1.1 Love to Forget
My Childhood was spent in Jnaanam, Naduvil. A few instances with my father are only available as a memory of him. There was not even a clear picture of his other than the portrait of his face. My brother used to explain me that my father’s size was little less than my present size. By looking at my legs, my mother used to say that my father's legs were similar to mine. After conversing with many people I got to know that he was good to everyone, kind-hearted and used to help people throughout. I was told that my father was a good hunter and I remember this when I see his gun which is now with my eldest half-brother. We used to have our agricultural field in a different village and most of the time, my father used to spend his time there. I lost my father in 1970, on Oct 2nd in an accident, where my sister, father and I were involved, both of them departed in that accident and I was the lone survivor. When I opened my eyes I was in a private nursing home where villagers were around and I explained my whereabouts and regarding the accident. At Jnaanam during the funeral, as I was too young to understand what’s happening, when my friends came to see me, I remember giving them Jaggery.
My childhood memory is of my mother feeding me most of the time in the late nights with only rice water when I used to feel hungry and she working in the kitchen restlessly, going around the backyard for getting vegetables (those days, we never used to buy vegetables) for making curries. The taste of few curries were very specific to my mother who used to cook them such fantastically. In the evenings, she used to help us in learning chanting slokas, which I by-hearted without even knowing the meaning, later I realised that it was dhyaana sloka, Devi Mahathyam etc., which was one of the biggest asset my mother has given me. I was told that my mother was a rheumatic patient and used to have blood clotting in the legs, so my father used to collect leech for treatment. This gave me a heroic admiration towards my father. I have the memory of my mother eating paan (a preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut and sometimes with tobacco leaf) which was equal to smoking and also she used to have severe teeth problem due to this paan chew habit and she left it later in her life due to health issues. She used to have continuous bethadoxin injections, pain killers and ayrurvedic medicines, probably all these might have led her to be in disease in early age, but, was strong going till 84 years old and passed away in 2004. My mother was a hard working person in spite of having many diseases.
Not much is heard about my father's family except that he was very poor and had met my mother's father and got married to her, whereas, my mother's father was a landlord who had the authority over more than five lakhs of land, including a few temples and school (which is now a higher secondary school). So, I never had a scolding or punishment in the school and always felt majestic and royal. We had a special status in the village.
During Onam, Vishu and such festival days, the blacksmith of the village and other such people used to come to take the blessings from my mother with their gifts like knife etc. They always had a special consideration for me and used to get me a small replica knife as a special gift for me. I knew that village has considered me as one who lost his father in early childhood and I was a pet for all. I had a nickname 'VELLATHIL POYA MON' (meaning - the son who has fallen in water). Even now (after 45 years), when I went to Vellad (a nearby village) for the temple festival, I had to introduce myself to them with my nickname, which shows that people remember this story over years.
My house in my childhood gave horrifying memories as I have seen many deaths in the house, a few relatives who had psychological troubles being locked up in rooms, snakes hanging from the roof, snake coming to hand instead of books, dark rooms in the night (as we had no electricity), water had to be fetched from a 40 feet deep well etc.
I used to work feeding and milking cows, climbing on trees, working in the field etc., in which I was more involved than studies. I don’t remember anybody asking me to study or read till my 8th standard. During 8th class vacation, I remember my brother beating me for reading a novel which made me abscond from my house for three days. Though I was not really out of my house except for one day spending on top of a cashewnut tree. I enjoyed witnessing the panic and the scolding which my brother got from the relatives.
During one of my Vishu, my eldest brother when he came from holidays from Payyanur (where he was a professor in a college and rarely used to visit us as a guest) had sent me to get an areca nut giving me some money, after buying areca nut with the balance money I purchased crackers, for which I knew he would scold, and hence I entered from the back door of my home to take money from my piggy bank (the piggy bank was made up of used cuticura talcum powder tin with a hole made on top for putting the coins), I was caught while taking the money to pay him back and got beaten-up.
Another brother of mine, who is now chief of Forest Wild life in Kerala, used to be very mild and smooth with all, but used to always fight with me. I still remember a day when we were playing, mother called him for lunch and he was still playing with knife cutting a wood. I asked him to stop, but he didn't. To force him to stop, I placed my hand on the wood and my hand got cut. My sister carried me running to the doctor and I was told that I had to be carried in a jeep 20 km away driving for 1.5 hours to get it stitched.
These were few of my memories of childhood which are still fresh and memorable.
We never used to have slippers during our childhood. Only my eldest half-sister’s kids, I remember, used to wear slippers. One of their son happened to be my classmate. During vacations and holidays, I used to walk to their village expecting their old slippers as a gift. While returning back wearing those sandals (not of my size), my skin used to come off and it used to pain a lot during crossing the small stream with the wounded feet. This has created an impression in me that whoever has to use slippers have to undergo these sufferings.
It is not uncommon to see people without footware around during our childhood. Rare were people using footware in village during those days, may be in north Malabar area. Shoes and socks are seen rare only in movies like for somone from city to represent, the costumes have used these as symbol.