The Tharavad

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source site The twelve months of the year, were divided into the wet, damp months of the monsoons and the dry, hot months of summer. The seven day week, started with a Sunday, when they went to Church and ended on a Saturday, when they got ready to go to Church. Everything started and ended in the Church, the pivot of their lives.

femme cherche job There were no Clocks to tell the time. Nature did. The Cock and his crow decided when it was morning. The shadows of sunset and the grate of the crickets decided when it was evening. The rest of the hours were occupied by chores, that often bordered on the repetitive and the tedious.

enter For directions, they went back to the sun. Everyone, knew which side the sun rose and which side the sun set. North and south were easy after that. If your right hand pointed towards Sunrise, your left would point towards Sunset and your Nose would point North.

go site The homestead, set in a rice field, was a red brick house with an open courtyard in the centre, which looked up at the skies to let in air, sunshine and rain. The sloped roof, held up by wooden rafters, allowed the monsoon rains to beat on the red tiles, before it slid off the edge as a sheet, to splash on the gravel below. A wrap-around verandah ran almost completely around the house, as a thin boundary between the Inside and the Outside.

follow url A wooden staircase started in the dining room and climbed precariously up to disappear into a dark wooden loft, perched on the top of the house, which served as a store. The children loved the rickety steps. It was technically out of bounds, potentially dangerous and it opened up all sorts of exciting possibilities. They would sneak up to play in the loft and sometimes, they would curl up and fall asleep in its cozy warmth, to be rescued only at mealtimes, when the head count found them missing.

click The busiest part of the house was the kitchen, a large room at the back overlooking the courtyard where the kids played. Only when the house went to sleep, did the kitchen go quiet. Otherwise, it buzzed with activity, traffic, smells and smoke. There was always a meal to be done and mouths to feed. The kitchen was the hub of the house.

follow url Washing up after a meal, was never a problem, even when the pack count was high, as they usually ate out of bio-degradable banana leaves. After use, these were thrown in a heap outside, for the crows and dogs to shred, before they became compost for the fields. The firewood stove sat on the eastern side of the kitchen, to face the sunshine that flooded in and sanitised the kitchen, as it came alive in the morning.

click Near the entrance facing the courtyard, stood a large earthen pitcher on a wooden stool. Every morning, it was filled with buttermilk, watered deliciously thin and flavoured with green curry leaves, pink shallots and amber coloured slivers of ginger. A refreshing cooler, for the dusty family that traipsed back in for lunch and a welcome drink, for the visitors who passed through the little house by the canal, near the banyan tree. Each household had a labour task force of men and women who worked in the fields to bring in the grain. The landed gentry would have starved, if these mere mortals were not on their payroll. Unfortunately, despite their utility, the labourers were treated as untouchables at best .

My Mum….Back to the future

My Mum, Saramma John, was a remarkable lady.

She drove me nuts when I was growing up, as I am sure I did her. Whenever I had a fight with her, I would wait, on a stone bench in the garage, for my Dad to come home, so that I could tell him, my side of the story first. He would listen carefully, before he went up the steps, to hide a smile and share a knowing look with my Mum. Nothing much changed, with me getting to my Dad first. Except, for the immense pleasure I got, from complaining to my Dad, before she did.

They were indivisible when it came to raising me. If my mum said that black was white, my Dad would say that black was white. If my Mum said that cows had 3 legs , my dad would have wondered aloud, if there were cows with four legs in this world. My mum was hearing challenged, but they had a better marriage and understanding than many couples I know, who are blessed with all their faculties intact. What she could not hear, he wrote out for her. He never left her out of the Loop.

They invented “Sync”.

When I became a Parent myself, I saw my parents, especially my Mum, in a different light. A kinder, softer light, that made me understand them better. The enormity of her selfless life and all the sacrifices that she did for everyone, in her sound muffled world, hit me with every challenge I faced. By then, it was too late to let her know, how much I valued and admired her. Regrettably, way, way too late.

Maybe they can read in Cyberspace.

To understand her persona better, I need to take you to her life and times, growing up with her 18 siblings. in her parents home, in Kodukulanji, at The Cadavanaltharayil House, the house by the Banyan Tree near a Canal.

My Grandmother……My Annammal Patti

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My Dad, had a name, that my kids thought, was great for anagrams.  Christened Paramanantham Israel Samuel Baboo, he grew up in Senthiambalem, a small village in the Tinnevelly District. On the map, it lies shielded by the village Sawyerpuram and the seaport Tuticorin in Tamilnadu. Sawyerpuram, named after the Missionary, Sawyer, who worked in the area, has a large Christian Community.

My dad’s mother, Annammal, widowed at a very young age, raised my Dad and his only sister, Alice Blossom Arputham, with courage and dignity as a single Mum.  My Dad’s father, my Samuel Thatha, passed away early in the marriage, as a young man. I do not have much information about him, as my Dad was a mere child, when he lost his Dad. My Mum’s parents, my Velliappachan and my Velliammachy, had passed away, before I was born. That left my Annammal Patti, the only grandparent I knew, when I was growing up.

