I don’t remember when I first met them. It was a few years after my marriage. We visited them at their house, Palakulam (each house in villages in Kerala has a name), in Kadampazhipuram (Kerala). ‘They’ are the mother and father of my wife’s elder sister’s husband (whom I call ettan, meaning elder brother or elder brother-in-law), Thrivikraman. The house was located on a tiny hilltop overlooking vast stretch of paddy fields. One needed to ascent scores of steps to reach the house. It was a picturesque view from the top. In the front was the huge paddy fields beyond which you could see several more tiny hills, all joined together like a long green canopy. On the sides was land area with rich variety of trees, bushes, vegetables and other useful vegetation. The house was their ancestral home. It was quite old. Like all old houses in Kerala with tiled roofs, sunlight refused to enter it. A few modern additions on one side, however, ensured that at least those portions got adequate air and sunlight. They shifted to ettan’s more modern and convenient house later on.
The father was tall and slim while the mother was shorter and slightly stouter. The most memorable thing that attracted me was the childlike smile of the mother. Whenever I had met her, the smile always used to be present. She talked very softly and the motherly love flowed endlessly through her words and the constant smile. She would have been very beautiful in her younger days. The smile had, however, somewhat lost its vibrancy due to old age and illness when I met her nearly two years ago. The father was, however, more serious and talked less. Being the eldest and because we were like his small children, it was natural for him to keep a little aura. We also understood and cared not to break it.
It is said that it is a blessed life if one sees ‘1000 full moons’, or completing 84 years of life. By then one is supposed to have several grandchildren and grand-grandchildren. These parents were very fortunate that way. Both of them crossed their 84th birthdays, the father several years ago, and have several grand-grandchildren. The 84th birthday is very important and is usually celebrated in a big way by the children and grandchildren. This is an occasion for the near and dear ones of all the three generations to come together and enjoy and wish their grandparents many many happy returns of the day.
Most of their sons and daughters were at faraway places and both of them lived nearly alone since the last few years. The eldest daughter and her family, however, lived right across the lane and she used to come every day and offer whatever assistance her parents needed. However, since the last few months the situation got deteriorated and they needed to be looked after constantly. They were also quite forgetful towards the last several weeks. So the children took turns in staying with and looking after their parents.
The mother left for her heavenly abode last month (September). One day she peacefully breathed her last. Her husband, too, had been keeping very unwell since some time. His mind and body became weaker. When he was told about his wife’s death, he did not betray any emotions. It was not sure whether he fully grasped the fact. He followed her after three weeks and passed away last week.
The mother’s childlike smile and soft voice cannot and will not be easily forgotten.
May their souls rest in peace!