his money. His duel with the robber became the talk of the village and part of Kandanat folklore.

Kochayyappa chettan usually did not wear a shirt which he saved for special occasions. He was a frequent visitor to our house. He and my valliamma, Ammalu chechy, as well as my father were fond of murukkan. Kochayyappa chettan loved yappanam (Jaffna) tobacco mixed with melted jaggery, a mix that could be preserved for weeks.

He had contacts with all and sundry which my father did not have. If there was any function like a marriage in the family, my father would send word to Kochayyappa chettan. He would come immediately and take charge. The Pandal (shamiana) would come up, loudspeakers would start playing loud music, and the caterers would trot in carrying big chembu (copper vessels for cooking food). Now I wonder how he used to organize things without any communication gadgets such as phones. He was also a great story teller who ended his sentences with “ennu paranju.” His wife, who we called ammayi, was a very lovable and good-looking person and was spoken highly of by other ladies in the Kandanat family.

Kochayyappa chettan’s house was a short distance away from ours. His house bordered that of Nandakumar, the other administrator of this site, and that of Raghuchettan, currently Chairman of Arakulangara Temple Trust.

Two daughters of  Kochayyappa chettan, Radhamani chechy and Devayani chechy were both teachers in the NSS High School. His eldest daughter Saroja chechy lives with her son Mohan in Parur. Kochayyappa chettan had two sons Appu and Madhavan. Recently, I met Madhavan chettan after many years at the wedding reception of Krishnan, son of Unni. I am sure Unni remembers to this day the sweet jaggery lovingly given by Kochayyappa chettan

Nandan adds:

Ammayi in my memory  had an aristocratic appearance ; she was fair and good looking and a true lady of the family. She was always smiling and their house was abuzz with activity those days. During our occasional visits to their house , she would give us water with sugar dissolved in it, which we would look forward to. Ammay’s name was Devaki Amma. She hailed from a place called “ Ambazhakkad “  near Ashtamichira. I had always felt that Ambazhakkad would be  a nice place, as implied by it’s name.

There is another story about ammayi. One night, a burglar (widely considered as the  same guy who mugged Ramammavan in Mohan’s reminiscence above ) got inside their  kitchen, making his way through the roofing tiles. Hearing a noise from the kitchen, ammayi got up and went to the kitchen to investigate , holding an oil wick lamp. After dusk, Kurumassery was in pitch darkness then, as it is even today.  In the faint light of the wick-lamp, she saw the door wide open and  a stranger sitting on the floor, having the leftover sambaar and rice  from the previous night’s dinner.

Ammayi asked “Aaraa?” At this point the stranger sprang up from the floor, hurriedly leaving his unfinished  dinner,  came running to ammayi, blew out the flame of the lamp and ran out. Ammayi stood there shivering…

Appu chettan ( Late Sri. KP Bhaskara Menon ) was their  eldest son who  passed away prematurely. He was the Chief Electrical Engineer in Cochin  Refinery, if I remember right.   He had stayed with us in Ernakulam for some days when I was a small boy, and he used to take me out  for walks in the evenings. Appu chettan was trained in Yugoslavia . He had received an award from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru — the picture of that momentous occasion adorned their drawing room for a long time. Appu chettan’s wife Vasanthy Chechi’s sister “ Jayanthy-miss”  was a lecturer in English language (subsequently, Professor) in St Teresa’s College and had a large fan following, including my wife Shobha. Appuchettan and Vasanthy Chechi have three daughters –  Indira, Devaki and Nandini.

Madhavan chettan  ( Sri KA Madhava Menon ) who is their second son,  too retired as Chief Engineer from  Cochin Refinery.  He is residing in Tripunithura with his wife Vijayam Chechi. They have two daughters Sindhu and Sandhya.

Saroja Chechi – their third child – was married to Late  Sri. Gopalakrishna Pillai , who retired as a Junior Commissioned Officer of Indian Navy. They have two children Mohana Chandran and Vijayalakshmy. They live in Paravur now.

Mohan has written about Radhamani Chechy and Devayani Chechi, who are younger to Saroja Chechi. Radhamani Chechi ( Mani Chechi for short )  is  married to  Sri Radhakrishan  of Chendamangalam Paliyam. They have one son – Ganesh.  Mani chechi has taught me  Mathematics at NSS High School Parakkadav.

Devayani chechi ( Devu chechi for short  ) was married to Late Sri Govindan Nair, who had retired as Block Development Officer. They have one daughter – Sasikala.

