DAYS AT KURUMBALAPERI
Unlike appa’s native place, amma’s native place did not have much impact on me. But the most important thing was that every time I visited the place I was always accorded a very special place as a motherless child. Everyone in the village, on seeing me, would immediately mention my amma’s name and would give a very sad look spiced with some equally sad comments. One uniform thing that I would find in their comments was how good my amma used to be for all and how an untimely demise had snapped her off leaving me as a lonely motherless child. Even the very way they used to look at me made me feel sad and gloomy.
It was another village like Kasiapuram or even smaller. The name of the hamlet is Kurumbalaperi. It might be around 25 kms from my appa’s place. I remember only the visits I had after appa’s wedding. The conditions were slightly reversed here comparing it with appa’s family situation. In the latter I saw the glorious period in my childhood which had gone very bad in the course of time. But in amma’s place it was just the opposite. In my childhood I saw only the glimpses of the golden days of yore. But then conditions had changed to the better lately.
The house of amma should have had a glorious past. But when I was young it had only remnants of it. The main entrance had a grand façade. It was a very high raised structure with a large number of broad steps leading to a large hall with a high canopy. Just opposite to the steps, at the end of the other side of the hall, there would be a large stone bench to the full length of the hall. The whole structure used to appear to me like a ‘Durbar Hall’ where important people could have been received in the days of its past glory. This hall with the grand façade would open into a quadrangle and on the right side stood a double storied building. High platforms with tall pillars of the ground floor and ornamental arches and pillars of the first floor would be facing the quadrangle. But this building was partitioned into small portions and my grandparents and their two daughters occupied one portion. They used this as their living room and they had a small kitchen on the opposite side. The first floor was never used and the neglect for long time had robbed its past grandeur.
Near to the house there used to be a Pillaiyar Temple. It was like a two storied structure. One part of it was quite high from the ground and half of this structure had a small cubicle as the sanctum sanctorum. The other half extended from the sanctum sanctorum as a platform. These two structures of the temple were constructed with stones. There were two stone pillars on this platform with two human figurines. They used to tell me that it was my mother’s grandparents who constructed the temple for the village. In front of this stony part of the temple, as a next lower tier, there was to a long verandah. It had high tiled roofing. On any hot day this temple used to be very cool and so naturally it used to attract the villagers. Always you could find at least half a dozen people sitting there, resting, chatting or playing a popular game - which I used to think that it should have been the forerunner of chess – with three pieces as tiger for one player and 12 pieces as sheep for the other player. Annual function of this temple was a great attraction not only to that village but also for some nearby villages. During such functions till date amma’s family would be given the first rights and respect. Looking back I find that both my great-grandparents had constructed Hindu temples for their respective villages. All in appa’s family got converted at the time of my grandfather’s marriage while my amma’s family still remains as Hindus. It was only my amma who got converted at the time of her wedding.
Though everyone at Kurumbalaperi had a soft corner for me and were affectionate with me it was my chithi, the younger sister of my mother, showered me with all her love and concern, not only during my childhood. Till the end of her life I had a special place in her heart. Chithi was a great lady. I am yet to find another person like her in my whole life. In all my life I have experienced that there will be always some negative remarks about a person from some quarter or other, however noble the person is. But I have never heard any one single person saying anything negative of her. She loved me so much. Though she had four sons of her own, she always used to say that I was her eldest son. During my visits to Kurumbalaperi she doted on me. She used to feel proud of me since I was able to prove myself better than the kids of my age in that village. The only reason for my superiority was that I was an urban boy and I could ‘act’ smarter than those kids in the rural. She used to encourage me to play word-games with other kids knowing that I could always outsmart them. I always liked to lie on her lap and asked to run her fingers through my hair, which was quite thick then ! It was a nice pastime for both of us and we enjoyed it.