You know how life can be a ***** if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people? Mine was like that for a rather long time. That entire time that we call the “prime of our youth”. From the time I was born till I was about…40ish, as you may say?
By then, I’d seen the worst of people, lived in the worst of places, been used, abused and seldom spared. And at that kind of age, having lived through that kind of pain, you sort of stop believing. At least, I did. Several times, several things.
I stopped believing there could be happiness. I stopped believing there could be joy. I stopped believing there could be light. And wind. And aromas. And good feelings. And love. And care. And hugs. A pat on the back. A clean bed. Some good food. A bath. A home. A family.
More than anything, I stopped believing there could be good people. Like really good human beings. I had only seen the kind that abused me: verbally, physically, mentally. Though I’ve had my escapes, I seldom saw any difference in the ones I ended up with.
In my early 40s, I managed to escape from that hell I’d been in till then. From a group of people who used and tortured me, I was sent to a house where they still wanted to use me. The guy in the house wanted me to get him his shoes, his paper, his bag. In a couple of days, he realised that I had no clue what he wanted of me, and he dropped me back where he’d picked me up from. I was then sent to another house, where a lady seemed to rather like me, but her man couldn’t stand the sight of me. I had to be “returned to the pool” again. Someone else then took me to their house. These folks were gentler, was kind to me, seemed to care for my needs, fed me well (I even got a few hugs!) But, I didn’t reciprocate. I didn’t budge. I wanted to, but I was scared. Like the proverbial cat in hot water. It’s no good opening your heart to people you aren’t sure you can trust. And as I said, I’d stopped believing in people. What if these people were up to no good either?
And I knew I was right when I was put on a very noisy, very dirty train…and sent off. To God-knows-where. I was surprised too, because one of those gentle people was crying bucket loads when she saw me leave in that train. If she liked me so much, why couldn’t I stay? The other one seemed to accompany me, because he kept appearing now and then to feed me. Anyway, after hours and hours of that train engine clanking in my ears, I got off it. That guy then took me to another house.
A kind old woman took me into the house, she seemed delighted to see me. There was a stern-looking old man as well, he seemed least moved to see me. I ate some food, took the mandatory tour of that big house and resigned myself to either more torture or another abandonment. In fact, I waited for it. For days, weeks. And then it slowly dawned on me that there wasn’t going to be any torture, nor would there be any abandonment. I was there to stay. For good.
The woman continued to be gentle and kind…and the man began loosening up too. In fact, he became my go-to person when I had nothing else to do. Well, not like I had any duties, in any case.
I was beginning to see a different side of the “people” I’d stopped believing in. There seemed to be goodness left in some of them. Yet, I was always on guard, expecting the worst to hit. I cringed at the mere sound of a cough. I started at every sneeze. Every time a vessel or a ladle clanked on to the ground, I bolted. And in each of these instances, either the kind old woman or the no-longer-stern old man held me close and comforted me, assuring me all was well.
I was told by the kind woman to call her Ammumma and to call the man Appuppa. I was told I am in Trivandrum. I was told I was in God’s Own Country, and that God had seen enough of my misery and had finally given me a home (and I believed it, because I was actually seeing people who were capable of being kind and loving!) in God’s very country. I was told I was there to stay forever, and all I had to do there was enjoy my life. I was told there would be no use, abuse or torture. I was told there were no expectations of me. I was shown where the kitchen is, where my food would be served, where all I could sleep, where all I could go, what all I could do, who all I would meet.
For the first time in my life, I was not told what I could/should not do! For the first time in my life, I was happy. For the first time in my life, I began believing again. And the first of my new-found beliefs was that I was HOME. And that I had a family. And that there were God Human Beings (no, that’s not a typo)!
My life with Ammumma and Appuppa at Bhamalayam was nothing short of a fairytale. I had visitors (can you believe that!?) streaming in to see me, the new member of the family. Some of them, though not very fond of me, always came with some goodies for me. I was constantly checked on…to make sure I was happy and comfortable. I was constantly apologised to (boy – was that new!) every time they saw me cringe, start or bolt. I was hugged, kissed and cared for like there was no tomorrow!
Appuppa: the guardian of my safe spot. Anytime I felt uncomfortable or uneasy, I would quickly go and position myself beside his chair. He hand would automatically reach out and assure me that all was well. He wouldn’t gush over me like Ammumma would, but he did have a few special words for me and a special softness of voice and tone reserved for me. One look from him, one touch…and I knew perfectly well how loved I was and that I was completely secure in his presence. He made my bed on the couch (well one of my many beds in the house) and let me sleep in comfort. He let me into his car and took me places. He had a special glint in his eye every time he spoke of me…and to me. And, his meals were never complete unless that last bit was shared with me.
Ammumma: My guardian angel. My constant conversationist. My source of compassion and love. She would make me my bed, give me warm blankets, why she even gave me a hand-made pillow! She fed me everything I wanted…and often more than that too. Sometimes if I was too full, I wouldn’t eat something she gave me. She would think it was because I didn’t fancy the taste…and immediately replace that with something else! Everything she made tasted like manna to me, so I would end up forgetting that I am full and wolf it all down. Why say more: she would even shoo away her own son if she ever thought he was bothering me.
And I: The spoilt little boy of Bhamalayam, experiencing people, feelings, foods and life in a way I never imagined I ever would.
