Remembering Paatti


What can I say about jaya paati?

I didn’t grow up in madras much; I would spend my two-month summer vacations there in Mandaiveli and Tiruvanmiyoor. But home in Chennai was the thirunvanmyur flat. I spent the most amazing vacations there with paatti, thatha and hema chiti. Family gatherings, days spent in different rooms of the house. Evenings on the beach, cards, singing, eating. Reading, playing, Finding things to do.

Once in the flat, Prasad anna had come, and he was recording some of paatis experiences and stories. I sat next to them, and heard paati talk about her childhood, the times when her father would take her to Roxy theatre to watch films… Listening to paati talk that day, I felt wonderful. She spoke about her childhood, her marriage, her life after that, raising eight children. I was small then, but she spoke very simply and I could feel everything she was saying. It was one of the nicest afternoons ever.

And at some time both my school life and summer vacations in the flat came to an end, and I went to Bangalore. After I went to college, I hardly spent time in Chennai. Amma and Appa would always make fun of the situation, calling and asking for appointments. I got less time to spend with paati, but meeting her or playing cards with her at least once a trip was mandatory.

And after I went to college, my clothes started changing. Amma would call them ridiculous, but I wore the same baggy jeans and a kurta everyday. But one day when amma was telling me about my clothes , Paati said, “Let her be, she looks better in these clothes. The normal salwar kurta doesn’t suit her.” I was so happy when she said that. Paati always understood.

She was always curious about everything. Any new thing, anything someone said, a new film, a new dress, a new bag, she would always look at it carefully. She would always appreciate the beauty in things.

Paati would always encourage my drawing. She would remember old works that I’d done in school, and I would forget them. Then almost ten years later, she would tell me again in detail what she liked about them. She had an incredible memory and I was awestruck.
Once, she sat patiently and watched all the films that I had worked on in college.

The last time I saw Paati was in the hospital. I was leaving for Bangalore the next day as I had a film to finish. When I went upto her I had the feeling that I may never see her again. I tried to convince myself otherwise, though. I left for Bangalore cursing my college.

When I got the news, I was at a friends place, working. And…I couldn’t sleep that night. I just kept thinking of all the times with Paati, and what a privilege it was knowing her and loving her. I still love her.

AARTHI PARTHASARATHY
February 2007



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