Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The end of an era.

(This happened way back in 2004. As a mark of respect to the person mentioned below, I choose to make this my first post.
Described as written on a rainy afternoon in september, 2004. Most of this is copied verbatim from that year's personal diary. I first thought I would make a new note, but then realized that, with time, this too has become just another memory and I'd be better off going back to what I first wrote down about it)

Today morning, mother informed me that an elderly lady in the neighbourhood, who was particularly fond of myself and my brother, and was rehallly like a godmother to our whole family, had passed away few days back. She said this casually, and without any sense of urgency, along with news of everything else that had happened in my hometown since my last visit. She didn't feel it necessary to inform me immediately of the demise, for indeed it was not a spectacular event at all. An old lady in her eighties passing away in her sleep. Just like that. But that was the end of a whole lot of things for me.

We used to call her as "sarammoomma". In fact, everybody who ever knew her that I know of, called her by that name. That was all there was that was needed. The name "sarammoomma". In that way I never got to know her real name when I was a kid, and I never learned it later on. "ammoomma" means an old lady or a grandmother, "sar" for 'sir' because she used to be the one people would take their children to, to have their first schooling, or to ward off evil luck. The people believed she had a goodness in her that could ward off evil luck, and sending their children to her, they believed, made the best investment for their children's character.

For as long as I can remember, "sarammoomma" had always been the same. Things changed continually all around while we were growing up. The primary school where we studied might have closed for the christmas week, and we would return, only to find the previously dull white-coloured walls now in refreshing pink. And that they had constructed new lavatories. Seperate for boys and girls! The changes became more profound when I went away to study in far off places and became a monthly ,or at times even yearly, visitor. Whole buildings might have disappeared, and new bilanes carved out of old trails. Suffice to say, I would be surprised if I did not find anything new or different since my last visit. But in the middle of all that chaos, there would be sarammoomma, always the same, smelling of her sweet herbal oils, giving me the news about a lot of people I didn't know, racing off in the evenings to be in time for the evening ritual at the temple, always present at all special occassions with those she considered dear - and there were quite a few of them. My memories of the goddess temple near our house will never be complete without sarammoomma in the front line, directing everybody including the priest, and nobody, not even the priest, would dare question her authority in temple matters.

There was a time, a few years back, when I had returned home after a year or so and was so pleasently surprised to find her fighting fit - and not one bit changed. A couple of visits later, and always my enquiries to my mother about sarammoomma's health having been positively reassured, I had sort of accepted that sarammoomma would somehow stay like that for a long time to come. So perhaps that's why I couldn't accept an old and ailing lady in her eighties passing away in her sleep: because she was sarammoomma, and that meant a lot.

That was the snapping up of an umbilical link to a childhood I now realize is never going to come back. And when I say that, I mean not just for me.

I realize its a childhood that my children would only be able to guess at.

I dont think we would ever again have a simple, uneducated old lady who, by sheer force of her goodness, would have the love and respect of one and all. Or that people, without caring about identities, would want their children to learn their first alphabet from her.

Loss of innocence has been one defining trait of moving into adulthood.


  1. The passing away of every person known to one, is another milestone in one's own life. As you grow older, these milestones are gathered as fading flowers, as shadows of personal sorrow. Every death is a reminder of one's own too...

    Remember what Epicurus said? " So death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more.'

    Beautifully written,with a disciplined mind that can contain emotions...

  2. Bala,

    Am honoured that you find my writing worthy of comment.

    Highly appreciated.



Thanks for giving me this moment of your life.