Ramammavan was Kochyaappammavan’s brother . He  had never married .

Ramammavan was  thin and wiry – but he was full of wit   and laughter. He always wore a collarless shirt which was, in reality,  neither a shirt nor a vest.   Whenever  he met me – mostly on my way to school –  he would ask  me. “ how are you?”  and he will continue in the same breath “ I am kudu-kudu” . And he will burst into laughter , that I would overwhelmingly join .

Kochyaappammavan  was  more of a serious person to  me. I lived and studied  in Kurumassery  only for two years in 1966 -67. Unlike Mohan and Unni,  I never received any sweetmeat from him, for he had disbanded his   grocery  by the time I was around there.

But the joy it gives me  when I look back, is sweater than the sweetmeats he could not give me.

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Kunjangini Chettan

By Mohan (KSR Menon, Dubai )

It was always a mystery to me how C A Padmanabha Menon came to be called ‘Kunjangini’. He was my mother’s cousin and he spent most of his life in Delhi where he worked with the Indian Airlines.

When I went to Delhi to study at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, my mother told me to take the contact details of her cousin Kunjangini chettan from his brother Madhavankutty chettan who was a regular visitor to our house and who was known to all in Kurumassery. Besides, Kunjangini chettan was a bosom friend of my uncle Balakrishna Menon as well as Chellappa Menon whose memoirs are available elsewhere on this website.

I was a little apprehensive about calling Kunjangini chettan as I had met him perhaps only once before and like many young people of all time, I was not very comfortable meeting or talking with new people. But a chat over phone with Kunjangini chettan immediately put me at ease.  He talked to me as if he had known me well, and asked me to come straight over to his house.

Kunjangini chettan was tall and well built, and always wore a smile on his face. He and his gentle wife Vinodini chechy lived in a flat in Jangpura Extension, South Delhi. They had two smart children, Jaya and Raj who were studying in college at that time. Kunjangini chettan was very pleased to meet me and he asked me all the details of Kandanat family members who were in Kurumassery at that time. I lived with them for a month before renting an accommodation and moving out. Every night Raj would pull out a folding cot and set it up for me to sleep on. Vinodini chechy was an excellent cook, and needless to say I had many enjoyable meals at their home.

Years later, Raj and Jaya got married and moved out. Kunjangini chettan had retired. Once in a while he and Vinodini chechy would come on their scooter to visit us at Minto Road. Then they moved to Janakpuri with Raj and his wife Malti. My wife, Radhika and I would also visit them occasionally. ‘Kurumassery’ always figured in our talks.

In the early 1990s, my mother (Sari chechy to others) was living with me in Delhi. We used to visit Kunjagini chettan and they had a lot to talk about the olden days and their early years in the village. Raj had bought a house in DLF enclave in Gurgaon and their family shifted to the new place.

It was there that Kunjangini chettan, who was until then very hale and hearty, fell ill all of a sudden. We were really shocked that life could take such a harsh turn without any warning at all. When my mother and I went to meet him, he recalled how he had been even riding the scooter, absolutely without any indication of ill health only till a couple of days ago.

A few months later, Kunjangini chettan passed away. I was the one to represent the Kandanat family at the funeral. I still keep in touch with Vinodini chechy.

Kunjangini chettan left so many sweet memories, which I now ‘drop down’ on this website with great feeling.

 

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Remembering Panicker chettan and Thanki chechy

Walking briskly, Panicker chettan always exuded a sense of confidence and alertness. As a student I had seen him from a distance with some awe as his son Raghu (chettan) was my playmate and to tell the truth like any parents of the day perhaps Panicker chettan also probably did not appreciate our wasting so much time together. That helped us in our studies.

Thanki Chechy

Panicker Chettan

Sreedhara Panicker, who we fondly called Panicker chettan used to work in the Aluminium company in Aluva. On retirement he settled down at Chitra Bhavan, Kurumassery with his wife Thanki chechy and children. Panicker chettan wore nice specs and had somewhat curly hair.By the time I started going there to while away time with my friend, his elder children were married and settled. Thankappa chettan, Ravi chettan, Shyamala chechy and Jayanti chechy had moved on minding their jobs and families at different places. Baby chettan (KSR Menon,  and my namesake) was studying medicine.

Actually the chettan and chechy designations in Kandanat family were very loosely used. Thanky chechy should have been technically my vallimma if you go by the family tree or because she was called chechy by my mother. In fact my own mother Sarada was called Sari chechy by many including my own sisters.