One Grandmother, like my Annammal Patti, is enough for a zillion grandchildren. A  power house of love, she gave it all to me, her only grandchild, to cherish, press down and pack away, for this lifetime and the next.

Mention her name and I see a tall, long-boned, silver haired lady, with a slight stoop, smiling at me with a scantily-toothed smile and pure, undiluted love shining brightly  from her sightless eyes.

Mention her name and I scamper back to the happiest part of my life, when we used to come from Singapore to visit her in Senthiambalem.  Happy, carefree days, cossetted in her protective arms .

Mention her name and I am caressed by a cascade of warm and tender memories that I have no problem recalling, when all other memories seem to be receding with astonishing speed, as the days zip past.

Mention her name and I get a fuzzy , glow inside me.  A warm and happy glow.

While chopping firewood, as a young mother, a splinter flew into her right eye. A horrendous accident, that led to the painful loss of vision, on the right side. Health care in Senthiambalem, was abysmal and over a very short period of time, a florid infection set in to herald Sympathetic Ophthalmitis and blindness in both eyes, leaving my Annammal Patti, a blind, young, single Mum.

A darkened world and two terrified, small children hanging on to each of her helpless hands, did not keep her down, for too long. It only strengthened her faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen Saviour, she believed in, who never left her side.

Jesus Christ was not just a name in her old Tamil Bible, that people took turns to read out to her. Jesus Christ, did not pop up, once in a while, before her. Jesus Christ did not appear, only when called. She did not meet Jesus Christ occasionally , only on Sundays and at prayer meetings.  Jesus Christ was a living presence in her daily life.

Jesus Christ was her daily Companion. Jesus Christ accompanied her, every single waking moment. She trusted Him implicitly. She leaned on Him totally. She spoke to Him. She consulted Him. She complained to Him. She thanked Him and she worshiped Him. She took Him everywhere she went. Her faith in Jesus Christ was Simple, Childlike and Absolute.

Her faith in her God, kept her alive and well, till she crossed 99 years, a year before completing a Century of Blind Trust. I was  in Medical College when she died, taking a part of me with her forever. My dear, sweet Annammal Patti.

After her children left home, my Annammal Patti, lived a fairly independent life, under the watchful eyes of the loving village. The door of her home, The Prayer House, a white building, on the mud road leading to the quaint St. Mark’s Church in Senthiambalem , was always open to the village, to drop in for prayers, be it a prayer for a sick child, a prayer for travel, a blessing or a prayer for anything , any time.

I think she knew more secrets about the village, than anyone else did. They all trusted her and confided in my Annammal Patti. Her blindness gave them some degree of immunity during the confessions, I guess. Over the years she acquired the name “Jebam Panre Patti” , The Grandmother Who Prays , a name she is remembered by, in the Village, even till this day.

She never saw my Dad or his sister as adults. She had no idea, what her daughter-in-law or her grandchild looked like. As a child on our annual holidays, I remember sitting on her lap and fidgeting restlessly, while she traced every contour of my face. Sighted and impatient, I could not figure out why she needed to etch my face in her mind’s eye.  She would want to know every detail.

“What is the colour of your dress? “She would ask.
“What is the colour of the flowers in your hair? “
“What’s the colour of your ribbons?”

Every evening, she would thread jasmine flowers, gathered from the garden, on a string for me to wear in my hair. She would put me on her lap, with my back to her, comb out my hair and braid it intertwined with the jasmine string. She loved my hair. It was a ritual with her. It used to annoy me intensely, especially when I was waiting impatiently, to run out and play with the other kids outside .

She never ever called me by name. She was always called me by various terms of endearment. Something, she used often was “Yennai Petra Thaiye” which when translated means “Oh Mother, who gave birth to me“. When I asked her what it meant , she told me that it stood for ” Oh You, who gives me Life” in Tamizh. I rather liked that . Every time she said that, I grew a few inches in height.

Seven decades later, I am still decoding this term of endearment. Quite honestly, I am not really sure, what it means. Nor do I care. I just know, that no one has ever addressed me in such caressing tones. I do not think that anyone has loved me as much as my grandmother , my Annammal Patti did.

 I could do no wrong in her eyes. No one, including my mother, who never really seemed to be subject to anyone’s authority, could utter a single cross word to me, in her presence. Discipline, during the Indian holiday, happened only when and if my grandmother was out of earshot. My Mum, who could not utter the verbal threat with my Annammal Patti in the room, would mouth it silently and gesture ominously,  that she would deal with me later. I would just toss my head, defiantly, and cuddle closer to my Annammal Patti.

Sildenafil Citrate säljes billigt Attu Kari Uppukandam  an act of love
When we went on holidays, my grandmother would cure goat meat for us to take back to Singapore. A young goat would be led into the backyard by the local butcher. Fat free pieces of meat would be cubed and cleaned with amazing precision and marinated in turmeric and rock sea salt.  The meat cubes would be strung on twine and dried in clothes line fashion ,outside in the daytime and inside during the night.  Someone, with a fan in hand, would be posted close by, it to shoo the pesky crows away.

