There she sat, a diminutive figure, looking at her fingers. It is tea time. Next to her bed on the wooden chair is a glass of tea and a small plate of biscuits. The white blouse emphasised the curvature of her back as she leaned over to pick up a biscuit.
She looked up as we approached. “Both mother and daughter have come?” She asks. The sunken grey eyes glinting in the bright light. The toothless grin and wrinkled forehead has a faint outline of Achan. The similarities are there. My dad’s only surviving elder sister. She is over a 100 years old, probably 102 and still has all her faculties. “Take this mol”, she says and hands me one of the biscuits. The waxen leathery skin through which the veins protrude cover her bony prominences and slender forearm muscles.
I take the biscuit and eat it. The room is airy and light. The house she grew up in stood on this site. A leaf thatched mud brick house with cool dark interiors is what I remember. It was pulled down and this house built in its place where she now lives with her youngest son and family. Her few worldly possessions fill the small metal dented cupboard with flaking paintwork.
Her hair is straggly and knotted. It will be difficult to untangle. She used to have long hair up to her hips which was all matted together like the yogis and sanyasis in the 60s. My first memory of her. I used to wonder how it got to that stage, how heavy it was, what all lurked amongst the cocoons of tangled hair, how she kept it clean and how long it took to dry once it was wet. Then one day she went to Pazhani and cut it all off.
The tea is too hot and she wants it cooled. She doesn’t ask much questions. She is just glad to see us. It has been a couple of years since my last visit and yet she still remembers me. All her four brothers and three sisters have died, the last a few weeks ago. The eldest sister was the first to go while their mother was still alive almost half a century ago. She has been the oldest of the family since then. The Appachy we would ask for help when we needed someone to talk some sense into our dad when he was being difficult.
I’m not sure if she will still be around the next time I come. The last cog in the wheel. The main reason for my visits to Kallada.