There were certain quotes, proverbs and phrases thatha was fond of saying.Some of them are
--‘There is nothing as good or bad but thinnking makes it so’.

-- Azhuthalum kuzhandai avathan peranum< The rough meaning of this phrase is that the mother alone has to bear the child however difficult it may be. This explains he believed in ultimately the assigned role play is important or unavoidable.

-- When offered lame excuses, he would say aada theriyadha naattiyakkaari koodam poralainaalaam The meaning of this is that a dancer who didn’t know dancing blamed the venue’.

-- Thatha never believed in tall talks. He used to quote an incident about Addison that he began his maiden speech in the House of Commons, repeating 'I conceive' three times, and when he could proceed no further, a wag stood up and said, 'The gentleman conceived thrice but brought forth nothing.' This has also been quoted by Gandhiji in his autobiography.

-- When we would come from shopping and commplain about the bad stuff that was sold at a discounted price, Thatha would immediately say,’ there was man selling razors in the London market. Razors to sell, razors to sell, three for a shelling.’ A man bought 9 razors. When he used the razor on his newly grown beard, he found that the first one would not shave. He tried the second, third… and all the nine with the same result (lack of result, perhaps). He was furious went back to the seller and caught him by the collar. The razor-seller said,’ calm down my fellow. I never cheated you. I just said ‘Razors to sell, razors to sell three for a shelling’ Did I ever say that they would shave?”
By Urmila, grand-daughter


I have to date back to my days in Vedachala Gardens, when Ravi (my cousin) and I went to periappa’s house. It was locked from outside. I was excited when Ravi suggested that we should scale the wall, jump inside and raid the kitchen. Like thieves, we gained access to the house by scaling the wall and fortunately found the back door open. Alas, we did not (surprisingly) find anything to eat but were shocked to find periappa lying in the hall in the sleeping posture of Mahavishnu with eyes closed and his fingers counting something. Even though he noticed us there was no reaction on his face. He remained as calm and peaceful as he always was. In our frustration at not finding anything to eat, we made a lot of noise by pushing the vessels. Then we started fingering the big mole on periappa’s back to provoke him. But still no reaction from him. Later Ravi told me later that the only reaction periappa showed to our pranks was to tell periamma “kuzyanthigalluku eathavathu vaikarthane- Why didn’t you leave something for the children to eat)”This incident had made a very big impression on me and I wondered whether anyone else in this world would have remained so calm and unruffled. My periappa, you are indeed great! We all miss you.
By G.Rangarajan, nephew (Kamala Srinivasan’s sister’s son)


It was just then that Thatha had finished his early morning cup of coffee after a ‘cold bath’ and half way through his ‘Ramayanam’. An uncle closely known to Thatha came and waited on the cane sofa next to thatha’s easy chair. I was beside them. After Thatha finished Ramayanam, the visitor started telling him in anxious, worried voice about how his son had not paid the fees intended for the college and the coming examination in the second year. He had not only had to muster again so much fees (apart from school, college expenses of other children) and was very angry with his son. The uncle went on talking about his son,’ I don’t want to even look at him. With how much difficulty I have saved so much this month and gave him to pay fees! Shouldn’t he have some sense and understanding. What a son? On top of this I have to accompany him to college tomorrow with fine. Otherwise his seat will be forfeited. I have no intentions of going”. Thatha calmed him down with his special calm tone. ‘Don’t lose your control. I understand you are angry and upset. It is natural’. But please understand…. It is not very unusual that some one makes a mistake. This is the time you have to talk to him nicely so that it would be a stepping stone in his life. You can make or mar his career.’ Thatha told the visitor very calmly. The visitor was not one to be calmed easily ‘But…. My blood is boiling. Do you realise with what great difficulty I have paid this amount earlier? I could not get my wife a sari to wear for more than 6 months. I can’t handle this. Do something about it.” Thatha persisted, ‘It’s all right. I will talk to him. Luckily I have some extra money this month. Ill bring that also. We can borrow some. Meanwhile you go and bring him, I’ll talk to him!’. When the boy came Thatha was very affectionate, polite and kind. He talked about neutral things like news, games etc. and then asked how about his college, The young man knew well that his father had visited Thatha. He was jittery and on his own started talking about what he did with the money and almost felt miserable and apologized to Thatha. Thatha said ‘ it’s all right. No one is perfect. But you must learn the right lessons from your mistakes. I am sure you will work hard, study well and come up and shoulder responsibilities. After all your father also has struggled a lot to pay your fees and your mother needs some rest too. I firmly believe you will come up in life’. These words certainly moved the young man. ‘But my father wouldn’t even come to college tomorrow’. Thatha said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll come. Money is also being arranged. Your father has lot of respect for me and would listen to my words.’ Thatha’s handling not only saved the young man and was indeed the stepping stone across which the young man climbed the ladder of success and earned a distinct name for him.

