Friday, July 29, 2005

Ullam Uruguthaiyaa....*

Disclaimer: Longest post Ahead.

I love starting early on Fridays to squeeze as much fun as possible into it. Somehow i felt Fridays are the best thing to happen to mankind. Even if it is Friday the Thirteenth. But the last thing i want to do on a Friday is wake up with the memory of a terrible nightmare which had the audacity to repeat itself thrice in the few minutes that elapsed between semi-consciousness and complete wakeful-ness. Damn! Double Damn!

Amma felt it was not a good omen to have such a dream on a Friday morning.
"Acha cho...but why? Are u doing your puja everyday?"
"Err...hmmm..of course i am. I am such a nice obedient Pillai girl, no make it wife"
"Do it today and i will ask Amma(her mom) about it"


So i washed all the silver lamps (yeah, when u get married you move up the pedestal. So no more brass lamps!) and lighted my diyas, went to musicindiaonline.com, searched for TMS' devotional songs on Muruga and while the house reverberated with songs for the 6-faced Lord, i sat and read 'Kanda Shasti Kavasam'.

I am not exactly what my family would call a 'religious and pious' girl. In fact, i don't know if they are synonyms or not. To me God has always been this person/friend with whom i have these conversations as and when i feel like and since i have always been this 'weird' kid who talked to herself most of the times, i did enjoy all our conversations (or monologue, if you insist)

Today was different. It wasn't about conversations. But the moment TMS started "Ullam Uruguthaiya" i was tranported to an another world...a world far away from the luxury of unlimited water and dishwashers.

No:3, Muthiyal Chetty Street, Purasaiwalkam, Madras
1983-89
The Wonder Years


We lived in this tiled-roof house which was home to 6 tenants and the owner, a very old blind woman (Paati) but extremely sharp. She would know who has entered the house by their footsteps and if you tried to go upstairs without answering her probing questions, she would immediately call for Vidya Periamma. (I call her so. Her daughter is Vidya and it was those times when there were no Aunties or Uncles but only Periammas and Chithappas).

It was an old house. As soon as you crossed the wooden door there was a small verandah with grills, where Vidya Periappa would park his scooter and Appa his cycle. Then a long corridor and you entered the big courtyard. On the right was a small dark room in which stayed Lakshmi (the milk maid and the one who looked after Paati) with her daughter and mom. On the left was another small room in which Kala chithi stayed till we moved out in 1989 and then she took our portion. Then in front of Kala Chithi's house was this huge hall which was Paati's residence. Next to the courtyard (in front of Lakshmi's portion) were the stairs that one took for the first floor. Below the stairs was the highly scary common toilet. I hated going in there coz it had the biggest cockroaches in it.

Digression 1: The only time in my 24 year existence that i remember my Amma raising her hand to beat me was inside that toilet when as a silly 4 year old i refused to get in as there were cockroaches and wanted to run to teh road for my ablutions like the slum kids. yes, i did have higher goals then. Amma went berserk and pinched me on my cheek before she started on her tirade of blaming herself for all that i did. Sweet lady, she is!

Opposite the toilet, right across the courtyard stood the common bathroom. And behind that was Vidya Periamma's portion. Her home had one hall, one small kitchen and small storeroom. I loved her house as that's where i stayed after achool till my parents got home from work. She had a very kutti chair in a greyish-green tinge. My chair. Or so i claimed to an already incensed Vidya akka who couldn't stand my tantrums.

Digression 2: And they were the only ones with the TV initially till my parents got embarassed by the tantarums i threw in their house and got our first Uptron B&W Tv. I have really been a bad kid :(

As soon as you got off the stairs you would find our small abode on your left. 3 steps( or was it 4) to enter my house. There was a big hall; in fact that was the only big room in that entire house. On the left corner was a small slab of stone under which we kept all our shoes and slippers and next to it was the kitchen. Then a small wall and the bathroom. (I was proud then as we were the only ones who needn't have to share bathrooms with everyone)

Digression 3: Madras wasn't a populous city then but the water scarcity was still a huge monster. Our bathroom had tubs fondly called 'andaas' in various sizes and colours, buckets, pots and u-name-it-we-store-water-in-it vessels and 2 mugs. Yes, 2 and my favourite past time was making my own stories while i played with those 2 mugs. One would be this ship with Sindabad and i would ofcourse be The Surpreme One sending a huge wave over his ship, by pouring water form Tub1 to Tub2 with Mug2 :) Till amma screamed that i shouldn't waste any more water!

