“You couldn’t relive your life, skipping the awful parts, without losing what made it worthwhile. You had to accept it as a whole–like the world, or the person you loved.”
By M. Radh Achuthan
At age 6, I had no fear, only curiosity on things around me with no do’s or don’ts, reaching out for mother when things went wrong, returning thereafter… playing in the sand at Ponnani, India.
Mother said, father was expected in a day or two from Calicut, (Kozhikode), and I was looking forward to it, mother and the four of us having gone ahead to grandmother’s Ponnani seashore house for the summer vacation from Calicut on the Arabian sea that Portuguese seafarer / explorer Vasco da Gama discovered for the Portuguese in 1498.
Pope Nicholas V of the Vatican, had set the global stage in 1452 with his ‘Discovery Doctrine’ that allowed Christians to take with no moral compunctions what belonged to folks of other belief systems, setting in motion and guiding 500 years of political behavior, until Mahatma Gandhi upholding human rights, succeeded in saying ‘No” to the British in particular and colonialism in general in 1947 liberating many nations, though a shameless big power continues the practice in the Middle- East today.
I liked Calicut where we lived, and I visited its red sand sea shore with father. He used to drop me and my elder sister Unni at school on his way to work in his horse-drawn hansom carriage driven by a Muslim; I liked the fez cap the driver wore and the spotless white cloth covered cushions for four in the hansom. I also liked the horse and the hansom roof so high that when father sat, his head could slide by.
When we got off at school, the hansom would go on to the Court building. I would feel lost for a moment at father’s departure, but then Unni was there. One day in 1942 while we were in the hansom, Unni had said: ‘Chee Daddy’; I thought she had ‘guts’, and wondered when I could speak like that.
When at Ponnani, I had to visit with mother my unwell, bedridden grandmother in her room dark with curtains drawn. I never understood why the curtains had to be drawn. These visits were definitely expected of me as I was named after my grandfather, a Banker, who died of old age about the time I was born; grandmother now owned a few houses on many acres of land. We were being put up for the Summer in the ‘Bank House’, normally occupied by father’s elder, banker brother.
Mother said ‘father will come tomorrow’ from Calicut, and I ran around helter-skelter enjoying an additional day of absolute freedom eating bananas at will, even as mother cautioned me of my loose motions; the next day father came around noon in his new Austin car purchased on becoming Additional District Attorney of Calicut in 1942 at age 42.
Father arrived sick with fever and mother seemed anxious; two doctors came to the house, examined him, and conversed in low voices which left me ill at ease, worried. He was never ill, so why should he be sick now? well, I went back to my play.
On father’s arrival, many people came to the house as was the custom at Calicut, but these visitors seemed curious, cautious.
The next day when I went to visit father, I saw mother lying on the bare corridor floor leading to his room, her head covered with her white saree, weeping. I had never seen mother weep and I asked why, and getting no answer, I marched ahead to see father in his room.
A white sheet covered the body on the bed as though it mattered not; was he not there? That sight and thought frightened me 72 years ago.
The tree cutters came the next day. They were to cut down a large tree from the many in the compound for my father’s funeral pyre. My father’s youngest brother, a law graduate and an apprentice in my father’s legal practice who lived with us at Calicut, had been a TB patient and had spent months at Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh, (a T.B. sanitarium of Thomas Mann vintage, an Indian ‘Zauber Berg’); he pointed to a certain tree in the compound and said that tree was reserved for my grandmother.
I did not know that trees could be reserved.
They cut ‘my father’s tree’ all day. I was hoping they would not finish cutting, but they did. The cutters carried the wood to a far off corner in the compound and piled it high. It frightened me even more. I did not like what they were doing, and I ran around looking for mother who could not be found in any room, in any house.
The next day I was not allowed to leave the verandah of grandmother’s house, uncle guarding me and her through his company to watch the funeral pyre from afar.
I did not know why all this was happening, nor what I could do to stop them from continuing, or undo events; I did not know…
I experienced emptiness. My uncle walked around head down; he lived with us at Calicut and I knew my father took care of him. He too seemed lost. Our later years carried the silent, signature of this moment; my uncle died at age 96.
My father had two elder brothers, one a Barrister -at- Law, practicing at Rangoon, Burma, the other the Banker, and two younger brothers, one the lawyer you are acquainted with, and the other a light hearted, jovial, businessman, and a younger sister.
I have no recollection of the presence of the other three brothers there, but the younger sister was living at Ponnani in her house with her family when all this happened to me; she was big built, as were all members of my father’s family.
I did not understand why any of this should have happened on this holiday, and continued to look for reasons other than the explanations we can get.
But I have done what I could and must realize I am just passing through like those who preceded me did and those who succeed me would, and none have much to say in any of this…
Dr. M. Radh Achuthan,
B.E. (E.E), University of Madras
M.S.,(E.E.), M.S. (Physics), University of Missouri
Ph.D., Union Institute
Professor of Physics, Long Island University,
1 University Plaza, Brooklyn, N.Y.11230.
Physics, Human Resource Development.
Paper presented at the 13th International Conference of the Basic Income Earth Network, (BIEN), Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 2010:
“Consciousness Seeking Relationship to Meet the Minimum Needs of All”
Author, “Growing up in the Villages of Uttar Pradesh, India: The Parent As A Teacher (PAAT) Profile of Village Backward Communities,” published in Indian Educational Review (1995)
Author, “Growing Up in the Villages of Karnataka: The Parent As A Teacher Profile of the Backward Community,” published in Man & Development, (1993)
Co-author, “The Giving Behavior on Money and Service,” published in The Indian Journal of Social Work (1992).
Co-author, “The Emergence of Independence from Traditional Control in India,” published in the Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology (1991).
Co-author, “Attitudinal Indexes on the ‘Preparedness to Help Non-Familial Others in Need’ in the States of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnataka, India,” published in The Indian Journal of Social Science (1991).
Consultant, “Goals for Mankind,” a Report to the Club of Rome on the New Horizons of Global Community (1977), Bantam Books.
Author, “On the Need for Long-Range-Goals-for-Mankind Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programs (LRGM-IUP),” published in Contemporary Education (1972).
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
Our published contributors enjoy becoming a part of an established, award-winning blog. They gain exposure from our ever growing audience. In turn, we gain the audience that they bring with their writing. Join the Two Drops of Ink family. Read our submission guidelines and send us your submission.
We have more than 20 wonderful contributing authors who have been published on this site. Check out their bios. Read their work. Visit their sites. Check out our list of ‘Published Contributors.’
Sell your book from our page, ‘The Book Store