Blog post by Rekha Sriram
Like the Tam Brahm Maamis, kosha podavai clad paatis too are a unique lot. They live in TamBrahm households sometimes dominating, sometimes demure; opining what is right and what is wrong. They uphold our culture and keep worrying that generations after, TamBrahms are going to let the culture, traditions and beliefs (so well protected by them) easily slip out of their hands. Although the term ‘paati’ and ‘koshapodavais’ might soon be a “thing of the past,” but our fond memories of them will never fade away. Pity my grand/ great grandchildren might never be able to see a paati in “all her glory”. Unless I decide to take the reins and shock every one!
I might be digressing from the very objective of this website, being articles on TamBrahm culture and stories, but can’t think of any other better platform to fondly remember my “Paati.”
My paati! Reminiscing her wrinkled hands, her soft cotton kosha podavai. She used to easily drape the nine yards of the clothing on her thin fair body. And and the soft cotton white blouse which she matched with all her podavais. The blouse would house her sagging wrinkled breasts. “Why don’t you wear blouses matching your podavais?” I would query. “I am a widow. Widows are not supposed to be wearing colour blouses”, would be her reply. Her koshapodavais too would be plain, not the vibrant colours. Must be the same logic. Her forehead would always adorn the vibhuti (sacred ash) in tandem with her silver grey hair always neatly tied in a little bun. “Thala mudi eppodhum neata vaari ketti vechukkanam, virichu potuka padathu!” she would say.
Today Paati could have earned millions as a spiritual leader as she had a unique way of solving complex problems of life. She would simply advise me to chant a shloka to help me through my challenges in life. Different shlokas invoking different gods for different challenges. To list a few, saraswathi namasthubhyam – education related challenges, budhirbhalam (hanuman) – for strength related challenges so on and so forth, thus making her my spiritual healer, philosopher and guide. And her stories, the Ramayana, the Mahabharatha, Krishnaavatar. My sense of imagination, love of reading should all be credited to her. I loved her stories. Our ancient mythologies continue to enchant me. Our favourite was the love story of Lord Subramanian and Valli. We kids enacted a play on this particular story and won accolades. The story, screenplay, production and scriptwriting was unwittingly my innocent, uneducated, village belle paati who let us kids take all the credit!
Thanks to paati, I was blissfully waiting to see the “red bird” which would be my tell tale sign that I had reached puberty! Only when my school had an educative session on this topic that I realized what exactly the red bird meant! Moreover as is the TamBrahm culture to ‘stay away’ during the 3 days, I would conveniently forget the rules and regulations and cross the bridge. My mother would be screaming but Paati would chide her saying “paavam chinna kozhandai dhaane, saaramillai!”
“Narayananakku dosai pidikkum, Ramanukku idly pidikkkum”, thus saying she would pack too many eateries (for her sons!!) during train journeys much to the annoyance of her daughters in law. Paati seems to have never heard the expression “travel light”. And my mother and aunt would end up washing vessels in the train!!
She would leave no stones unturned to pamper me and spoil me silly which used to irritate me at times. She would bring fresh limbu juice for me while I studied, help me with my time table etc etc. As and when I bring along any of my friends, she would be (not even discreetly) comparing those kids with me. She would just openly stare at my friends and me!
I have taken her for granted and sometimes hated her for her unconditional love for me. Unconditional love, spirituality, intense faith, discipline, sense of duty – one could learn all this from my uneducated, simple Paati. Dale Carnegie, Robin Sharma, Steven Covey and the many Management gurus are all burning their midnight oil writing books after books on these very topics!!
We lost her as I grew into a teenager. Her death too had a uniqueness in it. During her last days she herself told us that her end is near. She didn’t even need a doctor to do that.
“Your flaws are perfect for the heart that is meant to love you.” Then as a child and teenager I could not probably empathize with her, but you can be rest assured Paati, your dearest granddaughter has turned out in to an empathetic, happy individual J.
Your love for me will always be revered and truly I consider myself lucky.