There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.
Joanne Kathleen Rowling, aka J. K. Rowling, the household name among fantasy writers, has exemplified her dictum by constantly transporting the readers to a realm of illusion, imagination, fancy and fiction.
Growing up, I too have heard umpteen stories that fashioned the wings for me to soar up in the skies of fiction writing. Actually, I am not really sure where and how I can start recounting my fascination for stories. So, this story is going to be more like a sincere attempt to trace the foundations of my interest in creative writing; a walk down the memory lane. And the deeper I walk down that path, the more I realize that this story could not be complete without mentioning my ancestral home. After all, it was the place where I spent two priceless decades of my life.
The home and its structure still remains vivid in my memory. I still remember how curious onlookers would wonder why there was a small room-like structure, shaded by a cocoa tree, outside the home. As for me, I found the inner construction of the house more intriguing, thanks to its long corridor that had rooms on either side. That awe-inspiring structure resembled my high-school classrooms. The kitchen… well, it actually did look like a kitchen for a change! Walking out of the kitchen, you would come across a small space to clean fish. And the backyard was blessed with ample space for us to play as much as we liked. This was the setting, the backdrop against which the seeds of stories were sown in the fertile soil of my young, receptive mind.
Now that the stage is set, let’s welcome the protagonist – the heroine – of my story. So, here comes the absolutely adorable slice of my life’s rainbow, my Achamma, or my paternal grandmother. She was a short lady with a grace and poise of her own, even though fate had made her partially deaf from a very young age. My granny, N. G. Saraswathi, always donned her characteristic whites and whites: a white mundu, a white blouse, and – no prizes for guessing – a white thorthu. She was named after Goddess Saraswathi. While bereft of the Goddess’ veena, her passion for learning and reading was no less divine. You remember the little room I mentioned? Yes, the one outside our house. It was, in fact, the space where Achamma would embark on her reading adventures.
As a little girl, I spent most of my time playing with Achamma. When Achan and Amma went to work, I would seek refuge in the cocoon of her comforting arms. She would carry me to the gate, and I would find myself indulging in some “sightseeing”. The nearby shop owner, a lady who envied Achamma, would often ask mockingly, “Amma, just how do you manage to carry this golu molu, or fatso? Put her back on the ground.” Her constantly irritating comments, not to mention her scary face, made me averse to her.
Back to Achamma, I still harbor fond memories of her teaching me the English alphabet. She would also tell me interesting stories. If someone were to ask me how many stories I heard from the rich repository of my grandma, I would probably be stumped for an answer! That said, I still remember the story of Mushika Lady, the one I most often asked her to recapitulate. The story was a treat for my infantile comprehensive skills. In fact, the Mushika Lady has grown old with me, teaching me several truths about life along the way. Another thing Achamma deserves the credit for is how she inculcated in me this craze for nursery rhymes. At times, I hark back to the nursery rhyme she would often hum:
Open your mouth
Ha ha ha!
Of course, that onomatopoeic chortle at the end still makes my heart skip a beat.
Anyway, the hardships involved in commuting forced us to leave our ancestral home. After moving several rented dwellings, I found myself in a completely new environment. Things, however, did not change much for me. After all, Achamma and I were still roommates. It did not take me long to develop a new sense of belonging to our new home, the one my parents had built by exhausting all their savings. As I turned fourteen, Achamma began intriguing me even more with her stories. Her narration of the works of Kumar Asan and his masterpiece Veena Poovu (‘A Fallen Flower’) continued to enthrall me.
Times have changed, and so have we. As time passed by, her body refused to let her crochet and knit, which she had previously taught me with effortless ease. Cooking and even bathing on her own became herculean tasks. On a fateful day, she slipped near the washbowl. From there, it just took a couple of weeks for everything to go awry. In 2013, she breathed her last, taking a major part of my soul with her.
These years have seen me fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor; from Aparna Ajith, I have become Dr. Aparna Ajith. Whenever I spend time at Ezhimala with my husband, I feel that Achamma is around, somewhere within me. Given how particular my husband is about stirring his masala tea with a spoon and cleaning the fish with salt, I am almost sure that my late granny has paid him a visit much before I came to Ezhimala, which, by the way, happens to be the former capital of the ancient Mushika kingdom. Just in case you have been wondering, yes, the Mushika Lady still fondly whispers stories in my ears.
Whenever I wield my pen to blend my imagination with reality, the little child in me yearns to reclaim all of Achamma‘s lost territories on paper. After all, she was the one who kick-started my tryst with English literature. In fact, I really hope to come up with a novel of my own someday. What else could be the biggest tribute to the selfless soul who always expected nothing but excellence from me?
A NOTE TO OUR READERS
As is evident from her story, Aparna has also evolved as a skillful writer. Feel free to get in touch with her over her LinkedIn handle if you would like to know more about what genres she likes to explore as a writer.
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