Somewhere in the deep recesses of the human brain there are little memory boxes. The past is stored in them. Occasionally an invisible key opens them spontaneously. It could be a sound, a smell, a picture, a face that triggers the process.
Yesterday I thought of Ponnozhukum Thodu. Ponnozhukum means ‘(where) gold flows’ and thodu is stream. What turned on the kaleidoscope into the past was a photograph on the Kallivayalil Family website (). That is Ammachi’s (mother’s) family. (See )
The picture shows a scene from the Ponnozhukum Thodu – rice fields, cattle grazing in the distance, an ancient structure that is called ‘madom’ in which the ground floor is storage space and above that is an old Kerala style hall.
Ammachi’s ancestral house, known as Konduparambil, is east facing, on a hillock. The view from there is beautiful. About a hundred meters from the house is the road which Ichachan (See: Remembering grandfather) had opened long ago to the public. After that are the rice fields.
A causeway links the road to the private bathing ghat with a thatched canopy at the thodu. Again a stretch of paddy fields. Beyond them were the hills, greenish to start with, slowly fading into a hazy blue in the distance and merging with the sky.
Summer holidays were customarily spent at mother’s house. That was the time for play and pranks and frolicking in the sparkling stream for hours on end. Some of the smooth pebbles and sand in the brook glitter like gold. That was how it got its name.
Later on, when I grew up, I came to know that the gleam was caused by manganese content. Sad end to a childhood myth. But it still remains Ponnozhukum Thodu, gold or not.
Thirty odd years back I took my two elder children to visit Emmachi (that is what we used to call grandmother). They wanted to bathe in the brook about which I had told them so much. Emmachi gave us thorth (native towels) and Pears Soap. For some reason it was always Pears Soap at mother’s house.
There was a warning as well from Emmachi: ‘Don’t let them spend too much time in the stream like you did. They are not used to this water.’ True.
That was the last time I went to the stream. And the last time I saw Emmachi.