The corner next to the bathroom had the Tv and on top of it was my fave Princess toy in Red sponge dress (made by someone in the family) and our Radio - the one with knobs and no buttons. Next to the Tv was window 1 under which stood the grinder. Next to it was the pooja set up till we bought the fridge when we moved our deities to the kitchen shelf. Next to the fridge was window 2 - my favorite haunt in the house....there was always a chair near it and every morning appa will sit there and read his paper and that's where i sat to have my food, stare at the world outside, tell my little stories to the sparrows which stood on the sill...

Digression 4: The house was really old so the bars on the window were really rusty and weak. I kept playing with it and one day in a fit of anger i just gave it a hard push and threw the broken iron rod down. Saran's mom who was standing in front of the house was saved by a hair's length as she moved from the very spot where the rod fell just seconds earlier. Aaah...the dressing down that followed.

Next to the window stood the door to my haven - the bedroom with my BIG double bed(which is at present at Kala chithi's house) and my book shelf with 'Puss in Boots' and 'Cindrella' and my small steel wardrobe( i still have it) with its secret locker to store my feathers and nuts & bolts. Amma's big wardrobe and all other boxes.

As soon as you walk out of my house on the left was Saran's portion which had just one room and one kitchen and after that, directly opposite to our portion stood Vijay & Vinod's house.
And right next to Vijay's house stood the most important member of the entire house - THE WATER PUMP.

That brings us to the point of this entire essay. Oh yes, there was a point to all this nostalgic roller-coaster ride( which by the way is not over but i decided to cut short since talking of 6 years in one post is not possible even though you might not agree that it is short).
Now though there was a pump one never knew when we would be blessed with water. Appa would wake up every morning at 3 A.M, have a bath, read some novel for sometime and then proceed to try his luck with the pump. Amma would get up at around 4 A.M, take bath (The bath was essential so as to empty tubs to re-fill again) make coffee and then they both will again have another go at the pump and if there was water, start the 'filling tubs' ordeal and then wake up Vidya Periamma, saran's mom...in short my parenst were the alarm clock for the entire household.

And in those days at around5 A.M ( after we bought the BPL tape recorder) Appa would play TMS' Murugan songs...a cassette he made with all his fave songs and one of my strongest recollection from those days is that song...the way it played as i stared bleary eyed at my amma running with a pot on her hips, making sure she finished cooking, having a story ready for me so that i get into the bathroom to brush my teeth...

It was a small house and it leaked during the rainy season but somehow i feel some of my best years were under that leaky roof, playing with the rain-drops falling into the plastic bucket which was patched up to close the hole...a life not dictated by money or the lack of it...a life quite content with a small shampoo packet got for 50p, sitting on the steps and eating roasted peanuts, going to school in a rickshaw...a life so beautiful!

P.S:: After Paati passed away in 1989, her (selfish - that's what i felt as a small girl) daughter sold the house to a Marwari businessman who demolished our beautiful home and built a colossal, ugly many-roomed stone edifice. Along with the rubble the poster which covered the hole in our walls must also be buried - "A house is built by hands but a home is built by hearts". True.

* Means - My heart melts (everytime i see you, O Lord Muruga)

27 Comments:

Blogger Radhika said...

