It is eleven years to lunar date since his larger than life colorful persona was amongst us, yet his essence, words, royal laughter, humour linger stronger every day for me.
His penchant for Telugu sametlu (proverbs); English proverbs, and appropriate usage by pulling out right one for situations was mind-boggling.
When I found lazy-person-tricks to dump my share of physical work, he said, “Amabari taagey vaadi ki meesalu ettey vaadu kaavali”. Closest translation being-a toddy drinker needs/(will find )another man to lift his moustache (to continue uninterrupted drinking).
“Ariti aaku meeda mullu padina, mullu meeda aaku padina, aakoo ke nashtam”. Whether a thorn falls on banana leaf or vice versa, it the leaf that will get hurt, this when in teenage friendships with opposite gender was discouraged. I rebelled at his MCP line of argument, ignoring his protective streak stemming from a place of fear. Now, I have a daughter I raise in western hemisphere, I trust her fully but his words come back to haunt me.
His love affair with soil, seeding, sodding, gardening, nature, weeding, kindness to animals was colossal. He insisted flowers belonged on bushes, not shrines, vases, hair. If blossoms shed naturally we could pick them, I still hesitate to pluck flowers, exception being when roses are about to wilt with fewer hours ahead I float them in a glass goblet so it lasts a tad longer.
Like him I use past harvest, seeds to grow Tomatoes, Bell pepper, Tulsi (basil), Cucumber, Chilies, Chick pea, Beans, Mustard, Coriander, (courtesy seasoning spice rack), etc. I dared to grow pineapple for first time and it has rooted. I feel his green thumb at play when a broken branch or dying plant comes alive.
I feel the warmth of his pride at unkempt wild patch (now in planters) with caterpillars chomping furiously at saplings, leaves mostly chewed away; hovering humming birds; red breasted robin; blue feathered avian, squirrels around the foliage. Visible are the buzzing bees, and a few fruit flies too. Being able to feed, attract creatures with seeds, flowers, plants, occasional weeding, adding soil, and digging brings me closer to his essence.
He questioned rituals of feeding the well-fed, he quietly educated the poor, gave to stranger, relative or friend that came to him for help.
When “well-wishers” pointed fingers at my “modern” ways, job, hours, friends, decision to call off a confirmed alliance without informing, he was not happy. His displeasure at my choices was “silence” which cut through my heart like a knife. But he disallowed anyone to criticise me by standing by me strong.
My sister married out of community, he later accepted and threw a reception. She lost her spouse within two years, he dared to bring her away from in-laws to avoid “Hindu-ceremonial” removal of symbols of “sumangali”. He refused invites to places where his single-again daughter was not invited nor could be part of. His words were harsh often, but his support and love were unwavering. He was not materialistic and refused to discuss sister’s dues to come from in-laws and kept her also away from it all.
When I see flicks with a Madhubala, Meena Kumariesque actress – I recall his label of “ghungar-waali” (one with curly hair), since he could not tell one from another. He appreciated music, singers, and desired for his musical journey to begin in this lifetime, then in a birth or two he could be musically gifted. Yet, at times, he would say this may be the last birth for him.
His ability to make light of graveness, diffuse touchiness of family members made his presence attractive. His magnetism, fair, just, giving, compassionate, helping ways silenced his critics, who did not like his blunt comments. He disliked dishonesty, manipulative and sweet-talking fakeness.
He came from old school of gender demarcated roles and slowly came to terms with strong independent women. Toward his last years, he wished I was his son, because daughters go away. He verbalised that love from daughters is just different.
His enjoyment of reading, love for rhythm, poetry, led him to write voraciously using his typewriting skills acquired at age 40. All his writings, were given by him to his patient for publishing, now all is lost to time.
His mirth, infectious loud laughter, smile, joie-de-vivre, love for word, music, gardening, nurturing, compassion, supportiveness, helping hand are still alive around me every day.
Photos by the author
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