When: Day before yesterday midnight
(With Kamathayya @ Kshetra, Hyderabad, 2005)
Few nights back, when I was looking at everyone’s facebook updates about their ‘year’ , I suddenly realized that I did not tell myself to let go the hurt I was holding inside myself for losing loved ones to death. This year I said my bye byes to a sister and brother who loved me unconditionally for 28 years.
Kamathayya and Murali naanna
Mention kamathayya’s name and there are few things that spring into my mind without a pause. Cooking potatoes with peels, curry puffs, soft cotton sarees and the world’s most beautiful woollen wear. She and her husband lived close to my under graduate college. So I was almost a regular lunch guest for them for several years. She cooked the best rasam and always made sure to have a side of meegada (indian milk cream) ready for me in every meal I ate at her home. Eating my lunch with them while discussing the plot of the telugu serials they were currently watching, playing referee to their fights over those plots, lying down for a power nap on her soft mattress while mavayyagaru read his afternoon paper, these are somethings that can never be replaced in my memories list. At 4 PM every evening she walked to the punjabi kottu (store in telugu) to buy us curry puffs. Over the years, the us became just me as my siblings moved to the US. While disagreeing with my mother over petty things, she always had my back. She always spoiled me. She would counter my situation by telling me anecdotes about my mother and how mischievous she was as a kid.
The very last time I met murali naanna, he joked to me about the same thing he said to me for the several years I have known him. He was a cigarette smoker which made him have this voice that had a specific phonation to it. I loved hearing him talk :). I can still remember his voice when I think of him. No matter what grade I was studying, what degree I was pursuing or what good news I wanted to share with him, he always asked me, “Ente, mavidipalla buttalu pampinchalente mee teacherlaki?” / ” Enduke pai chaduvulu, chakkaga pelli chesesko, maa rajmundry lo bolledu pelli kodukulu, choodamantaava sambandham” . No matter what his jokes were, it was clear that he was extremely proud of the next generation women in his life who were pursuing higher education. He would always say at the end, “Chaala santhosham talli, very good. Very proud of you.” It was my cousin’s wedding and that evening when I was walking down the stairs to the hall, I met him near the entrance. He was aged more than the last time I saw him. I somehow missed his spontaneous humor and energy. I hugged him and told him I missed him and his humor back here in Texas. I even confessed to him that sometimes, living so far from home gets too painful. He plainly replied with his cute smile, “Maa tharam aipoindhe. Memu chesina panulakante goppa panulu meeru cheyyaali, padhi mandhiki annam pettali. Anthe chaalu talli. Bangaralodhamma, ee prema chaalu ani.” You cannot even imagine the flood of tears I burst into after he said these lines to me. Definitely sounds like lines out of a telugu movie I know. But that is the parenting I grew up with. Parenting was never limited to the two biological parents in my family. It came from everyone around us. Sometimes though things went out of hands, the bright side of it was that most of us have ended up to be conscious and sane people.
The last time I saw Kamathayya, she was in a hospital bed. I had never seen her so pale and weak. She was extremely happy to see me. My mom and me fought for a very long time after she passed away on something that my mother said to her that night when I was standing by her bedside holding her hand. She was crying and kept asking me if I came back home for good and I wasn’t sure what to answer. My mom immediately said to her, “Enti athayya ala chinna pilla la adusthaav, inthintha chaduvulu enduku chaduvukuntunnaru, intiki vachi pani cheyyadaanike, vacchesindhi ekkadiki velladhu inka.” The relief in her face and the smile she gave me will forever remain etched in my memory. Athayya I will always love you and miss you. I learnt from you to love unconditionally and to serve the people around me with love.
Kamathayya was murali naanna’s darling sister 🙂 The camaraderie they had while narrating stories from the past, the beauty of the relation they shared as siblings is a great memory and I will cherish it forever.