This post is dedicated to our nearest and dearest Meena who left us for her heavenly abode last month. The very name given to the title is what Meena would have loved. Writing about Meena alone will be incomplete without talking about the couple together. The thought of writing this post was supported by Meena’s daughter Bhanu who provided a lot of spice to the post by narrating many of the anecdotes that follow.
To verbatim quote Bhanu, this is what she said “My mother was a noble soul, calm and composed. I have never seen her getting worked up under any circumstances. She was a guiding force to all our relatives and they feel it is more their loss than ours. I recall Emerson who had rightly said "What is home without a mother? Mothers really have a special place in our hearts. When I think of Amma, I remember her witty, spontaneous one liners which she had for every situation.”.
Meena and Rajappa Athimber were a lovely couple loved and admired by one and all. There are a lot of fond memories about both of them and an attempt is made to capture some of them for the sake of posterity. Meena, as we used to call her was extremely loving, affable, caring and a jovial lady. Can’t think of a dull moment with her. She regaled us with her anecdotes, puns and ‘ín the moment” humour. She had us all in splits of laughter all the time and we literally laughed our bellies out. One never knew when one would be the butt of her jokes but these were always simple and matter of fact. As a human being, she was a great host and this home had a lot of visitors. She was the cynosure of all eyes in all family get together, and people literally swarmed her for the light hearted humour. Like Reba McEntire had said “”To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone”. She had all the three in ample measure.
Meena and Athimber lived in Mylapore, Chennai. I can recall the days I spent with them when I was in the South of India for seven and half years. There was no occasion when I lost an opportunity to visit them at their home in Chennai. A lot of times I have stayed over and spend time discussing various things with this wonderful couple. Many a time, I went unannounced just to surprise them but the hospitality was always the same. Welcomed with smiles all over their faces and making me comfortable is something I specifically remember. Meena, whatever time I landed, would prepare steaming hot food and serve this with total love and affection. One does not get these in restaurants nowadays whatever the cost you pay. One could see the joy overflowing in the couple when relatives and friends visited them. Then there would be tons of anecdotes and stories about what they had seen, observed and experienced during their various interactions with neighbours, friends, relatives, watching the TV and reading books. I often did not realise how time flies, and the three of us would be talking and laughing till the wee hours only to be reminded by Meena that I have to attend office the next day. She would quip in saying that my Athimber was a retired guy whereas I was employed. She would also add light heartedly that it was difficult to get away from her husband’s discussions easily because he would catch your shirt button and latch on to you. And the only way out was to abandon one’s shirt. Anecdotes galore and I will deal with some of them.
Most poignant one was about their honeymoon to Elephanta Caves. Honeymoon as understood in common parlance is ‘quiet time’ for the couple. It was not so in the nineteen fifties. The whole family went with the couple. Meena used to say that whenever both of them decided to have a quieter moment between themselves, the children ran after them and parked themselves with the couple. So much for honey mooning with your husband along with the sisters, cousins and grandfather. Yet there was joy and happiness in the family togetherness.
Meena, 19 years old, lost her ring. After a frantic search, it was decided to lodge a police complaint. The grandfather, being the eldest in the honeymoon group complained to the police saying “My little child has lost her ring”. When asked for the age of the child, the policeman was bemused that the “child” was nineteen years old, six feet tall and married. A doting grandfather indeed!
Meena had other interesting incidents to share with us. This was when she was a teenager. She along with her sister, father and mother had decided on a long vacation to Lonavala,. Her father, Sundaram, suffered a severe asthmatic attack at the location and told his wife, “Chelamma, I am unable to bear this, I think I will go”. Chelamma Paatti (mother) was supposed to have replied "All of us can go tomorrow", not really realizing that he was talking about his life going away because of the attack. This was followed by a hearty laugh, with the father also joining the fun. An innocent and loving soul was she, Chelamma, the best in our family.
At Chennai, most of the neighbours in their building would leave their keys at Meena’s house whenever they went out. Meena, one day, remarked to her husband "Everybody leaves the keys with us because we are the “key” people in this building”.
Yet another day, while watching a programme on SUN TV, she had remarked “ For her son in law, Birlan, life is all about SUN in his life ie SUN TV and SON, Ajay..
When her niece from Delhi had come to visit Meena, the niece had remarked that the bathroom was wet and that she required to mop the floor. Meena in her usual lighter vein replied in Hindi " Maaf Kijiye, par zaroor mop kijiye." So much for play on words.
All of us in our family loved and respected Meena and Athimber very much. A lovely adorable and loving couple just made for each other. Both of them are not with us but they are deeply engraved in our hearts forever. I sometimes ask myself wistfully “Will humour be the same again in our family?” The answer is begging the question.
To conclude, I again quote what Bhanu mentioned "A day without laughter is a day wasted. My mother truly believed in this saying”.
Miss you Meena and Athimber. May your soul RIP.