Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Of Uncles and Aunts: Part 1- Kittatten: Our Sakhavu (Comrade)

I have written multiple posts on this blog about my parents, but I haven't even written a single post about my paternal uncles and aunts. 
My uncles, younger brothers of my father, have been highly influential in my life. With their personalities as different as an apple and orange, the two stars in some of the best memories while I was growing up. Now that I have lost my father, both of them are the father figures in my life.
I have been doing the #100DaysofGratitude Challenge since September 23, and this post is the first in a series of gratitude posts dedicated to my two uncles and their equally loving wives.
Often, childhood is when we gather our ideas about the world. The formative years mould our personality. Do we end up as evil brats, nerds, sociopaths or diplomats, gets decided then. 
Many of my friends have traumatic childhood tales to share, of parental neglect, fights between relatives, and stories about abuse and cruelty.
I, on the other hand, led a carefree childhood. I couldn't wait to return home after school. The reason was that I had multiple houses which I could call as home. Both my uncles lived at walkable distances from our house. The only decision I had to make was whether I should head north or west once I returned from school. Often I would make the trip to both houses.

Our Sakhavu (Comrade)

The brightest among my early memories of my uncle, Kunhikrishnan, is one of him clad in a red shirt and khaki pants marching to the band music at the communist party congress in our area. The music, the red volunteers and the fact that the red army wasn't at all terrifying was the best thing of all. I wanted to grow up and wear that uniform and march as perfectly as they were doing. 

Kittatten as we called him, was our comrade or the sakhav. He would be rarely at home on weekends as there would party meetings or works to be done. We would find him speaking on the stage at meetings or public functions and we would proudly point him out to our friends. 

For me, he was a hero mainly because he was not afraid of the dark. He kept his cycle at our home and would then go walking through the village lanes without even a torch to light his way. Whenever my mother or father insisted that he carry one, he would smirk and say no need. Wasn't he scared of the many demons that lurked in the darkness? 

One evening, when I was about six or seven years old, my father had gone to his ancestral home, kulathindadutha veedu which was just a block away from our house. We kids called it by that name as there was a pond in front of the house. And to my disappointment, he hadn't taken me along. I was fully engaged in a bawling tantrum when Kittatten returned from work. I immediately stopped crying. Now I had someone to take me to where my father was. I requested him to take me along and he agreed.  I told my mother off when she tried to stop me. 

But there was a catch. The village lanes were dark, and as usual, my uncle was not carrying a torch. I was terrified of the darkness. He was carrying grocery bags in both hands and hence could not hold my hands to guide me. But then he had the perfect solution. He made me hold on to a rolled up mat he had purchased. The short trip through the dark lanes, guided only by a wobbling mat, felt like traversing a dark tunnel filled with hidden dangers and monsters. I held on to the mat for dear life and breathed easy only when we reached our destination.

Grandma used to tell us tales as to how during the emergency period (1975-1977) uncle was continuously hunted by the police. The Communist party had been banned and all its members were being rounded up and arrested. My uncle and his friends often went underground and many prominent party leaders often took refuge in my father's ancestral home. His sister, my aunts, narrate those incidents with so much pride. How they had even fooled the police many times in a bid to save their brother and other comrades.

Another pleasant memory is the trip we made to New Delhi in October 2003. I had to appear for a competitive exam conducted by Delhi metro. My brother worked in Delhi and he could take me around once I reach there. The problem was the long train journey there. I had almost given up hope when Kittatten agreed to take me. 

The trip was so much fun. The Konkan railway passes through picturesque locales and the food aboard the Mangala Express was sumptuous and delicious. While uncle made new friends with fellow passengers, all I did was eat, read books or gaze at the passing landscapes lost in daydreams. Though I was going to attend an exam, I remember, I didn't even touch my textbooks. 

Once in Delhi, after the exams, we roamed around in Delhi and Agra. Our MP, T. Govindan was close to uncle and we got special passes to visit the Parliament House which was in session. I still remember how the MP himself came to receive us at the parliament gates. e chuckled seeing Uncle wearing pants as he only wore the white or off-white mundu normally. 

 The terrorist attack at the parliament had caused an increase in security. He showed us around and we sat and watched a bill being presented. (Curiously, the bill being presented and debated upon was about implementing metros in Bangalore, Mumbai etc. My husband now works with BMRCL, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation.) 

I even cooked while we stayed at my brother's flat and made Kittatten eat my dal curry. A big achievement as he hated dal. 

My Uncle with his Family
As my father was fully occupied with his clinic most of the time, it was often Kittatten who accompanied me to get certificates attested, passport, marriage certificates and any other official documents made. Being a very popular and important member of the party from our area, his presence often made all these tasks easy.

It was with extreme pride that I voted for him during the panchayat elections for the fourth ward of our village. He went on to be elected as the Vice President of our village panchayat. 
There are many many more pleasant memories to share. Perhaps I would fictionalise them and create a novel out of them soon. 
 My son calls him cuckoo-achacha or cuckoo-grandpa because of the presence of a cuckoo clock in the living room of his house. 

Thank you, Kittatten for all the love and guidance. 

Wish you a long and happy life. Continue being a guiding light and the great person that you are. 

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