Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fire: The man whose house burned down twice

The one who ran away Velayudhan but another person with the same name. In Olavipe we have quite a few Velayudhans, including our chief cook.

The episode starts when I was about eight years old – say, in 1941. One evening all of us were on the western veranda near the prayer room, waiting to start the rosary. In every house in Olavipe, small or big, a lighted lamp would be placed at the entrance at dusk, followed by prayers. In the Hindu dwellings it was ‘Rama Rama pahimam’. It was so nice listening to the chant as darkness envelopes the village. Now of course electric lights have replaced the lamps and TV has taken over from prayers.

On this particular evening that I am talking about, someone suddenly shouted, ‘Shankaran’s house is on fire’. When I looked, the thatched hut, a few hundred yards from us, was burning. Appan was already on the move, shouting for the servants to follow. But it was too late. Fortunately no one was hurt. It was said that the fire started when the lamp toppled accidentally and set aflame the dried coconut frond walls of the hut.

Shankaran was the foreman of our workers. A new habitat was put up for him at another location not far from the burned down house. Velayudhan, Shankaran’s only son was a baby at that time. After Shankaran died, Velayudhan and his family were shifted to a different plot. That was the third home for him.

Now the story moves to 1997. Early one morning a group of people came to see me. That was unusual because normally I wouldn’t be disturbed till after breakfast, which was invariably pretty late. I was told that Velayudhan’s house had been gutted the previous night. The probable reason was electrical short circuit. Fortunately again, no one was injured.

While rushing to the site I couldn’t help thinking about the fire fifty-five years earlier. To cut the story short, we had a reasonably good shelter erected for Velayudhan before sunset with the help of the people of the locality. One thing about villages – every one gets totally involved and work together on such occasions.

Subsequently, Velayudhan built a pucca house.


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