February has been the month of endings for me. Faced with the economic slump, my company let go of some employees. My teammate, someone I’ve worked with for the past two years, bid farewell to work last Thursday. It was sad for me to watch him go.
February was also the month when my periappa bade farewell to this world forever. He passed away on Feb 12 suddenly due to cardiac arrest. For many years, our families had been estranged due to various reasons. I had my own resentments toward him. But that’s not how I want to remember him. Life’s all about editing out the bad parts and retaining the good ones. 20 years from now, I know I’d like to remember my periappa fondly.
He was a man of many excellent qualities. Proud and determined, he along with his brothers, rose up in life through sheer hardwork and dedication. My father used to say that he had vowed to either get into the IAS or do nothing else at all. Of course, he got through and was extremely successful at work. He made as many friends as he did enemies and he did both with passion.
He liked his arguments. Equally at ease with politics, religion or current trends, he would argue with Mani periappa for hours on end. It was very entertaining for the younger members of the family to watch them fight passionately about something totally unrelated to their daily lives. Personally, I used to wonder at his oratory, eloquence and stamina in holding onto his position. My love for English literature was definitely fueled by his oratory and command of the language!
During one of his visits to Trichy, he asked me if I wanted to go eat “good rava dosai and godhumai halwa”. I thought we would go to some nearby restaurant. At exactly around 4.30 in the evening, we both set out to the “best place to eat evening tiffin”. We ended up at the junction of Big Street and Gandhi Market at a small hole in the wall called “Rama’s Cafe”. And sure enough, the home-style rava dosai and halwa served there were the best in the entire town! He loved his food. During family get-togethers, as we all sat down to eat in the traditional banana-leaf, he would pick the “right” banana leaf that would let him have his fill of payasam. Too narrow and you can’t pour too much liquid in it. Too flimsy and the food will fall out of the leaf. He would have the rich payasam toward the end of the meal (instead of in between courses as is the tradition) so nothing else would taint its taste! :)
He was a towering figure in the family in many respects. He raised my father, educated him and helped him make it in life. He helped countless family numbers financially, morally and in other ways. Ultimately, the qualities that made him formidable at work -- pride and stubbornness-- also contributed to his estrangement from the family. He came to my wedding and the last few words he spoke to me were words of blessing.
My grandmother used to say that my brother was the exact replica of how Pasupathy periappa used to look in his childhood. B definitely has periappa in his make-up somewhere. He sleeps like periappa -- one leg crossed over the other knee. He loves sweets as much as periappa did and he has the same streak of stubborn-ness in him. Maybe that’s why periappa loved him so much.
I am glad I didn’t see periappa’s body in the end. I find it very hard to imagine a man of his vitality lying very cold and still. Farewell, periappa, rest in peace.