Thursday, November 3, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life - 56 ( tenacity and resilience - My aunt)

Jottings : Slice of life - 56
Look at this “Kolam” ( a traditional form of drawing) very carefully. What will strike one almost immediately is the geometrical precision of its execution. Its hypnotic structure captivating in its symmetry. The lines so firm, the edges fluted, careful strokes in color interwoven in definitive patterns, which makes sense once drawn - but in the mind of its artist it would have remained a fluid vision, bursting out like a flower out of nowhere and blooming and gasping towards perfection as the hand draws out its intricate patterns in one spontaneous movement of harmony between mind and body.
This drawing is not by a twenty year old or a forty year old artist, but by our octogenarian aunt, the eldest in the family living in Palani, Tamilnadu. Frail of body, strong willed, articulate, she has spent every moment of her adult life in this little town - renowned as a place of pilgrimage, living within its conservative traditions, serving her late Husband with as much devotion and care a Brahmin housewife could muster, bringing up two sons, each doing well in their own way; watching a generation of Grandchildren grow, flower and mature into adulthood, in touch with her five siblings ( of which my mother is one) with the same interest and compassion she has had since the time we know her. And add to this - she is also the most artistic among all.
For many years, we lived close to Palani, which is Madurai; and our holidays would invariably take us to Palani. My brother and I have vivid memories of our time spent there. Of particular importance to me were the holidays I have spent alone there for whatever reason. My aunt, then at her prime, would make me sit, read and copy down paragraphs from the erstwhile Chandamama ( one of the best children magazines ever). Not that I remembering enjoying it, but my aunt would insist i spent at least an hour of so doing something useful during vacations. Her own command of English was reasonably good. Grammatically correct, she could string together sentences with ease ( A fact that stuck me as extraordinary then), and her handwriting reminds me of the term “Copperplate” - a style of writing with thick and thin strokes producing stunning visual effect. Solid, unwavering and stylish - she would pick out paragraphs from a story in Chandamama (It was mostly from King Vikramaditya and the ghost), write it down in her beautiful hand, and then ask me to reproduce that piece with exactitude. It wasn't fun. But, at this distance, I am convinced that her reading and writing regimen has something to do with my own discipline in writing today. Try , as I did, my handwriting could never become half as perfect as hers, but I did eventually pick the art of forming sentences or rather the feel for it , imperceptibly during those holidays there - and from her.
When I was in kochi last month, My Mother bought out a small piece of paper and said
“Sunder, look at Periamma’s ( elder mom) handwriting even today”
It was amazing. The same sure strokes, proper spacing, neat calligraphy and firmness of purpose was evident in those few verses she had written down from memory for Amma’s use. A deep sense of gratitude filled my heart.
We owe ourselves to our Elders. Whether we like of not, acknowledge it or not, believe it or not, accept it or not, pieces of them will always be imperishably a part of us. Just as biological genes are passed on, the initial impetus of cultural, social and intellectual growth are given by our parents, immediate family and teachers, and from there we go on to make our own destinies. And somewhere along the line, during moments of silent reflection faint reminiscences of our acquired heritage does pop up, reminding us of a lineage that stretches way into the past - generations past generations - humbling the pride that claims there is a generation gap, and we are unique. Nonsense!! From an ape to a trousered ape, we may have travelled different paths, but the common pool of life, its archetypes will always come along with us. More so, from the Elders of our family. They define who we are at the very base, and give us every opportunity to build on that firm, solid ground.
My sister in Bangalore wrote this yesterday in a short post. She writes about the three Elder women in our family ( five in all including two brothers). And what she writes will be true for all readers who have had the fortune of growing up in a big, embracing and loving environment.
“ All my three aunts are awe inspiring, organized, meticulous, agile, affectionate, graceful, defy age, denote life and best of all - resilient..”
I couldn't have said it better..
God bless..
yours in mortality,
Bala
( I have tagged members i could immediately pull out. Not a whole list. Apologies for missing out some names. However, I meant this post to be from all of us in the family)

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