Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Madras - Tiruvallikkeni

We moved from Besant Nagar to Triplicane. The time I actually started to go to school by bus on my own. It was common practice then. A child as young as 7 or 8 could go by PTC bus to school once the parent tells the conductor and the driver in the route to drop them there. At 8 Am in the morning, the passengers would also be the same faces you see everyday. The sense of community existed. There was safety. You could entrust your child to strangers and rest assured your child will be safe. 

We lived in one of those row houses that shared common walls with the neighbours houses. It is still commonplace in Triplicane. Our owners had a huge joint family. The boys in the family, as young as 8 or 10 would wear huge naamams, decorate small pallakkus and the God's idol and take it around the streets. Seeing the Parthasarathy Perumal outside our house in his routine street tour was pretty common.

I took huge interest in covering half the street in Kolam. And took huge interest in pumping water from the street water pump. Of course my mom hated it. But for me it was fun. Across the street, my mother made me go learn to play the violin, just in case her experiments with my voice failed. I didn't last too long. I was afraid of Dwaram Mangathayaru or as we called her, Ammayi-akka. I used to go to her house whenever I could, collect the pavazhamalli flowers on the floor of their compound, string them and take them to the temple. It was a regular exercise. 

I would also wait eagerly for the Hindu Young World each Saturday. One day my curiosity got the better of me and I went to check neighbour's houses to see if everyone got the same paper or if each house got a different paper, so that I could have different puzzles to work on. I was disappointed to know everyone got the same. 

My street had a Hanuman temple near the main road. I would go there each day, religiously and have 3 stripes of vermilion, chandan and vibhooti on my forehead. My neighbours kids used to make fun of how I covered my already tiny forehead in these stripes.  

I made my first really good friends in Triplicane. Bhargavi and Vaishnavi. I remember their father who used to give me Threptin biscuits. He died subsequently. And they moved out of the area as well. 

Thursdays, we'd have Sai Bhajans in another neighbour's house and I'd go and sing. 

Triplicane was when our neighbour, Sundari aunty taught me how to work with mathematics. I used to be counting with my fingers and toes and whatever else I could find. She set me right and until my 4th standard I scored straight 100-s in Maths. In retrospect I think if I had found the right teachers going forward, Math would have been simple and not something to be scared of. 

My mom started IFPA - Indian Foundation for Performing Arts, documented the Life and Teachings of Lalgudi Jayaraman, worked with calligraphers who would painstakingly write page after page and published the book of his compositions which is very much in circulation today. 

And that was also the beginning of my life in a hostel for almost 2 years - 4th and 5th standard.

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