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Episodes That Pervade My Heart By Sundaram Characters: 14134

Updated: 2021-01-09 05:14

River Amaravathy flows full and looks great with its banks sporting mango trees and banyan trees. Intermittently peepal trees also show up. The early morning smells with the fragrance of the flowers and shrubs spotting along the river and the path that leads to the town Dharapuram. The people who bathe and wash seem to be time conscious and hurry up through their routine. There one can see temple priests carrying pots filled with river water to bathe the idols in the temples before the pooja is commenced. The women rush through their wash and bath and leave the river to care for their chores at home. The birds and insects cause a lot of chirping and humming. The melody of such intermingled notes and the rushing of the river render the atmosphere to bear a divine ecstasy. I enjoy every nuance on the river bank as I bathe and get out to ready myself to get back home. Dharapuram is quite a small town that connects Palladam, Erode, Gobichettipalayam, Tiruppur, Kodumudi, Palani and Karur, the other towns of bigger magnitude. Dharapuram is only a taluk and the district administration is at Tiruppur. The municipality supplies enough water to the residents and yet people in Dharapuram make it a point to take a dip in Amaravathy at all possible times. People living nearby the river, especially Agraharam, start their day invariably at the river. There are Hindu, Muslim and Christian people and they have their places of worship, temples, mosques and churches both RC and Catholic in Dharapuram. We have a government high school, municipal court, taluk office and a government hospital. Quite a few cinema theatres are also spotted in this town. Every place assumes importance as if there is nothing special other than itself.

I have a privilege as my house is on the main road that connects the high school and a small park. In the backyard of my house lies the Agraharam. I generally walk to school though I own a bicycle. I have a friend by the name of Balu whose father owns a grocery shop near the school. He visits my home often during Sundays and holidays. I also frequent his house. My mother would surprise us often with tiffin that she prepares for the company of Balu and me. Balu's parents are busy whenever I visit Balu as the grocery shop is popular. They never engage attendants as they are not trustworthy. In the town, they have established a good relationship with the clients. Balu's sister, Laxmi, who is elder to Balu, is the host invariably and from whose hands we get all the pastries. Balu says: "My sister's my mom as she takes care of every activity that I'm involved in and mom's in the shop mostly helping my dad" I can spot tears suffuse his eyes. In contrast, my mom is there to be ever dear me and seldom does my dad keeps my company owing to his busy government schedules. Laxmi, Balu's sister remains a spinster for a long while as they say her horoscope is flooded with bad planets. Balu's parents will have no complaint even if he stays the whole day with me. This has a special reason for my dad is the Tahsildar of Dharapuram. They think their boy is in the company of an educated family. Balu's father says: "If it were not for tahsildar's house, I would never allow him out"I love the friendship as Balu keeps my company almost all the time we are in school and home. We even go together to the river. This becomes a habit during the study holidays. The straight columns that propel from different branches are characteristic of the banyan trees. The monkeys that hold to these columns swing and jump merrily and in one throw reach trees fifty feet away! Sometimes Balu and I try the trick in the absence of monkeys and end up only in vain. Not only man emerged from monkeys but inherited their behavior too! We spend the whole day sitting on the mango tree- branches like the birds that perch. The riverbank has a charm for us as what we study will never escape the memory. Maybe, someday we may boost of the elite positions that we reach in future, are attributed to the river bank. The occasional disruption to our concentration is the pranks enacted by the monkeys that inhabit the tree! The high school is for those who pass out the fifth standard in elementary school. The high school has 6th to 9th standard and the school final is SSLC. SSLC stands for secondary school leaving certificate. My dad is a popular man in the town by virtue of his post. The teachers in the high school, most of them commute by walk, also pass through our house. The 6th standard class teacher Janaki is the one whom I adore as the embodiment of Shakespeare. She has taught me the alphabet of English. Maybe, someday if I become an exponent of English, it is attributed only to her sincere efforts. I must mention what is sincere about Janaki is that she sits every boy on her lap and teaches A, B, C….as the study of the English language starts only from the 6th standard. This follows the entire class of 20 students, all boys. The girls have to study in St. Aloysius girls' high school and that is the only institution available in Dharapuram for girls. They have proposed a government high school for girls and are awaiting the assent of the government. In the age that precludes any attraction to the opposite sex, the teacher plays a role that defies all standards. She never shows any embarrassment when Basha sits on her lap and repeats the alphabet after her. I must confess Basha is a bit older and has a physique with more height and weight when compared to the rest of us. I have smelt snuff in his person and have known that he hides snacks in his hat and insists that he wears it all day he is in school. Another thing Janaki has to put up with is Basha wearing a lungi. But never will she frown! She says: "Well, Basha you don't look handsome in a lungi. If you wear trousers and a shirt I will make you a leader of the class"Some other teacher who is indifferent to boys like Basha may have been the harbinger of the dress code later on in schools. These days, in most of the schools, there could be seen only one teacher who remains the whole day in a particular standard and handles all the subjects prescribed for that standard. Only when we move to standard 8th we have teachers for different subjects. A word on Janaki, the sincere most lady I have ever known in my boyhood. She lives in Agraharam and goes by my house to school. My mother is already friendly with her and Janaki stops by the house if my mother happens to be on the threshold. Never will my mother let her go without a cup of coffee. Janaki is all praise for the filter coffee. On her invitation, I visit her off and on running an errand. She is the eldest of her parents who have six girl children in succession and no baby boy. Their parents also are in a noble job, the teaching. No wonder, they begot our Shakespeare! Janaki's younger sisters are almost adolescent and they await marriage in turns. With great effort, Janaki gets married to a gentleman with age several years older than her and a complexion not matching he

