Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Of a long lost summer

Remember summer vacations? 
I hardly do any more. They are more of a blur these days, like all of the past summer vacations have been fused and melted together into this one giant long vacation that has bits and pieces from all those making up the weeks or days of it, a memory there, and one here.

But there is this one summer that sticks to the memory. I had spent a month at Alanallur (my father's ancestral house) and muthassan had come to take me back to Vaniamkulam towards the end of the vacation. And he talked excitedly about a couple of books he had brought me. One was a book on science games (101 science games?) and the other was an abridged copy of Oliver Twist. The science book did raise more interest in me than the story of a young boy stuck in a miserly orphanage, but then that was only the first in a series of abridged books. Tale of two cities and Robinson Crusoe and the Three Musketeers followed soon. And then The Count of Monte Cristo and Great Expectations. I had already watched Great Expectations aired on Doordarshan and knew Pip, but the small book opened a whole new window. It did take a long time for me to eventually read all these in a non-abridged form, some of them years because I just couldnt get myself to pick up the book now that I knew the story, foolish in not realizing that there is very little in the story alone. Like they all say, the joy really is in the journey.
Muthassan left us long back, at the end of another summer vacation, and his dream work of translating the Kambar Ramayanam, used to narrate the story in the Leather Puppet Show (Is that even a fair translation of tholppaavakkoothu, a dying art?), is still not complete.

It was the same summer, the day on which Leelacheriamma was to start back to AbuDhabi, when the house was in a frenzy of packing and farewells and emotions that I noticed a broken toycar in a ditch. It was one of those remote control cars, which were I guess still a rarity. There was a small motor in that which when connected to a batter went whirrr, and started a lifelong fascination with elctricity and things it does, including really nasty elctric shocks several times and blowing up the entire building's fuse up (Imagine 64 flats without electricity? You get the idea.).

It was the same summer that I learnt how to swim. After several small misadventures featuring cocnut floaters, truck and car tire tube floaters and sari floaters (Now that deserves a story by itself?), I had somehow learnt to stay afloat like a dog in the water, leg down, hands wildly flaying. That was when people decided to get rid of all the plankton that had gathered up in our little pond. And somehow, with several people working at one corner I did not feel so scared to dive in. Oh, the glorious feeling of being able to swim.

I can still smell the dry wind coming up from the paddy fields in the evening, the rumble and tumple of the old grinder going about its work, and the devotional songs starting to play from Aaryankaavu on cue from the setting sun. A quick dip in the pond, and then the prayers and the multiplication tables. I obviously loved the 1s and 5s and 10s because they were the easiest, but then later amma decided that I could skip those.
After dusk, it was mostly s depressing time, with the voltage levels so low that lights burned like candlesticks. There was nothing to watch on tv, so it was mostly reading some old reader's digest in the dim light.

And after dinner, we'll all sleep in the big hall, on beds stuffed with cotton. Muthassan would be smoking cigarettes late into the night, lying down, only that small ember visible in the dark, and the sound of crickets and some odd bird calls. (Oh, how I miss sleeping near open windows.)

Now, when generation gaps are getting created within just a couple of years, and we are so connected that we refresh the twitter feed and facebook feed every half hour, I miss the isolation the most. And I grow nostalgic about that summer vacation.

But then nostalgia is only for those who can afford to think of a better time, I guess.


Heathcliffs Girl said...

:) We have so much childhood in common. I shall add : Eating mangoes without cutting them, climbing the tree,i was told not to climb because of some choriyan urumbu but i just had to! a pet goat. Evenings of fresh fish being cooked. catching fish in the stream with thorthu mundu and err watching sthree on asianet with the whooole familia :p I know what you mean by vacations all just fusing up. I want to write them down patiently in a book separately just to remember later but i might need amma's help for that..

girl,uninterrupted said...

i know i was tiny, but i can relate to everything u've
written...things that are blurred in my muthassan smoking at night..brought his image back to me...u know most of my focus was on ammamma, and somewhere along the line, muthassan faded out a
bit...but i started missing him after i read ur blog...
both of them left us a bit too soon..

ur post reminded me a lot of the
little u, and how protective u were of me...checking on me during
lunch..taking me to and from school so carefully...u were tiny
too...12 yrs old??miss u loads. :(

Madhavan said...

@HG - Yeah!! We dint cook much fish, but had lots of fun catching them just like you did :) And the manga and chakka and climbing trees. Do write, never know when we wake up and find that we've forgotten everything.
@GU - Yeah, running over the kunnu, suma van and hussain uncle :)
You were a bit too small to remember Muthassan very clearly maybe?Miss u too, love. Do start writing.