There was, for me, one love which did not hurt except in death. I never speak of it to anybody. Even when in love i hesitate to share Appachan. Appachan was mine and he was not to be shared with anything related to pain. He never hurt me and his love was precious.
For the past two days i have been dreaming of Appachan, my grandfather. Appachan, who gave me reading, his many word games, who said that i could use his lines and it still wouldn't be plagiarism (he chucked copyright away much before i learned the term), who knew meanings of all words i asked him while i sat with a book and he with another, who said gadget meant കുന്ത്രാണ്ടം and made me laugh yet understand what it meant, who sung me to sleep, who read me to sleep, with whom i slept for the most part of my childhood, who said that my arm on his back was like a feather.
Appachan, who grew up in Veethulikkunnu, Kunnamkulam, Kerala. Twenty years of his life there before he left for Bombay. Like how later his grandchild left for Kolkata after twenty years in Kozhikode. He gave all of those twenty years to me with his stories of Veethulikkunnu which got its name because of the shape the hill was in. A broad chisel. He lived in a house which was named Hillview by himself and his brother. They had a sister who died of cancer when she was 20. There was a cemetery behind the house which was close to the church. All of my dead are buried there. Most of my love went to people there.
When Appachan was a little boy one of his uncles gifted him a tennis ball. Yellow and bouncy, the children loved it. Their evenings which were usually of football turned around to new games with the little yellow ball. A happy little thing, unlike the tattered cloth ball they had earlier. One of those days the happy ball bounced up a path they failed to foresee. It bounced its way to the cemetery. Past the Kanjiramaram (Snake-wood) and the iron gate which must not have been rusted then. They looked for the ball, all of them and Appchan did in increased desperation. He loved the ball so. They never got it.
When he told me this story i tried comforting him saying 'It's a vast place. It could have been anywhere in there. Not your fault that you couldn't find it'. He smiled. His upper lip had a small bump. I once tried getting one such by biting my lip ritualistically. It bled and gave me no bump. I got in the habit of biting my lips till they bled. Still no bump. So he smiled his bumpy lipped smile and said 'No, it's not that. Nothing and nobody who went in there ever returned'.
His sister didn't. His brother didn't. His son, my father, didn't. His wife, Amma, didn't. He didn't, like how his tennis ball didn't.
Kaanjiram (കാഞ്ഞിരം) bears poisonous fruit. That is the tree which stood guard to the cemetery. It has been a few years since i visited the place but i can feel its shadow on me. Once when we visited the place with Appachan and Amma we spotted a peacock there. It cawed and fled when it saw us. On that hill where a man spent twenty years of his long life of 89 years was where his perakkutty (grand child) sprouted wings to soar her skies of sadness. Kaanjiram shed its fruit. I was earth and took the poison in. The casuarina trees (ചൂളമരം) up there made for the strange music to which i danced. Oh all my life was one stolen line which Appachan wrote. No copyright. A captain-less ship.
Kunju Thalona once made a painting of me and Appachan which said everything about us. That was how i slept beside him. I would place my arm around him and ask if it bothered him. That was when he would say it was light as a feather. That was why i asked him that every time i hugged him. He kept a torch beside him on the window sill. On it were other things as his medicine box, his fine toothed comb and always a book. My years of blissful sleep were the ones in which i slept beside him. Never after that have i had unperturbed sleep.
|Appachan and i. Painting by Kunju Thalona|
Last night i had the second consecutive dream about him. I don't remember the first one. In my dream i had made a music video with some of my photographs on instagram. There were a lot of dogs and cats. I was shooting. I shot a lot of footage which i could use in some film i was making. Later i saw that one of the kittens was killed by a dog. I witnessed that murder. I shot it. I held the dead kitten and i was bloody. A lot of animals were dying around me and the Pink Floyd like music was playing all the while. Then i saw my photographs being projected on sky. The closest to the music i heard would be High Hopes by Pink Floyd. I ran. I ran to Appachan like how i used to in my childhood when i got the spellings wrong and Amma ran behind me with drumsticks to spank me. Appachan was on a chair in a room under the ground which i learned was where we lived. There was a film camera there. Purnendu da who took care of cameras in the institute was there too, dusting it. Appachan spoke to me and i started laughing. I saw D Jeet there in some time.
When i woke up i only had blood in my head. All that blood from all those dead animals. A trail of blood which led to our house under the ground. We were marked, Appachan and i. Oh my!