I have been wanting to write this post for over a year and each time I tried to blog I felt I would tarnish the memories if I didn’t do a good job of writing it.
So to do justice..this will be a long and winding post.
There are a lot of Malayalee families in Malaysia. Most started of with men leaving Kerala to work in Singapore in the early 40’s, often in the estates, engineering and medical services. Then there were teachers who were employed by the British to work in schools in remote areas. These men went back to Kerala to get married and settled down in Singapore/Malaya with their newly arrived wives.
And almost all the imported wives had very similar traits.
They were forever in competition with the others.
So if their husband bought a new car, they then will start on an epic journey of visiting the rest of the malayalee families.
If they bought a new TV, then there will be new set of dinner invitations send to all and sundry.
If their son or daughter learned the first step of Bharatha Natyam dance, then they will fight for their child to be given the lead role in the latest skit at the sunday school annual party on the basis of their child being the most culturally appropriate candidate for the role !
I dreaded the dinner invitations most.
First of all, I get to starve because serving a lot of vegetarian dishes meant the host was stingy !
Then there were the interrogations. Your whole life story will be dug out in a matter of few seconds and all the pieces will be examined closely for any anomaly.
Then you have to endure the impromptu singing by the kids of the host !
All I wanted in those times were a few shots of vodka and if those women knew I drink, I would have been history. So I couldn’t even ask for a drink.
Then there was she !
The first time I was invited to her home for dinner, I was tempted to weasel out. But I was close to her nephews.
So I went,
Her house was simple, spacious and tidy.
We talked..but she didn’t ask me anything about my family or my life history. We were talking about art and famous Indian painters !
She served rice, moru and payaru for dinner. ( She knew I was a vegetarian)And for meat lovers there was fish fry.
(Digressing a bit, Her payaru thoran had shredded cabbage in it and when I came home, I asked my mother if she knew that we could add cabbage to payar thoran. Amma’s reply was classic. “She added cabbage because she was too stingy to use coconut !!”)
If I could use a single word to describe her, it would be “dignified”
It was very rare to meet a person like her.
She stood out in her simple cotton sarees among the silk saree wearing, gold decked women, She was happy to be who she was and didn’t need the latest the TV or car to be happy.
Every time I met her, there was a sense of peace i could find in her. You never had to pretend to be anyone in her presence. She liked you for who you are.
She was also Yaya’s godmother.
When I left Malaysia, I didn’t say good bye to anyone. I hate goodbyes. I also hate to keep in touch.
I was told that she passed away few years ago.
I don’t live a life of regrets. But I find it harder to have some sort of closure knowing that I never kept in touch.
So this is my peace offering.
You were loved very much.