Sometimes you discover treasures in your own house by accident. It was like that I came across a book, a souvenir, which was published for the 60th birthday of my great grandfather Chirakkal T. Balakrishnan Nair. Now, if you are a Malayalee, it is inevitable you have a Mathrubhumi or a Manorama calendar hanging somewhere at home. We are Mathrubhumi people, so if you have a Mathrubhumi calendar, in the month of January, you will find his death anniversary marked in it (Jan 13th).
Now, if only I had come across this ten years back, it would have been great. But, better late than never.
About him – Chirakkal T. Balakrishnan Nair was born on November 17, 1907, to Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma Valiya Raja of the Chirakkal Kovilakam and Thayyil Kalyanikuttti Valiya kettilamma. He went on to graduate from the Presidency and then Loyola College, Chennai in the 1930s. He then took an active part in the Independence movement. He spent some time in prison for those efforts. Later he went on to become a teacher. He has also written books and essays. Also, he has a Wikipedia page, here, in Malayalam. And a Kerala Sahitya Akademi page, here.
Anyway, this book has an article that my grandmother, K.B.K. Lakshmi Raghavan, wrote. And since it was a nice read, I took it up to translate it and put it up here. She does not know about this, though. Maybe if I show her how well this post has done, she may agree to write more.
This is the original post, and the translation follows. It may not be the best or most accurate, but I did give it my best.
What do I write about my Father; if not about my Father, whom will I write about? – I haven’t been able to answer these questions, even after so many days. “Kunjikannan Master has been asking for this write-up. If you can do it, do it as soon as possible” – My Father had just told me. He won’t be reminding me about this again. That is how he is. He will only repeat himself once, that too if needed only.
When I was in school, I used to write for the school magazine – some short stories and poems. But, those were under a vastly pretentious sobriquet. Now, I have to write something about my Father that will be read by a thousand eyes!
I thought there would be a lot to write about; but only as I sat down to write did I discover how scarce my claims were. Though there is one thing that shines a light in the darkness of these desperate times. There is one memory that is unforgettable, like newly spun brightly coloured silk, woven into the depths of my mind. As one would introduce a darling newborn to the world, with utmost thoughtful care, I shall try and write about it — A 23-year-old memory, from when I was perhaps 7 years old.
It’s been two years since my Father went to prison. About 2-3 months after my Father was sent away, my little brother died. How much these two incidents affected my mother and me the world may never know. There are no words to express the despair and desolation that we felt during those dark depressing days.
I have heard that, when sorrow abounds, the memories etched in our minds are that much clearer. But as a child, my experience was the opposite. My Father’s face and form began to fade away. Slowly, but surely, every day that passed, the image of my Father faded some more.
One day, someone who has always has been a good friend of our family’s, Shri. P. M. Kunjiraman Nambiar came home. I was playing in the front yard when he came and picked me up. “Your Father is coming home soon”, he told me. When my mother and the others gathered outside, he repeated the same. Shri. Nambiar had himself been recently released from prison and had been staying in Kozhikode awaiting the release of my Father.
After a while, my Father along with some others came home. He came straight towards me, picked me up and asked: “Do you remember me, my dear?”. My father had tears in his eyes. It felt like I was meeting my Father for the very first time in my life. I couldn’t find it within myself to do anything. I settled for caressing his never tame, unruly hair.
My Father had spent two months away from home, caring for my grandfather, the thamburan, in Madras. And he had only been home for two months after that when he was imprisoned. Even before that, he used to return home from work at the school and leave immediately with the people who always waited at our house for him. He would then return home late at night. That was his routine. My mother would stay up, always reading something, while waiting for him to return home. Without my Father around in our big house, I felt scared. While he was in prison, I had many sleepless nights.
In those childhood days, in the deepest depths of my mind, I was afraid of my Father. To this day, I do not know or understand why I was scared of him. When I was studying in school, if I had a doubt in English or Mathematics or any other subject, I would go and ask my Father. And he could make molehills out of those mountains. Even then, I was afraid he would get angry. But, to this day neither I nor my little brothers have had the chance to hear his voice tinged with the faintest anger.
My Father has been able to withstand the most tragic of circumstances that Life has brought about. He has been through sorrow that would have burned someone else’s soul. But my Father has been stoic through it all. An amalgam of endurance, and fortitude, my Father shall always remain our strength. Our small family continues to live in this equable manner because of him. Even now, when I have three children of my own, my Father still calls me ‘മോളെ’. It is in that very call – the blessings that fill it, and the love that is steeped in his call, these are what identify the very fulcrum of our lives.
– K.B.K. Lakshmi Raghavan
I hope you enjoyed reading what my grandmother wrote, do let me know and I shall definitely let her know as well. From all the stories I have heard about my great-grandfather, he seems like a really cool person. It is a pity that I did not get a chance to meet him. Thanks to memories, the written word and the internet I have been lucky to at least know him a little. Most people aren’t as fortunate.