Appuppa was my pack leader and I was his favourite pack member. I’ve seen and heard him with many other members of the pack. Not once have I heard him speak to anyone else with the same affection he had for me. I knew I was special to him, he knew he was special to me too. It was our little secret…and I let it stay that way because Ammumma always thought only she was special to me 😉 ❤ ❤ ❤
And how she was! I was her shadow. Constantly checking on her, making sure she wouldn’t leave me alone for too long. Keeping her company late into the night as she sat in her favourite chair, scrolling through her phone messages or reading the newspaper. It was a matter of pride for her that I was her shadow. She would say that to everyone. How I was constantly keeping her in my line of sight, how I kept her company and even woke her up in the mornings. How I was always by her side and demanded that she kept massaging my little head 🙂 ❤ ❤ ❤
I also briefly had to live with Ammumma’s son, Ayuchettan, who scared the bejeezus out of me initially. I don’t know what it was about him – his loudness, his unruliness, his civet-like manner – but I was scared of him. I was also constantly scared he would eat all my food. The minute he emerged from his room, I would keep running away and beyond. Somewhere deep inside, I knew he meant me no harm, but I didn’t like the fact that he suddenly appeared in this house which was given over to me for free use. Anyway, he moved out soon enough and I had my home and my Ammumma and Appuppa all to myself. Occasionally, when he visited after that, I was civil to him. And as the visits grew farther in time and fewer in number, I realised that he’d always only loved me and hoped that I’d love him too. We’ve had many good moments together, much to everyone else’s amazement. I’m glad I had the chance to show him that I loved him too! 🙂 ❤
A few others I absolutely loved and had amazing times with were Mayammumma, DineshAppuppa, Divyachechi and Darshi. That house was my vacation home. Such fun! Don’t know where Divyachechi and Darshi vanished to, but my vacation home always remained intact! 🙂 ❤
Piyachechi used to drop in now and then. The first time she appeared in the house was when I realised this was the same girl who wept bucketloads when I got on that train and left. She’d loved me way too much, but didn’t have a place for me in her house. And that’s why she decided that I should be with her mom and dad…and she transported me to the best place on earth. She’d go “Boooch babyyyy…” and shower much love on me. It used to surprise me that despite having Pumbaa and Khloe with her, she could still love me like that. She even bought the two of them home for a month once. How fun that was. Khloe and I bonded instantly, and Pumbaa got a little jealous. It was much fun playing hard to get when he tried to befriend me. And finally when I decided to let him be friends, it was a bit too late – he was thoroughly fed up of me and made that very vocal too! Sigh. Field days, those were! 🙂 ❤
Oh, I must not forget the story of “Mother Bruce”. I had this habit of taking long afternoon naps and then getting up all groggy. I would want to walk out of the bedroom, but I always somehow stalled by the door-frame, with the tip of the curtain draped over my head. Appuppa would look at me then and loudly announce to no one in particular, “Mother Bruce has risen!” 😀
I also remember a Thiruvathirakali practice that happened at home once. There were a bunch of women who were all yapping loudly and not letting me sleep in peace. So, I decided to entertain them and be entertained myself. In my classic fashion, I walked right into the group, expecting squeals of delight (like the ones from Ammumma when she sees me). To my utter surprise, there were people going helter-skelter, screaming, yelling, jumping over each other and what not. All at the sight of poor me! Gosh, it was such cacophony that I chose to exit the house quickly! I thought a module of C.A. that’s loudly taught at the neighbour’s house would be far less painful to my ears! 😀 😀 😀 What ensued after I exited is a tale I’ve only heard Ammumma tell and re-tell to all and sundry…but the glee on her face every time she narrated this story to someone! Only I – let me repeat – ONLY I could ever bring that kind of joy to her 😉 Oh and that other time I went on a walk by myself through the unknown pathways of Mangalam Lane. Gosh – I gave her and Appuppa such a scare, but that was a fun day. Only I could have done something drastically stupid like that and gotten away with it (anyone else would have got royally beaten up by Ammumma and Appuppa for putting them through sheer stress) 😉
In all, I had a most amazing time there. If I spent 40 odd years of my life in Hell, I truly believe that I had about 400 years’ worth of grand times in Heaven – with Appuppa and Ammumma. Which is why, even though it was about time for me to leave, I made sure I waited and welcomed Hobbes into the family. I heard that Hobbes told Piyachechi that his enduring memory of me is how I was standing in front of the lamp, along with Ammumma, welcoming the two of them into the house on Feb 18, 2018. That’s a pretty sweet thing to say about me.
Hobbes, thank you for all that you did for me…I’ll never forget you. Ammumma and Appuppa really needed you there when I left 🙂 ❤ And, please tell Piyachechi that it was my blessing, having had that life with Ammumma and Appuppa 🙂 ❤
Appuppa and Ammumma,
I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for giving me nearly five years
of love, comfort and the security of your home and hearts!
If Piyachechi says I made you all better people with my unconditional love,
that’s only because the two of you loved me so much
that I began to believe again!
I know it tore you apart to see me go,
but please always remember that
I know you’ve always done what’s best for me.
Though I miss you to bits, I’m happy here, I have good company.
I will always see you from up here and love you through your days.
It will hurt me to see you cry for me…instead,
be happy in my thoughts and memories,
because no matter how many years pass,
I’ll always remain your little boy!
Lots of love, licks, wags and head-nudges,
❤ Your little Bruce Nayar ❤
— A guest post based on a true story, by Bruce Nayar
(from the other end of the Rainbow Bridge)