Friday, October 24, 2008

From the Memory Box: Ponnozhukum Thodu – the stream where gold flows

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 Oru Desathinte Amma.)

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. Bangalore where they were studying had no Ponnozhukum Thodu.

That was the last time I went to the stream. And the last time I saw Emmachi.


Also see: Gold color chips and a golden hearted Lady


Ashvin said...

That old cliche, Mr. Tharakan - God could not be everywhere, so he made mothers..... except that it is not a cliche.

Nostalgia can be such pleasurable pain sometimes, especially when it involves memories of dear departed.

Nebu said...

Achen, I presume that you haven’t been to Ponnozhukum Thodu of late. Your heart will bleed at the state of the famous private bathing ghat. You could urge Joseph to bring it back to its old glory after the renovation of the house is complete. But we may not be able to keep it private anymore.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comment, Ashvin.

Unknown said...

Nebu, thanks for informing me about the present condition of the bathing ghat. It is so sad. Actually I was planning to take some photos when I come that way next.
This sort of thing is happening everywhere in Kerala. The owner's rights are often ignored.

silverine said...

I love your posts that talk of old times in Kerala! :)

Ashvin said...

Dear Nebu, same thing at our place also, we cannot restrict the general public from accessing such areas.

It was just a decade back (or lesser) that my grandmother allowed public access to certain pathways, including a direct access to the pond passing in front of our main gates. Progress, democracy, lack of the feudal spirit, call it what you will.... whether it is good or bad is immaterial now since it is out of our hands.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you about:
The stream where sewerage flows.

Has any one visited Varanasi to take a dip in the holiest of the holy rivers [yamuna, godavari, saraswathy (not visible), narmada, sindhu and cauveri are the other rivers,but they do not come near ganges in the scale of holiness]? Besides the human ash that this river is used to over thousands of years, which is understandable, the Varanasi sewage has joined in with other human effluents, the products of daily live human processes since the last few years. One does not know what one ends up coated with after the holy dip!

I am a Hindu , a Brahmin who studied vedas and sanskrit for a decade when I was young. The ganges is mentioned many many times in mantras I chanted and the lines of sansktrit prose and poems I read. It was pathetic to see the
state the holy ganges is reduced to when I visited Varanasi some years ago.

When we start commenting on the
the bygone history of the empire, we should pause and think about the bygone state of this holy river. It is a collective shame. Forget about India sending missions to moon. There are other earthly priorities like keeping ganges clean from sewerage which are crying for attention.

There was sometime ago a scheme to clean up ganges. I heard that the scheme came to an abrupt end after
the authorities helped themselves with the funds!!

Unknown said...

silverive, thank you. I hope to do more posts on Kerala of yesteryears.

Unknown said...

Yes, mysorean, it is shocking.

I was in Belgium when Rajiv Gandhi visited France in 1985. In a symbolic act of sealing the friendship between the two countries, he pored some Ganga water in River Seine.

There were protests in the French media claiming that Seine would be polluted. The Indian diplomats explained that the water was collected at Gangotri and therefore pure.

paul said...


Happened to find your blog when I was looking for James' Heron Pool.
Good writing.
Mine is

and see

Paul George