Calliographic Ode to a Kanakambaram Flower

“Vatsa stop watering rose pot. Too much water would drain the nutrients, water these tomatoes instead” shouted Sarala Paati (my grandma). I was playing with garden hose, experimenting different water fountain patterns with thumb. I must be 7 or 8 years old then. “Bring me that chisel and dig right here” she ordered. I was always the chosen minion amongst the bunch of cousins spending summer at Sarala Paati’s home. I would dig until my hands pained and dirt crept up under my finger nails.  I longed to go back to playing and asked “Is this ok? “, every few seconds. Invariably, without lifting her eye from pruning the plants, she would reply “dig a little deeper”. She must be awfully bored to do this, I thought.











By afternoon most of the adult napped providing us enough time to do unsupervised activities. We did everything from shooting vegetables to setting fire to the trash pit with powder from old fireworks. I made a bow and arrow for shooting vegetables. The string was made from rubber band and arrows were sticks from broom stick. My favorite targets were the hanging bottle guards, tomatoes and plantain trees. This is how I took revenge for gardening chores.  She would shout “How can you be so cruel to my plants, my eyes bleed looking at the torture you have done to my babies”. I even remember getting lashes from my uncle for this act.

There was another side to Sarala paati that I really admired. Everyone in the street she lived, knew her by name. Anyone who passed by admired her garden which was full of flowers and vegetables. I have witnessed her giving out saplings, seeds and flowers freely, to anyone who asked. From milkman to our grocery shop owner everyone spoke good things about her. She baked cookies and cakes in makeshift sand filled vessels and hand fed us at night. And When it’s time to leave home, she would meet me in garden or in front yard, to pass me some money secretly. She did this with grace. She would pass the bundled up notes hidden in her palm to mine as if she were shaking hands with me. “Don’t give it to anyone”, Get something for yourself “she would wink.

Last time I went home, I had the chance to walk by the street where Sarala paati lived. It looked nothing like what it was before.  No garden, no known neighbors and no Sarala Paati.  Sarala paati passed away one silent afternoon without any trouble to anyone when I was in college. After she was long gone, the home was sold to a builder. Now standing there is an eye soring apartment, named “Sarala Home”. It felt like I walked through her cemetery and forgot to pay my respects.

I look back at Sarala paati : dark skinned, uneducated, poor and unexposed to the worlds of great ideas. She wore kanakambaram (firecracker) flowers in her oiled up hair and carried her curves with elegance and swift.  She taught me to garden, to work hard for something, to weed out the bad and nourish the best. She taught me to save up, to socialize, to provide without expectation and to keep secrets. She taught me to live like I am the lover of life.  She taught me, 'that which lives after us' is what we should be living for.

God must have chosen to write in calligraphy when he wrote my fate, or head-lines as Sarala Paati would call it. I feel so blessed to have had the childhood which many of the kids these days cannot even imagine. If I picture her in heaven standing on clouds with her favorite purple pattu saree and kanakambaram flowers in her head, I know what she would say to me. She would come close, hug me tight and pass on all the love rolled up in her palms secretly. And then she would whisper, “Vatsa dig a little deeper and get something for yourself”.


Comments

vivek sundar said…
Great tribute bro.. I could see her face somewhere deep in my memories.. i was lucky enough to have her as my paati but not lucky enough to grow with her love.. Often i wondered of your love towards every one and every thing, Today i found the person who inspired you to be a super human :)
gragavanblog said…
Let more kanakambarams blossom in heaven. Sarala Paattis made the sweetest memories for everyone in their childhood.
@ Vivek
Thats too much to even digest :) thanks so much for the words. I surely learnt a lot from her, whatever is my best comes from my family and great leaders, and whatever is my worst, just comes from myself hehe.

I am no super human, I try to be human most of the days.

@Ragavan

yes I am sure its already filled with some. loved the way you put it.
Janani Swathy said…
really osmmmm annaa:) vr not lucky vr blessed 2 ve her as our grandma:)even I ve aloads of childhood memories with her:) she is a sweet soul of our family :) memories stays ever :) anna yur seriously super human & dats indeed :* :) no words for yur love towards everyone :) vr blessed 2 ve yu as our most humble & sweetest person ever in our lyf :)
Janani Swathy said…
really osmmmm annaa:) vr not lucky vr blessed 2 ve her as our grandma:)even I ve aloads of childhood memories with her:) she is a sweet soul of our family :) memories stays ever :) anna yur seriously super human & dats indeed :* :) no words for yur love towards everyone :) vr blessed 2 ve yu as our most humble & sweetest person ever in our lyf :)
Ramesh said…
Wonderful post Sri. Delighted to see that your warm humanism that characterised the days when you were an active blogger have not diminished one bit.

Popular posts from this blog

A CSI Wedding and 13 ghosts

Food for thoughts and stories to talk

Raagi seeds from the loft