A companion for life

A companion for life

My favourite pastime is to rummage through an old wooden box which was handed down to me by my ‘ammacchi’ (Saramma). Therein, I found an old picture of me perched comfortably on a high stool with ‘ammacchi’ standing next to me. It was 4 decades ago and I must have been about 3-years-old then.

The photograph was taken at a studio in Gangenahalli, now known as Ganganagar. I was dressed in tights and a top, eyebrows and eyes drawn with ‘kajal’, complete with a big black bindi on my forehead and another one on my chin to ward off the evil eye.

By the time I was born, my father had moved from Primrose Road to Geddalahalli in Sanjay Nagar, in a ‘vatara’, which had a big compound with a wide gate. Our house was in the middle of it and we had a lovely pink bougainvillea growing over our roof, which created a flowery pandal for us to relax in the afternoons.

As children, we had a whale of a time there. Dad bought me a red tricycle and this had a trail of kids behind me waiting for a turn. Older members used the stone slabs to sit around and gossip. However, there was one lady seeing whom all the kids’ eyes would light up.

She always had some creativity up her sleeve — be it teaching us to make paper boats or making parrots out of the pods of the black bean tree. I remember her most for the little metal boats she bought for us one ‘Deepavali’.

Dad worked for Bangalore Telephones while my mother worked for Mines & Geology. ‘Ammacchi’ was dad’s neighbour on Primrose Road, who lived with her son. One day ‘ammacchi’s son left his mother for good with whatever saving she had. Dad found ‘ammacchi’ in a pathetically lonely state and asked her to move in to his house. ‘Ammacchi’ fondly called my dad ‘dasa’.

 Come Vishu and Onam, and it was ‘ammacchi’ who was at the helm of affairs during these festive days. On birthdays, she saw to it that we had a ‘sadhya’ served to the slum dwellers.

 In the evenings, as I would prepare to light the lamp (‘sandhyadeepam’), ‘ammachi’ would settle down to ‘chai’ with her blue rosary, as she could no more sit down on the mat with us. My brother Udai would sit cosily beside her to say the ‘sandhya naaman’ (prayers).

Our puja room also had a small figure of Mother Mary carrying her infant Jesus
next to the Lord Krishna.

‘Ammacchi’ would begin the prayers for us with ‘Rama Rama’ and both of us would join in to finish with ‘Krishna Hare Jaya’.  

Then there were days when we kids were victims of the ‘evil eye’, when no medicine worked. Dad and ‘ammacchi’ would carry us to the nearby ‘dharga’, where the ‘maulvis’ would blow our face, stroke it with peacock feathers and chant something; then like magic we’d come skipping home.

‘Ammacchi’ is no more. What was touching was that her ID card had dad’s name, in the space where son was written. She owned a pair of earrings and a finger ring, which she handed over to me. I was thrilled with the gift and today the words of Lord Krishna reverberate in my mind – ‘What belongs to you now, will belong to someone else tomorrow, you came empty handed and so will you go’.

Today, both my parents have moved to Kerala with my brother Udai and his family, leaving behind the beautiful home at Jakkur. They moved from Primrose Road to Sanjay Nagar, then to R T Nagar and finally to Jakkur.

Of course, they do visit Bengaluru for all the memories that they have accumulated over the years. I live with my husband Surya Prakash and kids Vidyasri and Srinandan in Hebbala. Having been born and brought up here, I’ve learnt to go with the flow.

(The author can be
contacted on jyoti_sprakash@yahoo.co.in)

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