Eventually, after a reasonable time in the blazing sun, the strands sporting the dried cubes of meat, would be tied across the store-room, behind the kitchen and left to dry out completely. Later, the dried meat, the famous Attu kari Uppukandam, would be slipped off the string and packed into airtight biscuit tins, for us to take home to Singapore.

This happened every visit . She never paid attention, when my Dad protested.

“Amma, we have the best lamb in Singapore. “
“Australian lamb, Amma”
“Is that right?” she would reply, not looking up from what she was doing.
“Appidiya?
“Is that so?”
“Uh Huh” she would say, humouring my dad and continue to do whatever she  was doing .
The best of Australian lamb, did not impress my Annamal Patti . I doubt if she even knew where Australia was on the map.

We always took it back with us, respecting the love that went into the whole Act. Her need to give it to us, was far more than our need to accept it.

In all fairness, I have never tasted anything as divine as dried goat meat grilled on an open charcoal fire, under a starry Singapore sky. When I was expecting my kids and had bouts of pica, I used to fantasize about this.

Sam, who had never heard of Attu Kari Uppukandam in all his life in Hyderabad, was at a completely loss. He used to look at me with a strange look ,convinced, that I was losing it.

Come Fly My Broomstick with Me

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I was christened Anne Elizabeth, after both my grandmothers and answered to Susie all my life. Mentally, I have never been an Anne or an Elizabeth, except at St. Margaret’s School, Singapore, when I was known as Anne Baboo.

My Mum and Dad came from two bordering states in South India.

My Mum, Saramma John, one of nineteen siblings  born and raised in Kodukulanji, Central Travancore, was a medical Doctor, an LMP from the Christian Medical College, Vellore with an MBBS degree from the Madras Medical College.

My Dad, Paramanantham Israel Samuel Baboo, was born and raised by his blind, widowed mother in Senthiambalem, Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu. He was the first graduate from his village to study Theology at the Bishop’s College in West Bengal. He retired as an Anglican Canon, after founding and serving the Tamil Congregation of Christ Church, Singapore for 33 years.

When they fell in love and got married my mum was 36 years old and three years older than my Dad. When I, their only child, was born, she was a 46 year old Elderly Primi . A miraculous flash in the pan, I grew up blessed, loved and cherished by two wonderful caring people, I am proud to call my parents.

If you stick around, I will tell you the story of how they were separated for many years, incommunicado, with my Dad away, in a war ravaged Japanese occupied Singapore and with my mum living as a widow in India, lovingly protected by her surviving siblings. My Dad was presumed dead. With the silence of the  passing years, the colours on her saris paled to white. She even stopped wearing flowers in her hair, as was the custom with Christian widows, at the turn of the Century.

I will also tell you the story of their dramatic reunion after the war, when no one, not even my Mum recognised my Dad on his return. No one except my Dad’s K9 , Sundar, who had, with all the years of waiting for my Dad, grown into a weary, arthritic and indifferent Alsation.  He condescended to move around, only when my Mum went to her Clinic and slept at her feet, till she was ready to go home.  When my Dad returned unexpectedly and unannounced, even as my Mum stared in disbelief,  Sundar came alive, shot out and flung himself at the gaunt, travel weary stranger , welcoming his master back.

And then, if there is time , I will tell you stories of my extended family, my formative years in Christ Church, a cosmopolitan St. Margaret’s School in a Colonial Singapore, the prestigious Christian Medical College in Vellore,  and our legacy, the CMC Alumni friendships, that bind and span across years and continents.

I will also tell you stories about the International group of doctors, from several countries, who trained as a batch at The Institute of Dermatology, St. John’s Hospital, London.

I will tell you stories about my classmate at Med school Narsappa Mathew Samuel, who turned out to be my best friend, before becoming my husband, our adventures and our work in Bhutan, Nepal , Africa, England and India.

Our years as a young family , our kids, Rekha and Anish, our daughter-in-law Vidhu and our two grandkids, Ashish and Rohan, neonates I delivered as their mother’s attending Obstetrician, one in a resource challenged Mission Hospital in Simla and the other in a Corporate Hospital in Chennai.

I will tell tell you stories of life as a multitasking resident doctor, head cook,  bottle washer and dogsbody in a Mission Hospital atop the Himalayas and life as a Consultant Dermatologist in the Corporate Health Care Sector in Chennai.

My life started in one century and spilt over into another, moving across several countries, cultures and cuisines. We might even recipe hop.

We could turn up the jukebox for the music of the 60s and the golden oldies to bring back a memory or two from Elvis The King, to Freddie The Queen. The possibilities are endless, in a Serendipitous Journey

You might find it hard to believe all the living and changes that have been packed into a lifetime, both personally and professionally. Looking back, I am a bit shocked too.

Shocked enough to write it all down, if I can,

I cannot see the stairway , but I have taken this first step in faith,  holding firmly onto the hand of the Almighty God who never ever left my side, even when I wandered around, willfully lost at times.

So, come fly my broomstick with me . I will take you to places and time warps that you have never been before.

Be back soon,

Susie Samuel