Saturday, December 3, 2016

I present..English mariyumma

When I wind up for the day, and my feet  up, I reflect on the hours that has bid good bye forever. Was it eventful, was it beautiful, did it brighten any lives..or did anybody brighten mine? Some days you feel you could have done much more, and I chide myself to be more aware of precious time. You fit in everything in the space of time, and if you so desire, with more awareness, it could turn out to be beautiful memories.

Turn of events meander through people and places and chance encounters towards incidents that matter. That is how I met ninety year old Maliyekkal Mariyumma or popularly known as 'English Mariyumma'.  Here goes the turn of events.  My husband introduces me to his new manger..Meet Onassis..Onassis? Despite knowing that hubby wouldn’t approve..I blurted, "How did you get your name?". he told me that he came from "The Maliyekkal family" of Tellicherry and his father was a good reader, avid movie goer and a man of the world..hence given the name after the Greek tycoon..Onassis. 

We were discussing the idea of having a Malabar snack fest, as he said that his wife was an expert in traditional Muslim snacks. So it happened that they came over with a truckload of snacks..only to swoon when they knew that we were veggies. Then we were invited there to a delicious spread of veg snacks..and more.. warmer stories and melodies. An aged and sick aunt who had no children were living with them..though of poor health..she sang us old songs which they compose to be sung on special occasions, like the welcoming of the groom, a song when the radio revolution appeared..etc. A casual mention of their aunt, English Mariyumma..sparked a fire in me..I liked what I heard, and the very next day took off to Tellicherry again to spend a day of stories, with simple people who had nothing but love in their hearts..blessed me!

 The Maliyekkal house...

The Maliyekkal House stood tall and proud, and beside it lived English Mariyumma.  We rang the bell and there she is..English Mariyumma..opened the lock of the grilled veranda and invited me in..Old furniture whispered sweet nothings, and medals and mementos occupied a showcase. Photographs which are history..which made a distinct mark, where all over the walls. I was floored by her innocence, her beauty, her warmth..Her love for people strikes you as soon as you meet her, her love of narration warms you to her.. her pot was brimming with stories .. she began…how  her father was a man ahead of his times and made her and her sisters join an English Convent Sacred Hearts Girls High school. A conservative society threw stones..but the new school and her class mates totally mesmerized her..she went in a covered cycle rickshaw and she was the only Muslim girl at shool, and the only girl who knew no English. She told her dad that she stood out like a sore thumb..English tuition followed and she soon mastered the language.  She used to go to her aunt’s house for lunch, but had to discontinue as miscreants threw stones at her lunch was sent to school, and the teachers arranged a special room for her to do her prayers and have lunch.
Grand mother of English mariyumma
Her grand mother, who had started the “Muslim MaHila Samajam” for girls irrespective of caste and creed  was her inspiration .Tailoring classes were conducted and so many were given  a means of livelihood. Many eminent personalities visited the Samaj, and annual days were conducted with gusto.

She recalls the times where she was invited to speak,and her speeches in English won her standing ovations, and motivated girls to continue their studies. I aked her to pose for a pic and asked about the chain she wore in the photos I saw..Immediately she fished out two beautifully crafted gold chains and her daughter helped her clasp it. Then she asked for the album , and out came reels and reels of memories. Pictures with Indira Gandhi..she told me she still favors the Congress..
with Smt Indira Gandhi

There was a picture with Lakshmi Nair (the Cookery queen of the Malayalam Television), who  had come to cook with her, hearing of her culinary prowess..she taught Lakshmi Nair her famous “Panjaara paata”  and lace rotis, and nura pathal.  As we leafed through the album, her lean finger pointed to the people in it..all etched in her memory, and her enthusiasm and innocence touched my heart. It was not a business she was was a charity project.. each picture had a story behind and we laughed over so many little trivials. I could sit there for ages, shall come back again..if I had to touch the tip of the iceberg that she is..Have to come back another day and visit the ancient “Maliyekkal House”. 

Now,  my feet is up on the bed, I snuggled in happily recalling a special day..a day that I wished was longer..any way it will linger for ever..reach..

With the bishop

Here she comes adorned with her colorful jewelry

with her husband

1 comment:

  1. Soo well written Chandini, I am soo in love with this house and its hospitable people.