Wednesday, June 25, 2008


There are day and events in my childhood that I remember very clearly. But you ask me to put them in chronological order and I turn up a complete sucker! Whether I got my first bike when I was 7 or 8 - i would not be able to tell you. I'd have to sweat to tell you which school I went to when I was 12 (partly because my parents moved around a lot!). I do not have the remotest memory of any conversation I had with my Mom in my early childhood. I do know that my parents loved me dearly and raised me the right way. For me my childhood is a long blur of events that strung together to mould the person that I am today. I was a happy child and I could not have asked for a more carefree childhood !

Many a time in my young adult life I have made a conscious effort to organize my childhood in my mind - Just because of the 'feel-good' feeling that it gave me - but everytime i try doing this the same blur of events flash past in my mind's eye. Thoughts of the simple beautiful childhood that i had, gives me a warm feeling inside and my effort at reconstructing it is usually interrupted by some random chore of everyday life. Now, caught up in the unforgiving world of research, in a land far from the place I call home - such efforts at self introspection are few and far between. A few months back while spending the night at work waiting for a reaction to go to completion (in my PhD chemistry lab) I found myself flirting with this usually futile exercise again! This time however the end result was quite pleasantly different ...

This time I tried to remember specific conversations from my childhood. The very first line that came to my mind was "this is how we know the earth is round... " ; I tried focussing harder "They called the great man a HALF NAKED FAKIR"; I was doing good! "Christopher Columbus first thought the earth was flat!" . " Aarum arupathum erupathum pathinaalum enthanu mone (what is 6+60+20+14 my son?) ". " If you don't stand up on the bench, I will stand up on the bench" " Mone othiri praarthikanum (you should pray a lot my son!)" . "Always take care of your watch, spectacles and wallet". " Mone ninne kaananum ( I want to see you)". " Mathacha ee paisa kondu oru shirtum pantum vangikanam (Mathew you should buy a shirt and a pant with this money)"

My grandad!! my achachan!! Every single conversation that came to mind was ones that I had had with him! And as I sat there I asked myself... WHY? My mind toiled with all the possible explanation for why almost every recollection of my childhood led me to this unique person and what my mind came up with was an explanation so simple so beautiful yet so profound! An explanation that salutes the spirit of this wonderful man, An explanation that makes my heart swell in gratitude for having had this great human being in my life...

My parents loved me. You ask my parents about me and they'll tell you - Mathachan was an angel when he was 8 ... He was a brat when he was 12 ... All he cared for was cricket when he was 14 .... He wouldn't do engineering when he was 18.. He loved chemistry with a passion... My parents grew up with me. They treated me and gave me the respect my age demanded! For them I was Mathachan the child, Mathachan the adolescent, Mathachan the wild teenager and now Mathachan the young adult.

For Achachan, I was Mathachan - his grandson. The relationship was ageless. Here was a man who loved me with his whole heart and took upon himself to teach me everything that he knew. He didn't care if I was 8 or I was 23! I was still that innocent little grandson who held his hand as he proudly paraded him around the streets of Changanassery(my home town) on his routine evening walks. He told me about Christopher Columbus when I was 8 and when I was 20 - both times with the same passion. The last time I visited him in Trivandrum (I was 24) and he still asked me what those four numbers added upto! He told me about Gandhiji and the round table conference, he gave me money to buy myself a pair of clothes, He inquired about my spectacles, watch and wallet and he told me I should pray a lot. He joked about the teacher who threatened to stand up on the bench, He did and said everything that I associated with my Achachan.

Were these the rantings of an old man or did he just think I was slow? Or was it just that he wanted me to be as innocent, attentive and loving of a grandson as I had always been with him? I think the latter... Today Achachan is 93 and I'm 25. I have seen him change from a strong fiery personality to a man who has accepted the limitations of his age. He's seen me change from a innocent little boy to a mature grown adult. But put us together today and we'll hit off just the way we did 20 years ago. Having the same conversations, sharing the same love and living in the knowledge that no matter how life changes, he will be my achachan and I - his Mathachan.