Aaraasur: an interlude

Suddenly Uncle brightened up. “There he is,” he said. I searched but couldn’t pick. And Uncle talked me through till I found him. And I went silent. If he had stood straight, he might have been a frail 5′ but he was bent at the back and the knees. He rose barely above 4′. He held his head up to see the way in front. He had a walking stick. When he moved, he took a few steps, gained speed and began to trot on with vigour. But what arrested me were his eyes that shone with kindness and the perpetual beatific smile.

He was everywhere. The ceremonies had been going on for four days. The idols had been taken in procession through every street, ceremonial fires had been lit and Vedic hymns chanted. Story tellers had been narrating the life of Sri Rama. And Iyengar was everywhere getting the programme go clockwork.

His family was in full force, two sons and two daughters and several grand children and great grand ones too. One of them explained to me. “None of us come to this, our ancestral village. We are spread all over the world and even the ones in Chennai have little spare time. But we can’t stop him. He got the notion a few years ago that we must return to the village and help villagers find some focus. He discovered they were listless and lost. He had grown up, running around in these very streets and so said, “How can I walk away like it’s not my concern?”, the Grand Daughter paused

Ramaswamy Iyengar had been a librarian in a Club in Chennai and raised his family of four. Must have been a hard life on meagre money, but income from fields in Aaraasur had supplemented his needs. This is what he is probably unable to forget. His children had only modest clerical careers in an India which gave few opportunities. Bu the grandchildren throve in an India that began to reward handwork and brains. One now made home in the USA, another in Australia and yet another in Dubai. A grandson runs a successful software company in Bangalore.

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