pachai maamalai pol mene

Sunday, June 03, 2007


You are just eleven months younger than me, so we were great friends as tiny tots.
One day when our mother was doing domestic chores after entrusting the care of you to me, a three-year-old elder brother, my brief was that I should be careful that you should not cry. So, when you started crying and the cry increased in crescendo and turned into a scream, I was at a loss as to how to keep you quiet, a fiery two-year-old girl. The young innovative brother pushed the cap of a talcum powder tin into your mouth so that you cannot cry and reported gleefully to our mother that I have stopped you from crying. It was only fortunate that mother came to the scene and removed the cap from your mouth. Otherwise it would have been eternal silence from that moment onwards.
You are the best friend I have ever had. As children, with scanty clothes, putting our hands on each other’s shoulders we used to run round and round our rented house in a remote area in Malappuram district.(Kerala, India)
Our thatha (grandpa) used to take us for long walks, the old man carrying the small girl and the elder brother walking in tow. We had hundreds of questions for him. He used to fill us with the stories of Ramayana and Krishna and you used to repeat those things with élan. I was often jealous of you because the granddad never carried me, as you were younger. I was black (and I am) and you are as red as an a tomato, a cute little girl.
I know you carried a lot of love for your only anna (elder brother) in your little heart. One Chockalingam Pillai, a government driver, parked once a jeep in our compound. The vehicle was a rare sight those days and in that area. Curiosity drew the three year old that was I, near the jeep. You, the timid little girl was afraid to go near. And I remember the little girl crying her heart out and complain to mother that I had gone near the jeep, and Chockalingam Pillai will drive the vehicle and I will be crushed to death. I was forcibly called back home.
We had our own pranks. Our neighbours were beedi(country cigarettes) smokers and the yard used to be littered with beedi stubs. We have picked those stubs in the sly, kept them on our lips and tried to take puffs and got thrashings from mother.

That was all fifty years ago. When you were three years old we were on a visit to our native agraharam(Brahmin settlement) at Palakkad (Kerala, India). It was 1957 or 1958. The village was infested with smallpox. It did not spare our house also. You were the favourite of Mariamman (the goddess believed to be the dispenser of this disease). On a Friday you started feeling feverish and in a couple of days you were covered with the boils. You were not vaccinated and within a week everything was over.
For fear that I may also be infected, they never allowed me to be anywhere near you. But once I saw you, clandestinely, your entire body covered with the pearls of…
Then on a morning when I woke up they said, Radhakkutty Poyachu…( The child Radha is gone for ever). Yes, you must have shrugged off your mortal body in the night and they must have buried you in the night itself.
I have never seen you other than alive. You are living and live in my fondest memory forever. Your have gone away on a long visit… How beautiful you would look today as a fifty year old…. perhaps grandmother.
I am eager to meet you, but how?..
I wish you a happy Birthday. Father is gone; thatha (granddad) is gone. We have no photos of yours. Only mother and I will be remembering your tiny beautiful form even today.
Happy Birthday to you, my dearest sister.

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