Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hogi barthene*

Mr and Mrs Rao were my neighbors. They were a happy couple, simple and friendly. They had two sons, both working in India. Soon their eldest son took up a job in the US and left taking his family with him. The second son too followed. Mr and Mrs Rao though alone lived a full life, going to the temple and the various Brahmin prayer meetings, get together etc. Soon age started taking its toll and both of them were hospitalized at various times for various ailments.

Their eldest son came down and took them to live with him. Though the couple was happy, they missed India and the land of their birth, Mysore . Soon Aunty learnt to email and my mom and the other ladies in the neighborhood got regular emails from Mrs Rao, regaling us with tales of two bumbling old Indians and their misadventures in the US. Aunty had an earthy sense of humor and an ever-present smile under her diamond nose studs, while uncle was a kind and humble man. Maybe I am shrouding them with an aura of saintliness, but my memories of them are very warm.

They came down soon after for a wedding and a break from the US winter. The wedding, meeting relations and the spirituality of the place tugged at their heartstrings and they decided not to go back.

But life was a struggle alone, as their siblings were old too and they soon faced the prospect of going back to the US. Their search for an old age home in Bangalore was futile and soon they were winging their way back to the US. Uncle fell sick and died in the US. The family came down to India for the burial. Aunty was inconsolable and died two months after Uncles death. Fortunately for her she met her end in Mysore, her hometown. The town where she as a little girl helped her grandfather with the temple rituals and met and fell in love with Uncle during a Dassara music recital.

Aunty died two months ago. When I look at their now empty house and the tulsi plant in the courtyard I feel an awful emptiness. This place bustled with energy and activity a few years back. I had grown up watching her perform pooja in front of the tulsi plant from my balcony. The waft of the agarbaththi spreading gently in the wind mingling with the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans that she would have ground and put in the percolator before doing the morning pooja. I will give my right arm for another steel tumbler of that heavenly coffee she used to make many years ago. She taught me how to drink without touching the tumbler to my lips, the Brahmin way. I learnt a lot of Brahmin rituals and traditions from her as she loved puttering around the garden with me.

After pooja she would always look up to smile at the little girl on the balcony who watched her intently almost hypnotized by the ritual. She would wave or sometimes cheekily blow a kiss blushing at the act and giggling. I don’t think I ever missed a single pooja except on weekends when I slept late. She looked radiant in her silk saree that seems to be a daily wear for Brahmin ladies in Karnataka. Her hair would be adorned with fresh jasmine and her silver anklets tinkled as she went around the tulsi plant. For a Christian kid like me this was an engrossing sight.

I remember the various Dasara’s we celebrated together and the amazing sweets aunty made. I remember Uncle pleading with us kids to keep quite as their sons were in final year Engineering College and needed some peace and quite to finish their studies. I remember aunty scolding Uncle for telling us to keep quite and then telling us indulgently to make as much noise as we can and uncles mock exasperation at her lenience with us, the noisy neighborhood brats. I remember the hot obattu that would land up at home whenever she prepared some at home. Tea time was synonymous with aunty’s obattu. So many good memories….

I took so much for granted. So many people for granted. But people around me are aging. Soon they will be gone. But Mrs Rao’s death has taught me something. That time is so precious, especially with your loved ones.

Rest in peace Mrs Rao. Dassara and Mysore and the neighborhood will never be the same without you.


*goodbye

18 comments:

Di said...

they just leave a void,dont they? :(

Rockus said...

Very nice post...we take a lot of things for granted...only when things change we realise how much it meant for us...

mathew said...

lovely post as always..was thinking about the same thing for past few days..you have expressed exactly what i wanted to say..

Joe said...

So very true. As they say ,you never realise how much something is worth as long as you have it. .,, Great writing!:)

Alexis said...

Nice and heartwarming post and very true picture of what is happening in many houses in India.

We take a lot of things for granted. Only when they are lost we will realize the value.

Paro said...

I took so much for granted. So many people for granted Loved those lines...Great writing...Still when i think abt those gone forever, am just left with a huge void inside. Anyways great writing...

Fleiger said...

I won't say this is an obit, but a nice way to remember them...

Annie said...

:-((

shub said...

Aww. :(

pophabhi said...

There is a famous novel from Malayatoor - 'Verukal' or Roots. At some point we too will start searching for the roots. The point from which we started. We see some people doing it around us, but we never will grab the point until it hits us hard.
Great post, as usual.

emmanuel said...

beautiful post..... :)

n said...

The funny thing about life is that you realise the value of something only when it begins to leave you. ...........nice post .....

nanditha said...

nice post silverine!
at some point in our lifes we stop and introspect!...and then realise that its a must to live the moment!time is precious!

Keshi said...

**When I look at their now empty house and the tulsi plant in the courtyard I feel an awful emptiness.

that line broke my heart and Im in tears. cos Im so scared of losing my mum some day and having to live w.o. her. I cant even imagine that emptiness!

Keshi.

shruti said...

A really tocuhing post . I feel the best wya to honor people that touch your lives and make a difference to your existence is to carry forward their message that they wanted their children or the generation they leave behind to learn .. that way you keep them alive . Their life was their message and our inspiration . Ofcourse being human we will feel sad at their departure but that is a truth of existence that cannot be denied and hence acceptance of the same and honoring it is the key .

joey said...

"I remember Uncle pleading with us kids to keep quite* as their sons were in final year Engineering College and needed some peace and quite to finish their studies. I remember aunty scolding Uncle for telling us to keep quite* ..... "

* quiet

GMG said...

Hi, it has been a long time since I was here and I had somehow lost the connection, but was wonderful to get back and find this quite touching, well written and self-contained post. Loved it!
Blogtrotter

neermathalam said...

:((....nice post...