Wow.. that was such a beautiful description. I could picture the whole house with life from each line that you wrote. You should write a book. Oh..btw in case you're wondering I'm one of Kumar's friends and have been reading your blog for quite sometime. It's like a daily ritual :-) Very addictive.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

:-D you really made my day! I never thought anyone would actually wade through al this coz The Mr didn't :)
Thank you so much for coming here so often. Thou shalt be rewarded in the Acknowledgements section if and when i write that book :)
but you have indeed lost me....i can't figure out which Kumar this is? :(

9:36 PM  
Blogger pagala'k' said...

One of the best posts I have ever read since I started blogging. Amazing!

10:03 PM  
Blogger pagala'k' said...

Oh BTW I am Kumar Alagappan :)

10:04 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

I was watching Ivanhoe and simlutaneously wondering who Kumar could be and then something told be it must be 'pagala K', so rushed to write that as a comment only to be pleasantly surprised by yours :)

Thank you Kumar Azhagappan :p

10:45 PM  
Blogger Manchus said...

Amazing post.Reminds me of my granny's home in Trichy right now. I miss them terribly!!

Also reminds me of the ordeal to fill water. While we were in Kerala (Kannur), there was one summer where we had to go 2 km downhill to fetch water for our household. Those were good times as the hardship was hardly felt.

2:31 AM  
Blogger Swathi said...

agree with Radhika, u ought to publish a book.
have never lived in Chennai but i cud visualize the entire blog so beautifully,
u sure have a way with words.

4:19 AM  
Blogger Primalsoup said...

*Thunderous Applause*
Excellent stuff Ms K!

There is a certain charm about old homes, million relatives and water pumps in one backyard. Reminds me of our own ancestral home of many years in Teynampet, which used to be a yearly visit for the 3 most charmed weeks of my life all through childhood. The Pump was the focus even then, we also had a well and a Nellikai and Bangapalli Mangoes tree. All of us had quotas of number of buckets we had to pump, which was a complex formula that my Thatha had figured given age, gender, size and position in the family (the Athais and their kids couldn’t be made to go through all of that, much to my childhood resentment!) All this with Patti singing, ‘Asai Mugam Marandu Poche, Idai yaridum solven adi tozhi’ in most wistful tones. In fact, when as an adult I realized that the song was a Subramniam Bharati creation and not my grandma’s – I was quite disappointed! :)

Sigh, those were good days! Yes, posts and comments seems almost contrived and inadequate to bring alive those memories. A book will do very nicely, though! :)

Oh and if you do write that book, then make sure I do something, like design the cover for instance, or general type consultancy – I need to be there on those acknowledged! :D

6:00 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

you really have a way with words. Made an excellent read with my morning cup of coffee.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous pon gomathi said...

amma & appa
ullam urugivittathu.malarum ninaivugal nandraga irunthathu.splendid piece.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

@Manchus: Thanks. You had to go downhill for water in Kerala? That state is brimming with water everywhere? Trichy would be hot in summers but who cares? :)

@Swathi: Thanks a lot but thou art too kind with words :)

@Soupy: Much flattered :D Acknowledgements? You are writing the foreword, my dear :)
Nellikai? We had our neighbour's guava tree lean over our wall and the fights we had when we plucked fruits that were rightfully theirs :)

Solving all problems with a formula seems to run in the family :D And that is indeed a wonderful song :)

@M:Thank you :)

@Amma&Appa: I never knew you had learnt so much of the Internet :p

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kumari,
I stumbled upon your blog by accident and loved reading this last post of yours. I grew up in Chennai as well and can relate to the nostalgia of warm summer afternoons and roasted peanuts with great pleasure even now. I used to especially enjoy eating 'thayir sadam' and mango pickles curled up at the feet of my 'paati' as well.
Lovely piece, you write with an unpretentious honesty that is different. How's life in Nashua?

9:26 AM  
Blogger Kumari said...

@Anon: Thank you so much. I guess memories of places you grew up in aren't that easy to erase or forget. And inspite of all its faults i love Chennai so in comparison, Nashua is quite 'ok-ok' not great :) Thayir sadam & Mango Pickles is the staple diest of most Tamilians and something I can't live without :)

10:30 AM  
Blogger littlecow said...

