RIP Ayakkad Appa
We all wish our parents were immortal and they would live for a long, long time. At whatever age a parent dies, peacefully or in suffering – the void will still remain in our lives, even though others would reassure us that he/she had lived a good life.
Having lost both my parents by the age of 32, my in-laws Appa and Amma were the closest I would have as parents. As is the custom, we would also call them Appa and Amma as they were our parents too.
With the passing away of Appa recently, there would be nobody to call Appa or as I would say, Ayakkad Appa. He was a great soul, very flexible in his ways, jovial, widely travelled and a ‘no-complaints’ policy that endeared him to all.
He never treated us, his daughters-in-law differently and would often go out of his way to make us feel comfortable. I remembered when I got married and came to Ayakkad, it was my first experience in a gramam setting. Appa would painstakingly boil water for baths in a wooden stove and pour it into buckets in the bathroom. Later when I was pregnant, I used to be scared to go to the bathroom which was at the back of the house. He would accompany me and stand guard, saying, ‘Onnum varadhu’ (there is nothing here). He would do so many times, even in the middle of the night.
Till the day he died, he would wash his own clothes, clean the puja vessels, draw water from the well for cooking, chop vegetables and scrape coconut for my mother-in-law. Theirs was a cute relationship – Amma would forbid him to eat fried food and Appa would counter with a sarcastic comment. In a way both of them were child-like, living their old age at their own pace. He was also president of the grama samoohan and respected by all.
He would often recollect memories from the past, his stint at the Kollengode Palace, his passion for black & white photography, how the Land Act changed the family’s entire fortunes, his RSS days and more. Last year, I chanced upon some of his job applications and was surprised at his mastery over the language. In his trunk, I also discovered an old railway ticket from 1955 when he had taken his mother to Kashi.
He was a foodie but never had any specific preferences. Every dish would be met with a ‘Besh!’ (superb). He loved garlic rasam and would argue with Amma and make it himself. The foodie gene has passed on rightfully to everyone in the family, and by association to the daughters-in-law as well.
My parents were very close to Amma and Appa and they would take over the kitchen on their visits to Cochin. My father was a great fan of Amma’s cooking and I would often wake up at 7 and see Appa (my father-in-law) chopping vegetables and Amma making the choicest dishes for my father. Theirs was a relationship that went beyond ‘sammandhi’ or in-laws.
One of the most important qualities I fervently wish we and the kids would also imbibe is the ‘no-complaint’ attitude. If some relative did not turn up for a function he would say, ‘Vandha vaa koopdarom, varata virodhum illai’. (If they come, I will welcome with open arms, if they don’t I have no complaints!’ ) That together with absolutely no trace of ill will defined him as a great person.
Appa left for his heavenly abode on December 15. RIP Appa, you will live on in our hearts.