MEMORIES OF RAJU
In the late fifties, as a young girl I remember my road trips to Valavanur with my parents,sometimes on the way to Trichy.The village atmosphere which was enthralling, with fertile and lush green fields, was very new for a city bred girl like me.
A special occasion to visit Valavanur was during Raju’s Poonal .It was a grand affair.A beautiful pandal was erected in front of their house,covering the entire street.It was very well attended and that was when we got to see the respect and affection the whole family received from the locals.
When Raju ,Vatsan and Sekhar were in college in Chennai,they used to visit us during weekends and holidays at our Gandhinagar 2ndMain Road house,play a game of cricket with my brother and enjoy the hot crispy Bajjis and pakodas my grand mother used to make.Raju was a connoisseur of the good things in life and an avid foodie.Till the end he used to tell that he never tasted anything like those goodies and the Rasam that my grandma,Sita Athanga used to make.
Our house had a huge garden with lot of mango trees.During peak season when the trees were in full bloom he would ask,”Is it not inviting? How is it that you are not throwing stones to pluck the mangoes to eat?”
Very soon he got into IA&AS and was in various places.I still remember the shell ear tops he got for me and my sister from Andamans.I attended his marriage at Tirupathi .During our LTC trip to Delhi in 1978 we visited them in their Moti Bagh residence.He presented my son Jeyanandh a pair of race cars which I still have and my grandson plays with them when he comes from the US.For many years after that we became busy with our own families and met only at some family weddings.
One fine day in Dec 2003 he called me from Delhi and told that he had bought a house in Bangalore and was planning to settle down here.Since Raji was away at Oxford he asked whether I could arrange to perform a simple grihapravesham.I was very happy to organize it and he was also very impressed.After he moved I was amazed at the way he set up the house single handedly.He had such excellent taste.
The next few years we became very close.Every year for Varalaksmi Vratham he was sure to bring Raji and his mother and enjoy the kozhukattai,sundal and payasam.Suddenly in the year 2009 on Varalaksmi Pooja evening he gave me a beautiful silk saree.When I gave a surprised look he said,”you are my sister;to whom else can I give?” He also enjoyed watching cricket and never missed an opportunity to witness the IPL cricket matches at the Chinnaswamy stadium. He really enjoyed the festive atmosphere with its entertainment and hospitality.
Kasyab, my younger son, was his favourite nephew. Raju used to pick his brains for any computer related problems he faced and also enjoyed teasing him and pulling his legs.Raju was largely instrumental in pushing his career growth and being what he is today in his profession.
Then there was the picnic to Lepakshi not far from Bangalore near the Andhra border.We were accompanied by my mother,Kappu Peri and Kaushik .From Lepakshi,Raju was very keen to take us to near by Hindupur for saree shopping, in which he was more interested than me or Raji.There he bought a saree for his mother and surprised my mother with a pretty saree saying,”chithi, this is for your 80th Birthday”.
Then it was in July 2014,the day before he left for Chennai,that he called me and asked me to come home. He insisted that we visit him even if it meant getting there late in the evening.When we were stuck in traffic and were late,he again called and asked “why are you still not here”?He was very cheerful,never looked like he was going in for a major surgery. He was very composed and full of confidence considering the circumstances.
When I told him about Kasyab’s impending marriage in January 2015,he said,”he is my favourite nephew! How can I miss his marriage?” He gave us some useful legal tips on the marriage registration formalities. He came till the gate to see us off . Little did we realise that it would be the last we would see of him. Within a few days we learned that he did not recover from the surgery he underwent.He was gone forever leaving us with only with his obit photograph and that wonderful and warm smile of his.That is one memory which will remain with us forever.