Monday, April 09, 2007

A tribute to Ajji & Thatha

On April 1st 2007, both my mother’s parents passed away in a car accident. After the darshan at Tirumala, the car was on its way from Tirupati to Srikalahasthi when it hit a stationary truck on the side, toppled due to the quick swerve and the impact threw my grandmother out of the car. She died on the spot. My grandfather passed away a few moments later due to shock. It is the first time I am seeing Death in such close quarters. I guess as we all grow older, we get used to it.

Ajji had a high impact on me since my birth. Strictly religious and utterly devoted to God, she has visited many famous shrines throughout India, and many a time, me being a kid, tagging me along with her. I have lost count how many times I have gone to Tirumala with her, equipped with rave-unde and kodbale and mixture being main source of food! I owe to her for having taken me to Brahmotsava. I owe to her for having taken me to Srisaila, where she gave me a green-hued glass Shiva linga, which I still pray to daily. I owe to her for having taken me to Udupi where she gifted me a cute little idol of Lord Krishna with flute, which I still pray to daily. And of course, each trip also resulted in either a plastic-strap watch or a finger-ring or a plastic motor car!

She introduced me to the concept of banking. Whatever money I got as a kid (be it pocket money or Re 1 coins in Thambolas), I used to give it to ajji. Plainly because she was my bank. She gave a tremendous amount of interest, and although it didn’t make much sense to me then, I knew enough that I would get more money than what I had given her! She finally rounded it up to ten grand and gave it to me when I finished my Tenth!

But I must admit, I used to dread every summer holidays. For my mom used to send me packing to ajji mane at Yeshwantpur! I didn’t want to spend weeks altogether there although a day or two of visit was welcome! Ajji was also too much into relatives. However far they might be related and geographically located, she used to visit them without fail on a regular basis. Each visit involved a tight grip on my wrist and a strenuous bus journey accompanied by hours of chat whence I used to get bored to death.

But thatha was refreshing in his own way and made an impact on me too. He always spoke on a ‘Need-to-know’ basis and was to the point. He didn’t involve himself in idle chatter. His journey in life is remarkable in itself. A full biography can be written which can emphasise the complete life that he has led. Coming from below poverty family, having numerous siblings, some of them even cunning enough to deceive him, he almost single-handedly came up in life, often working round-the-clock in multiple jobs.

He was in film industry, red label tea, auto business, taxi business, life insurance and off late renting houses. This is what I knew but he was much much more than all this. Highly respected, for he had come up in life the hard way, he was also most sought after. Constantly there were visitors at the Yeshwantpur house.

Fiercely independent, he never left the small Yeshwantpur house even till the end although he could have afforded a bungalow, or even stayed at any of his three son’s houses. While he could have roamed about with a chauffeur-driven limousine, he preferred a battered, old Fiat for a long, long time, after which he chose auto as a better transport.

He also appreciated quality life. He made time to attend Carnatic music whenever and wherever it occurred. He had an avid knowledge of slokas and mythological stories. He taught me to chant some slokas too, which I do daily. He liked watching sports and visiting places. He was a connoisseur of movies, be it any language, and liked dance sequences very much! He enjoyed his food. Potato chips should always accompany lunch or dinner! If we complain that too much oil is bad for health, he used to justify with a smiling grin: “Body needs lubrication!

His typical retired day started off with a long morning walk, rigorous (rather funny!) exercise with body oil, multiple morning activities including meeting customers, banking, etc. followed by a sumptuous food. And then there was always a 3-hour sleeping session after which came the movie session on any of the TV channels which replaced the very-used VCR! And then the after-dinner walk, a tradition which he passed onto me.

While ajji introduced me banking concepts with my own money, thatha took me to real banks with him and showed me to how to deposit cheque, how to withdraw cash, etc. And then he used to send me to bank all by myself, giving me an all-important status.

He treated all his children with the same respect. My mom recalls that he never once scolded her. Being the only daughter, he encouraged her to learn classical music, dancing and even to have a job of her own, much to the chagrin of ajji! [A girl being independent on her own in 1970s was unheard of and was considered bordering rude!] Countless tales can be recounted with respect to his benevolence towards his children and grandchildren, whom he used to fondle with his prickly beard!

He never really stopped working. He never really retired. Infact, he started earning more after he retired. He had to his credit about 8 houses. Apart from this, many modes of business (including pawning) which the general public never came to know about. He always used to keep himself busy. He was one of the most industrious men I have ever met.

But he was prone to a lot of vehicular accidents and diseases! He has had about 3-4 minor accidents in his scooter! He had arthritis which nearly crippled him, and Chicken guinea recently when he became bed-ridden. But yet, he stood up each time, as if defying age. Such was his strength; such was his will power. “Nothing could come in his way” was the general feeling.

Same can be said about ajji. She had a near-fatal blow to her head in 1994 when she fell down the slippery stone stairs in Sonda. Even after being almost crippled with immobility, she maintained the robustness of life and ensured to attend all important family functions. In her own pace, she never stopped climbing stairs when needed. In her own pace, she kept visiting Tirumala in spite of the crowd.
I was supposed to go in that trip but I backed out as I had been to Tirumala recently. Two small cousins of mine in the same car (one aged ten and another aged one) escaped with minimal injuries. One gets the feeling that they gave their lives away for the young ones.