r beauty and pleasing features. Her husband is an epileptic, is what the groom's people wantonly never disclosed in the marriage. One day he goes to the river in the early morning all by himself. Normally he is accompanied by the youngest of his sisters-in-law, Malu, though the river flows at the backyard of the Agraharam. As fate would have it, he collapsed on the river bank when he took an early bath and got the attack. If only he had spoken the truth, someone would have accompanied him and taken care of him at the time of the attack. But the wife remains a teacher whatever may befall! A lump in the throat! Every working day starts with a prayer at school and every Friday at noon, unless it is a holiday, they broadcast songs on Gandhiji and Independence on the All India Radio which the school radio relays for fifteen minutes. Songs sung by Bharathiyar and Bharathidasan are stirring our spirits and thrusting us into a trance. Thereafter the lunch break and the afternoon session start. Every student is obliged to follow the radio session and I've known no one who has a grouse for this kind of activity at school! The municipal park on this road, court road to be precise, that connects the school and my house is unique with a fountain and a flower garden. There are coloured fish in the pond that surrounds the fountain and the flower garden is abundant with roses and jasmine and lilies. There are stone benches around the fountain and elders could be seen sitting on them sometimes. Mostly young children play around the benches. It is on one of these benches that I acquired the friendship of Sairam, an engineering college student at Coimbatore. He lives just behind the park in a spacious bungalow. His dad is a doctor. He has a younger brother by the name Sundar who also pursues engineering in another college at Coimbatore. The boys are friendly and hospitable. Balu and I've been to their bungalow quite a number of times. Sundar is more fair and handsome than Sairam. On occasions, while we are in the company of Sundar, he entertains us with his song and dance. Song okay but a boy dancing to the tunes of karnatic music is not that common! Well, we learn later that Sundar is effeminate. Sundar's mom says: "If only Sundar were born a girl I would spare all the humiliation meted out to him "God is strange! A new knowledge in our boyhood memory, Sairam explains that effininates have a mixed anatomy and that they prefer mostly the behavior of females. A curiosity lurches in our minds, then growing adolescent, to learn more and more. This triggers the attitude of boys to watch with intent how the girls and women struggle to keep their skirt or saree in position from being lifted up in the fiery wind that is predominant in Dharapuram, especially in the months of June to August! They say in North Indian towns, women wear chudidars, salwar and kameez that spare them the mischief of wind turning women a laughing stock! Someday women in places like Dharapuram may too favor such outfit. In these months of June to August, girls go to the river in the day and float pots of germinated grains on the water and offer prayers to the river Goddess. On this occasion, girls dress in fine costumes and braid their plaits with screwpine flowers. They simply look divine beauties and graciously move about. Divinity is associated with screwpine flowers and of which the river bank in Dharapuram is abundant. This trend is handed down generations over and girls believe they find their choice of probable boys to take their hands in marriage. In some cases, girls run into an eligible partner by providence. Come with March-April, the season for devotees to walk on foot to the hill temple at Palani, some thirty plus kilometers away from Dharapuram. Balu and I've served as volunteers to them, offering food, water and shelter sometimes! Not only from Dharapuram but from other places too, people go on foot to this temple in Palani. The Lord at the hills is a savior to everyone who prays and believes beyond the religion and communities. Balu and I take this opportunity to do some service to the devotees besides lending a helping hand to girls of our age in particular, as we feel their warmth and friendliness an inexplicable charm! In the next few days my dad gets the entire household prepare for the marriage of my uncle. He is my dad's younger brother and remains to be married. His marriage is delayed because my granddad passed away and grandmamma has been on the hunt for a good bride. My uncle is an accountant in the Electricity board, a state government enterprise. At last there comes a bride from Gobichettipalayam who is acceptable to my granny and uncle. They order for our dress for the marriage, the dress for my younger, elder brother and myself and my baby sister. Never to mention, my little sister gets the silk gowns and skirts and we boys, get for every one of us, a pale yellow pair of pants and a rose color full-sleeved shirt. I have to wear this dress much against my will as I seldom want the entire family to be identified in public! At the marriage hall, everyone refers to our dress and says to contact for assistance, relating to matters of the groom. Someone calls at my back: "Hey boy, will you go tell your granny to report at the podium?" Then comes my uncle on horseback fully attired like a prince. Aloof I slip and get lost in the crowd quite deprived of watching any of the ceremonies at the podium for fear of being sent on some errand or other. Marriage over, next day we're back home and there we have a stream of visitors. Among them is my teacher Janaki and others. I show and treat them the best I can think of. She comments: "Sundar, your aunt is beautiful" How on earth the teacher behaves as if nothing has happened in her life! The newly married couple stays with us for a whole week and it is set that I take them around Dharapuram and show places of interest. You guess it right; I go with them to the municipal park, the river and Anjaneyar temple. My new aunt likes the temple very much and I too for reasons like I get good marks if I pray to the Lord and take my examinations and the ghee rich white pongal they offer on special occasions like Rama navami, Anjayaneyar Jayanthi and on all Fridays. The bus pulls up and everyone alights and I too get down unable to relieve myself of the reveries of Dharapuram. I find Dharapuram has changed a lot and the serenity as well. Someone calls behind me and I stop to see and the person is an old man. "Well, did you call me, Sir? Maybe you are mistaking me for somebody else?"The old man shakes me by the hand and wonders: "Hey Sundar, I am Balu. Don't you recognize me?" What he is able to recognize I am not! He is Balu very much and my good old friend! What'er is in store for mankind over the age and time! With great reluctance, I stay for a while with Balu after I accomplish my trip to Dharapuram to attend the marriage of a relative. I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop!

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