Reminiscing about ones association with an uncle is a tough task at the best of times. And when the protagonist happens to be a dear ol’ bloke (pardon my French!) like Aniyanman, it’s rendered doubly so. You wouldn’t want to miss out gloating over the positive encounters, while treading the fine line, and overlooking his failings (I can hear the whispers questioning “does he really have any?”; hold on folks! More on that later!) But the shashtipurti of the gentleman in question, a milestone in any man’s life, is reason enough to warrant putting ones pen to paper (or the finger to the keyboard, in this instance) and letting loose that volley of remembrances that are stored in quaint niches of ones memory.
My earliest recollection of Aniyanman is actually not really early enough. Rather, it’s rather recent! I don’t seem to have encountered this epitome of self-assurance during my annual pilgrimage to Kerala as a kid. The fact that we used to be in perpetual motion (defying all laws of Physics!) between Trissur and Velur, transgressing infrequently to Painkulam, meant that Tripunithura (where Aniyanman presumably spent the better part of his vacation) was never on the itinerary. I recall only one occasion of visiting Tripunithura, and I have no qualms in stating with a reasonable amount of certainty that the gent in question wouldn’t have been infesting those precincts, since it’s downright unlikely that one would have missed his booming, good-natured presence.
Be that as it may, I first ran into Aniyanman in Pune at the wedding reception of Ajithettan and Indu (Jan 1993?). He accosted a clueless me and demanded to know whether I knew who he was. Completely at a loss, I sheepishly grinned and acknowledged self-defeat. At that, in his inimitable (and overwhelmingly informal) style, he introduced himself as (one of) my (myriad) karnawars. If I recall correctly, his words were “Nan thande oru karnawar aannu edo”. “Umm…” I murmured, at once apologetic and illuminated. From then on, our encounters were far more frequent, no doubt, assisted by my movement to Lonavla, a place in close proximity to Bombay, the residence of Aniyanman.
Marriage, they say, is a turning point in ones life. It definitely was in my case (but that’s another story!), and by a strange quirk of fate, Aniyanman had a finger in that pie (and a big one at that!). My prospective father-in-law, accompanied by his brother (another Aniyanman aka Belapur Valyachen) and the Late Rudranman had visited me at Lonavla to “check me out” as it were, to assess the potential for a possible matrimonial alignment. Having satisfied themselves, in the next stage of an elaborate ritual, achan and amma were invited to Bombay to check Manju (my eventual good lady!) out. After all that brouhaha, finally it was our turn (yours truly’s and Manju’s) to meet up and check each other out. On the appointed day, I landed up from Lonavla at Kamalavalyyama’s place at Govandi. We were contemplating our next move (Govandi to Goregaon (where Manju stayed) can be a long haul at the best of times), when Aniyanman offered to “do the dirty” and drive me and Rudranman to Goregaon. I had Gitammayi too, in tow. She insisted it was for company, but I have this strong suspicion that she was there to chaperone me, lest I try some old sailor’s stunt during my tête-à-tête with the prospective bride! The rest, as they say, is history! I was betrothed to (and besotted with) Manju, and used every excuse in the rule book (and out of it!) to travel to Bombay from Lonavla over weekends, weekdays and the days in between. During these jaunts, the BPCL Colony in Chembur would often be home to me, drawing me deeply into an association with Aniyanman that has bonded well over the years.
Shortly thereafter, I went through a great personal misfortune. On my way to Bhilai (to convalesce from that traumatic event), Aniyanman again played host to achan, amma and I. During that stay, there was a cultural event where Kavita and Kiran were participating, and all of us were planning to attend that. Since Manju had come over to Chembur, we (I and Manju) decided to give it a miss and catch up(!). We hadn’t walked around the sacred fire as yet (read, were as yet, unmarried), and sensing that leaving us all alone in the house would be a trifle awkward (lest we should get into a “situation”), Aniyanman, selflessly, volunteered to stay back (and, in the event, miss his kids’ performances) so that the rest of the gang could go out, attend the performance, and have a jolly good time, while we (Manju and I) had a jolly good time under the vigilant eye of the redoubtable karnawar.
On my return from Bhilai, post recuperation, there he was at it again, at the Dadar Railway Station to receive me and take me home. I don’t know what prompted me to request him to be there, despite so many others being there, but then, there are inexplicables, and then there are inexplicables! So let’s leave it at that.
Our association continued on the ascendant, as I moved into Ghatkopar from Lonavla later. That was the phase when Aniyanman, not quite sure of where his professional life was headed, decided to take the plunge, and move into entrepreneurial ventures. I remember having visited his office setup in Andheri and later in Chembur, where he used to describe to me in great detail, the vision he had, of the work that he was up to. He stayed bitten by that bug for quite some time to come.
Soon after that, I moved into Delhi, and our interaction reduced to that over telephone and the occasional meeting in Kerala/ Bombay. But I dare say that he is one of our kin who has always remained in touch. In fact, that is one quality that I have always admired about Aniyanman; his innate urge to communicate and share the news about the loved ones. Seldom does a month pass before you hear his reassuring voice, booming over the phone. Hats off to you Aniyanman, for being so persistent during these times, when it’s so easy to lose touch, despite so many avenues to be in touch! And I must say that Kavita and Kiran have imbibed that habit rather well.
Aniyanman, as you celebrate this landmark event in your life, I am sure there’s not a soul around who would dispute the fact that you have lived life on your own terms! You are blessed with a heart of gold, and the good Thirivanjikuzhi Lord, I am sure, will keep it ticking for years to come, so that several generations after ours, are able to partake of that suffusing love. All I can wish for is that you continue to do what you are great at – spreading your charm, love and grace.
Meantime, have a blast on your special day. Here’s looking forward to toast you on your shatabhishekam, centennial celebrations and well beyond!
PS. Recall that I alluded to certain failings of the B’day boy earlier on. Recall also, that I promised you more on that later. Ladies and gentlemen, please relax, let go of your (collective) bated breaths and hardened jaws, for without permission, I accord myself poetic license, and save that juicy bit for my account during the shatabhishekam of the man in question. Rest assured, my kith and kin, I shall expound on them in graphic details. That, is a soldier’s promise!