Panicker chettan was one of the active members of the Kandanat family. When the land reforms were introduced, and we lost most of the land after being declared big land holders, Panicker chettan astutely negotiated with the tenants and got 50 per cent of the land in many instances by giving away the other half to tenants. That helped the family retain some of the ancestral wealth.

He was a very religious man. Right at 5.30 am or a little later, we would hear the bells ringing at the Arakulangara temple daily, announcing his presence there. He had managed the affairs of the temple with the meticulousness of a good accountant which helped stabilize the affairs of the temple. He continued to do it for a long time until he found it difficult to walk to the temple on a daily basis. And he would be muttering the slokas or mantras as he walked at a fast pace to the temple. My brother in law Bhaskara Menon used to say that he took over the temple management only because he could not say no to Panicker chettan.

Panicker chettan was quite strict unfortunately with my friend Raghu and more unfortunately more strict with his younger brother Venu who was a very chubby and cute boy. Probably Venu was also mischievous like any other boy and the generation gap – those days the dad and son were far removed by age, which was true in my case also – may not have helped either.

We used to play cards in Raghu chettan’s room along with our two other relative-friends both named Suru. Now I wonder how Raghu chettan got permission for this illegal pastime. It was probably because Panicker chettan himself used to play cards with his friends who were also relatives such as Padmanabhan Nair chettan next door, Gopala Pilla chettan and Narayana Pilla chettan of Thrikullikkunnu (Madhavi Mandiram).

Panicker chettan and Thanki chechy appeared to be a perfect couple to me. Soft spoken, Thanky chechy was very kind and she would ply us with palaharam and tea many a time. She always used to cover herself with the Neriyathu when she went out and was invariably accompanied by Chinnammu chechy during those short trips to the temple and to our house. Thanki chechy used to stand near the wall overlooking the road next to the kitchen and talk to the many people she knew. So whenever we took that route, we would try to avoid being noticed. Not that we did anything wrong.

Once I had to go Madras to write some exams which I did not qualify. That was my first trip ABROAD and my mother would not send me alone. Panicker chettan was going to Madras to visit his son Ravi and he was kind enough to change his ticket from the comfortable two tier to wooden three tier. I had a memorable stay in Madras with Ravi chettan who took me to the IIT Madras for the exam, and also to see a Laurel and Hardy film, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Chettathi amma found time to look after us though she had a small son Vinod to take care of.

I left Kurumassery to study and work in Delhi in 1977. So my sweet memories about Panicker chettan and Thanki chechy predate that year.

– KSR Menon (Mohan, Dubai)

3 thoughts on ““Munpe Poyavar” (മുന്‍പേ പോയവര്‍)

  1. MY PARENTS.— Shyamala.

    Remembering my parents with love and respect-

    My Father Sri-Panangodu Sridhra panicker was an honest, sincere, god- loving man who led a simple and disciplined life.
    Ever since I can remember, he gets up at 5 AM daily,and after bath spend a good time for morning prayers,before going to Indian Aluminium Company.

    After retirement, he settled in Kurumassery
    Since then,till his death,he used to wake up Arakulamkara Bhagavathy daily early morning with Deepam,flowers, namams and bells.
    He used to chant loudly Adhithya Hrydayam, Vishnu sahasranamam,Lalitha sahasrnamam,and important verses of Bhagavatham and Ramayanam Daily,Which had influenced every body at home including his grand children.

    His Sincere and relentless effort ,made Kandanat Family trust a Reality.

    My mother- Srimathi- Kandanat Madhavikutty amma-

    Amma was a simple,aristocratic,god loving woman. She was broad hearted and always tried to help others whatever way possible. She was popularly known as Thanki. She with the company of Chinnammu valliamma used to visit Arakulamkara temple in all Tuesdays and Fridays. Chinnammu Valliamma was our favourite,with her trade mark smile and wits.

    My parents were lucky to see all their children fairly well settled ,and all the grand children as well.We were fortunate to get their blessings to all the grand children’s marriage.

    May Arakulam kara bhagavathy bless all of us.I pray and offer deepam ,and flowers to her lotus feet.

  2. ……I think it was BSA cycle and he allowed me to ride it to Ayroor and Moozhikulam many times, not even to Sreekumar. Its height was a littele higher than other cycles. Luckly I didn’t meet any accident in that.

    He was a role model for me. He used to write dairy every day and kept accounts upto date. Probably that is why the same practice I still continues.

    Regards
    Chandramohan

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