It is a pity she never saw any of her grandchild’s wedding, which was her main topic off-late. She fell short by about 6 months when the eldest grandchild is due to be married. Much loved by all, much teased by all, she shall henceforth remain in our memories. Their absence is palpable in every occasion. So much so that when their final rites were happening, and the whole family is there, I was looking around to see where Ajji Thatha were…Its only later I realized that it was their own final rites that was being performed.

It is only the blessed few couples who live hand-in-hand and who die hand-in-hand. It is even fewer who die in the premises of Lord Venkateshwara. It is only befitting that Ajji-Thatha happened to be this blessed couple.

As one of the admirers mentioned in the funeral, just like how a good batsman can get out only by run-out, the only way Raghavendra Rao and Ramabai could die was through unnatural death. For them, no natural death could be scripted. They would have just lived on and on and on. Hale and Healthy.

Dear Ajji & Thatha
Rest In Peace…


Nikhil said...

Sad news!!! May their soul rest in peace!!! My condolences to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Rather poignant post.May their souls RIP.

SimblyDimply said...

Fond memoirs of thaata and ajji. Very touching. Very sad that this had to happen. They will always live with you in your thoughts, actions and ideas.

Madhwesh said...

am touched harry..uve erased all the painful memories i had of ajji thata!!!
now jus hopin all our parents handle tis matter in the most matured way and help ajji thata really RIP!
long live their souls......i luv u both aj-thath !

Supriya said...

It brought tears to my eyes!
They are indeed precious!

Ramya said...

Harsha...Today I was scraping the last bit of kai turi from the coconut shell meticulously on to a seppe pile to make seppe chutni Rama ajji had taught me when I was in 8th Standard.."As a girl you better know that you should not waste or throw away a thing in domesticity" she used to assert..
I remember her wonderful cooking..
Thatha eating out of his silver plate enjoying every hot morsel that went into his mouth..Irrespective of how late it got to be, I remember ajji first serving her husband, the family and miscellneous everybody else.She always waited for everyone to finish before settling down alone with her own silver plate on the kitchen floor with her legs stretched straight at an angle away from the devarmane and
ofcourse deflected from the dreaded musre!
She eventually did upgrade rather reluctantly to sitting on a table to eat yet that image of ajji on the kitchen floor does not leave me. She might not have once told anybody 'I love you' in words but she did so in innumerable gestures like this.
Having lost Kamala ajji early Rama ajji readily took up the place of her sister as a mother to our moms as our ajji to us..
Ajji mane during summer holidays had such a distinctive pattern..from morning right on to evening more like a regime..
When ever I listen to Venkatesha suprabhatha recited by Subbalakshmi I always remember it being played at ajji mane every day..ajji walking up slowly to the tulasi katte, drawing the rangoli, her mumbly song she never sang audibly during her pooja and the sakkre naivedya in a tiny silver cup we kids waited for..
from that to the activities she planned up for us and integrated so well with things she had to do..
the santhe bidhi trips and negotiations with vegitable and fruit vendors, helping her cook and clean, the thindis she would make for us, the trip to circus,trips to people's houses and so many functions consecutively through out the day on to the play time in the evening with the enforced rule that we had to be back inside by dusk when the sequence colour bulbs around the huge srinivasa pictures would flicker alight . we had to be all washed up by kannada news time! The dinner, the goma , the post dinner cut fruits , a shot of milk for everybody and the evening walk marked the end of the day.
I remember the small veranda with innumerable chappals, thatha's room with so many many papers and the phone ofcourse, the hall, the kathle room with ajji's wardrobe, the kitchen with the milk and coffee heater and the musre gas stove, the spic and span devar gudu, the bathroom with the chiranjeevi boiler we have seen there for ever and the solid brass chombu with multiple dents..the hithlu , the detached toilet which was open to sky for the longest time..
It is impossible for me to believe that the home which holds a ton of memories is no more vibrant , that ajji thatha are not there anymore and that the turn from Triveni road Yeshwanthpura will not take us into a home with ajji sitting on the steel chair below huge pictures of Venkateshwara and Padmavathy in the hall,it is not possible to percieve that the home stands there without ajji- who made you always feel welcome , who would enquire about you, your family and miscellaneous every other person playfully tapping a rhythm with her fingers on her painful knee .It is tough to visualise a quiet home that no longer buzzes with Thatha's activities as he moved in and out of his room industriously, unfailingly sporting a cheerful face and a happy tone.
It is hard to believe that the ajji mane and ajji thatha we all took so much for granted is not to be for us anymore.
I have not managed to send out condolence mails,for me it is simply hard to put a full stop in my mind to such a wonderful lively experience in life..
I dont have a closure..may be will never have it..
today I googled Ramabai Raghavendra Rao Yeshwanthpur hoping to see an obituary and their pictures some place.. and I found this post which celebrates their life..
I can relate to every single line in here..ajji mane will always be very special to me as it is for all of us..I will always cherish it..

I know that ajji thatha will always throb alive in our thoughts for ever..