Wednesday, January 4, 2012

As birthdays go by…

Last week we celebrated my elder sister Mariamma’s 80th birthday. We call her Pengal. She normally stays at Chennai but had come down to Cochin for a function. The birthday luncheon party was just for the family, four generations of it. It was a nice get together, but a sad one too in some ways.

In a short period Mariamma had lost her husband Mathew Alapatt, an authority on gear technology, eldest son Francis Alapatt who was a well known management teacher, her second daughter Rosie who was an excellent painter, and son-in-law Chandy Mathew Pallivathukkal, an industrialist and writer. Just six months back one of the brothers, George (Tharakan, formerly Air India's Regional Director, Middle East) too passed away. Thoughts of them must have ran through the mind of this brave lady while the youngsters were having fun at the party. One could see tears running down her cheeks occasionally.

I am two years younger to Pengal. Another brother present at the lunch, Joseph Tharakan is six years younger to her. We were the elder group at the gathering, sharing several childhood memories mainly about Olavipe (Kerala Architecture: Nalukettu, ettukettu, pathinarukettu) and our mother’s house Konduparambil (Kerala Architecture: The house where I was born).

Childhood games and fights and schemes and secret dreams are so touching to think of and discuss sometimes with others who were involved. I suppose everyone has plenty of them. But our childhood belonged to another era. (Some memories of WW II, Cochin and the 1940s.)

Life before the Second World War was different. The first indication of the War for us children was that the British made toys and dolls stopped coming. Chocolates and toffees and biscuits too disappeared. Time was moved ahead by one hour. We had to get up earlier to reach school on time but had extra one hour in the evening to play. Then the War was over. Soon India was independent. There were elections, and drastic changes in every field that one had to and did acknowledge and accept.

We who were children grew up, drifted apart, got married and live with our own nuclear families. The same is true for our children as well. Occasionally the siblings meet at a function or an organised get together. We are fortunate because there is a family meet too, every May. We also keep in touch through phone calls and emails.

Life goes on like this till one reaches an age when sometimes the image of one’s own garlanded photo hanging on the wall flashes through the mind.

Well, that’s the way it is. Ignore that.. Be happy and positive.

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