Nice! 1980-1983, Kilkattalai- I inhabited a house like that and yes, life had a relaxed calmness to it. No water problems though - he had a huge lake nearby which always filled up to the brim during monsoons and overflowed merrily for 3 months more months. The staple conversation for those 3 months would revolve around whether the bund will break deluging the village and I would be hoping silently that it would... *sigh* No cockroach problems either - but there were snakes! The entire house was surrounded by fields you see (for a mile in the north, for 5 miles in the other directions!)

12:50 PM  
Blogger IBH said...

Kumari, wonderfully written..I guess,as u pointed out ritely,u can never erase thsoe fond memories of the place u grew up,made life long friends so on and so forth..

ur descrition is soo good that am relating each and every line with my life with mom,sis,dad athais ,athimbers and all the rest surrounding me! :)

12:51 PM  
Blogger Primalsoup said...

Yay! I will be the foreword writer! Much thanks!

Yup, this Quest for the Wonderous formula to solve simple life problems is a genetic type gift! :)

Thank you Thata! *Sniffle*

2:09 PM  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

I told u before that I like your stuff. Poetry, it was then. But, prose that brings back my own memories is better still.

trust me, i will hunt you down and murder you if you don't become and author. lol!

3:18 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

@LC: NO cockroach? NO water Problems? Damn! You must be the luckiest person i ever knew :)

@IBH: Thanks :)Memories are contagious, one person has them and the rest of the world soon follows :)

@Soupy: Oh yes, the pleasure & honour is all mine :) Btw, if thou art would really act as critic/consultant, do mail me at snehidaneAtyahooDotcom so i can send across the mush i want criticised :)

@Karthik: and once the deed is done thou shalt never be able to see me as an author :) But hey, am a lot flattered. Thanks muchas :)

3:53 PM  
Blogger aakanksha said...

Stumbled on your blog and it was great reading your post.. could relate to my days at my granny's place:) beautifully written

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey PonC,How r u?Howz life n Nashua?The post s amazing..as usual.You made the "demolished house" ressurect from the rubbles n could visualise a < 10 year old 'U' growing up n that beautiful house.Bumped into ur blogspot when I was planning to create one for myself."Midget Diaries" caught my attention n coincidentally it happened to be urs:) Many thanx 2 ur unique name n a quick galance of the earlier posts confirmed d identity..now guess who this is..i've already dropped a clue..neways clue 2:am taller than u:)

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Nandu said...

That was an excellent post about life in a 'typical' Madras house. Had a wonderful time reading it.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Kumari said...

@aakanksha: Thank you :)

@Anon2: Thanks a lot but that ain't fair. Considering my height every other person is taller than me so that is not a clue at all :p If i may take a wild guess, i would say Prasanna :) Now be kind and remove the Mask, O Zorro :)

@Nandu: Thanks muchas. Are the Nandu from bits? :)

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon2...99A3146:)Project "Gathering Dust" is keeping me busy n inspite of spending all of my free time in that, I still have almost 5 months' archives pending.

Be like a moon...
So simple yet so attractive
So cool yet so enlightening
So quite yet so moving and popular
So romantic yet so single

Happy Friendship day! And have a great week ahead :)

7:22 AM  
Blogger Kumari said...

@Anon2 : Happy Friendship day Daughtie :)So nice to run into you like this...start ur blog soon so i can have some fun too and yea, mail me at my id :)

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

such a wonderful description...i forgot all my worries,H1B status etc.. for a moment and was into thoughts abt my childhood days love n affection from relatives that small house....wow..
really very good piece of work.Appreciate it.

wish god gives you happy all your life.
behappy987@yahoo.com

5:10 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

@Anon: Thank you...glad i helped u reminsce at least for a few moments :)

8:31 PM  
Blogger Rama-Dasan said...

Wow an excellant read., Thanks alot. I too was in muthiyal chetty street during that period. :)

Regards.,
Sarathy.s

4:17 AM  

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