During my childhood days I used to roam around the big area at the back and the front of our house in Kerala, this area is known as ‘aiyyam’. Everyone else at the house used to be in their afternoon siesta at that time, which was the time when I used to smell the roses, weed out the plants and run after happy yellow butterflies and sit on the rock on which my grand mother used to wash clothes. I can still feel those times as if I have been freezed there, I can still smell the jasmine flowers which were strewn on the mud and still see the orange coloured coconuts (karikk) hanging in bunches from small coconut trees.
I was always fascinated by the parrots who had made their nest atop of a coconut tree which had a burnt top and was not growing any more and had become a hollow wood, I used to spot a bird daily, this bird had red rimmed eyes, yellowish brown and dark brown wings, it was called as ‘uppan’ in our area. The knocking of the wood pecker on to the tusk of the coconut trees and the multi coloured hens taking short flights and nitpicking the mud for the worms was followed by little chicks hovering around her.
I used to stand a feet away from the pineapple bush and try to peep in and see the fruit which was yet to ripen. When I used to finish doing all these things then it was my turn to sit on the entrance steps to the house or sometimes on the ‘poomukham’ and watch the workers working on the paddy field right in front of the house, the only distractions, a thrilling and exciting one at that for me, was the sight and sound of the zooming long trains which passed on from the railway line which lay across the paddy field. Seeing the train made me sad and happy at the same time because it made me yearn for my parents away in Delhi and happy because I knew one day I would be sitting in one of those and would be going to Delhi for ever.
Right across the railway tracks were two huge trees which jutted out from a mini forest or ‘kaavu’ as we call it in Kerala, the shape of these trees resembled that of two monkeys who were staring at our house from across the railway line. By the time my roaming around and day dreaming was over , my grandma used to call me in to have the afternoon snack with a glass of milky chai. The late evenings and nights also that I spent at that beautiful place are still afresh in my memory, the evening time had my grandma or one of my aunts lighting the evening lamp in the pooja room and keeping it on the ‘poomukham’ (front elevated verandah) and all of us used to sit together and do the ‘namam choll’ (prayers).
After the namam it was time to study, I used to study in an ‘aashan pallikkudam’ (small school manned by one master) where the aashan or the master made us write our Malayalam alphabets on the mud with our forefinger, it has so much effect on the brain ,I tell u, till now those alphabets and the feel of it on the mud are etched in my brain, no amount of writing on the slate or a note book or typing on a computer could ever ever take over that feeling. So, as I said it was study time, and me and my aunts, who were also students at that time, used to plonk ourselves on to the poomukham with a lantern in the middle, this was so because our house had no electricity at that time. When I look back now it seems like a magical experience, the light emanating from the lantern, and the sound of frogs croaking away on the paddy fields, the chirping of cricket among the bushes. We never heard the sound of any vehicle ever, except for the bell of a cycle. The darkness was pitch dark with tiny light from the glow worms flying along in the distant, amidst the jasmine tree or the well which stood by the banana tree.
Just writing down the above lines were total bliss for me, I was transcended to the past, to the place where my heart still belongs to, to those loved ones who were my solace and my strength and were the first familiar faces of love to me.