Sunday, August 3, 2014

M.D. Narayana Iyer, Chapter 11

Appa was a civil engineer. For a technical person, his knowledge of English literature, history, etc., was awesome.  He had made in in-depth study of practically all of Shakespeare's plays. Among others, he had read the romantic poets, Dickens and George Bernard Shaw.  His advice to the younger generation was "read Jane Austen to develop a good style of writing." Sometime into his career, he started learning Sanskrit and became very proficient in the language.  He had read Valmiki's Ramayanam, several of Kalidasa's plays and other Sanskrit works.  After retirement, he spent two hours every day reading Sanskrit literature, and two hours reading English literature.

He was punctual to a fault.  His meals were eaten exactly on time and his various activities also followed a strict time schedule.

Appa had great aesthetic sense.  After retirement, he built a beautiful home in nearly an acre of land in Thrissur.  Here he planted various fruit trees and other plants, including several varieties of mango trees, coconut trees, etc.  Rare plants bloomed and flourished in his flower garden.

Lovely rosewood furniture, rare paintings and other beautiful objects adorned his home. He had an excellent library also.

He was a very generous person. He financially helped a number of poor students who did not have the means to continue their education. He was very fond of his younger brother Rasu, and after the latter's death, took a paternal interest in his children.

Appa was a very frugal person.  It was his frugality which enabled him to educate his three children very well, sending Manikutty abroad (he offered to send Dharmu abroad also, but he declined the offer) and ensuring financial stability for all of them.  But sometimes this frugality brought about some amusing moments. Appa felt that Brinda (then a teenager) was wasting toothpaste and so decided he would ration out her toothpaste.  So, whenever Brinda wanted to brush her teeth, Appa squeezed out just enough toothpaste for her.  Once, Appa developed a severe chest infection and very high fever (even the doctors were very worried about him). Even on that day, Brinda, on waking up, found to her astonishment that the toothbrush was ready on the wash basin, with the toothpaste already squeezed out onto it. Despite a temperature of 104, Appa (in his 80s then) found the strength to get up and do it. Really remarkable, indeed!

There were some hilarious moments also with Appa.  He did not particularly care for movies (actually, the only movie I remember him seeing was David Copperfield). One day, my cousin, Indi and I decided to go for a movie. There was a long discussion about who would escord us back home from the theatre, when the movie ended at 9 pm.  Indi was around 8 or 9 and I was 14 or 15. We argued that we were capable of coming home on our own and my mother said that we were too young to come back home by ourselves so late in the evening. Suddenly, Appa volunteered to come to the theatre to escort us back. Indi and I were stunned into silence - Appa coming to the theatre was so out of character. Then he dropped the punch line - we had to get out of the theatre at 7.30! We wanted us to see onl half the movie. Luckily, the problem was solved for us.  The theatre introduced an afternoon show, so we could return home alone.

Appa was fond of music, especially Carnatic music.  He had a good collection of 78 RPM records. But the main source of music was the radio. Here Appa had some stron likes and dislikes, Madurai Mani Iyer being one of his dislikes, strange to say!

In APpa's household, everybody had a say in all matters.  It was a truly democratic setup.  Even the youngest child must be listened to, if what it says makes sense, was his view.

Appa did not believe in ritualistic religion.  But he did not impose his views on others.

Here are a few of the sayings Appa was fond of quoting:

"Sathyam bhruyath (tell the truth)

Priyam bhruyath (tell what is pleasing)

Na Bhruyath sathyam apriyam (do not say the truth which is not pleasing)

Priyam asathyam bhi na bhruyath "(do not indulge in insincere flattery).

"In words, wisdom, in deeds, courage, and in life, service".

Saturday, August 2, 2014

M.D. Narayana Iyer, Chapter 10

In this narrative, I have not written much about Appa's third child, Dharmu. This is not because he was in any way inferior to his siblings, but the special qualities of Appa, which this narrative is about, did not have much chance to play in Dharmu's life.  Dharmu stood first in the presidency for his B.Sc. as well as B.E. (hons.) from Guindy and cleared the All India competitive exam for engineers.  He married Janaki, daughter of C.V. Venkateswaran.  Dharmu retired as Chief Engineer of CPWD. Inshort, Dharmu lead a "regular" life, and Appa was proud of him.

Appa was very fond of Dharmu's three children, Brinda, Ramesh and Hema, Brinda being his favourite.

M.D. Narayana Iyer, Chapter 9

During his stay in England, Manikutty had met Parvathi Kumaramangalam, and in his own words, it was love at first sight. Parvathi was the daughter of Dr. P. Subbarayan, a very well-known public figure, and Radhabai Subbarayan, a social activist.  Parvathi also returned to India around the same time as Manikutty. They continued to see other and the mutual attraction, aided by common interests and political views. The relationship grew from strength to strength, until they finally arrived at the natural conclusion - marriage.

The Subbarayans were definitely not Palghat Brahmins. Manikutty wanted to marry Parvathi with his parents' blessings. With great trepidation, Manikutty told his father about his interest in Parvathi, and sought his approval for the union. However, there was absolutely no hesitation on his parents' part. Appa had only one reservation, which he conveyed to his son. "We are middle-class people, and they are zamindars.  She should not feel that she has married beneath her." A very relevant concern from a fond father.  Manikutty convinced his father that financial status did not come into the picture at all and that they were planning to live in a commune.

Even in today's time and world, parents frown upon an Iyer marrying an Iyengar, or a Trichy Brahmin marrying a Tanjore Brahmin, and even disown their children for marrying out of caste. What Appa, a person brought up in a small village in Kerala, did in the 1940's, is truly remarkable.

Parvathi was welcomed with open arms into the family. Caste was never an issue.  Every year, Appa used to spend a few enjoyable weeks with Manikutty and Parvathi. Their daughter, Indi, had a close relationship with her paternal grandparents.