It was after around 2.30pm time about to Thatha was to have his cup of coffee. Paati had gone in to make coffee. An uncle came this time with some unique problem. He talked to Thatha in a hushed voice. My cousin was with me. I sharpened my ears and tried to listen to him. ‘He is vomiting. Throwing tantrums in the house. Unbearable. Please come and advise him.’. Paati heard the conversation and she said ‘you are asking a wrong person for advice. He can only pamper children. Andi petha anjum kurangu.(all our children are mischievous) Idho irukke- rendum rendaappai rendum kazhattaappai’ (these two , meaning me and my sister. are useless) ’ They both had coffee and rushed to their house. My cousin and I followed them and stood in verandah and saw them. Thatha had a very calming effect on the boy as he had lots of respect for thatha, though he was shouting initially. Thatha visited their house later in the evening again and talked to him. He was successful in driving home his point and shaping up the attitude of the youngster.

Thatha took tuition for a mentally retarded boy, Shivakumar, who earlier had escaped a big fire accident. When he came home first time and joined him to study, he wasn’t able to speak or clearly tell what he wanted. But when he left for Australia (or some other country) after a couple of years, he was smart and was able to write long essays, speak fluently and conduct himself admirably. His uncle who was sole person taking care of him was jubilant when they left. I distinctly remember how thankful they were.
By Radha Seshadri, granddaughter


Once a relative visited Soolankurichi for the first time. My grandmother had prepared paal kozhukattai a delicacy. The relative did not know how to eat that and so asked my father. My father, with a very innocent face, told him ‘idhu karumbu madhiri. vaila pottu kadichu thuppidanum (this is like sugar-cane. You must chew it and spit it) and left the relative alone to do this. My grand-parents saw this and they were shocked. My paati was upset that the visitor did not like the preparation. When he was asked whether he did not like the delicacy, he told them that their son had taught him how to eat the delicacy. They laughed and explained that their son had a sense of humour. My father would laugh like a child while recalling this incident ‘he was so nice and innocent that he believed my words and did exactly what I said’.
By Vanaja, daughter


This must have happened more than 50 years back. Thatha then lived in 25 Vedhachala Gardens. There were series of row type houses closely located side by side. ‘koradu’ or the common courtyard covered the front of five houses from 21 to 25. Once, ’24 Amf nmfprf m/m` was sitting in the koradu and reading the newspaper. Thatha was carrying two garden-fresh lengthy podalangais (snake guard) apart from a bag full of vegetables. 24-Mami nudged her husband to find out the cost of podalangai. Thatha immediately said’oranakku rendu’ (2 for 6 paise) proudly holding them. Mami immediately harried her husband to go and fetch as this price was an amazingly bumper offer. Mama listened to his wife’s dictum and rushed to the market. He picked two long podalangais and paid 6 paise to the shopkeeper who glared at him and said with an irritated tone ’Iyere! 3 anna (18 paise)..Mama said ‘what? Are you cheating me? It is only 6 paise for 2’ The vendor was furious and shouted,’ Are you mad? Should I do business or not? Give me the rest of the money’. Mama said,” I don’t want this in that case’. The vendor said,“ Just now that Iyengar sami came and paid 3 annas without even bargaining and took two pieces. What a thorough gentleman! Early in the morning don’t spoil my business. You have touched them. You have to buy’ Mama understood that Iyengar mama had played the trick and fooled him. He bought the vegetables much to his displeasure and came back home with barely controlled anger. He told his wife it was 3 annas and she also chided him. Exasperatedly he cried ‘poi, poi, suththa poi! Srinivasa iyengare poi’ (truth less)’ He was angry for some time but latter it became a matter of joke and all laughed.
By Radha, grand-daughter


Arun as a child always used to run and occupy the easy-chair the moment thatha got up. His favourite afternoon game used to be this - he would ask thatha with a smile on his face” akkaartta?” and thatha would get up and sit down on his haunch on the floor and both would happily laugh together. A minute later the kid would be on his lap with thatha in his chair. This would be repeated so many times through the afternoon that anyone watching the two would get tired, but those two never got tired . Naren at the same age used to sit in the chair like Arun but used to remove the stick that held the canvas when thatha returned, sat on the easy-chair, fell and the great-grandson and the great-grandfather were laughing together. I came out to find out what was going on and then scolded both of them. Thatha told me that it gave him immense pleasure to play along with the kids whatever game they initiated. Thatha used to repeatedly call them Kannu Kannu. I can still hear him .

Thatha I really miss you.
By Urmila, grand-daughter


Both the houses in Vedachala Gardens where my mama and mami lived were open, literally and figuratively. People used to walk in and out of the house so often that the entrance door would be bolted only in the nights. Once my mama had set the question paper for an examination and kept the paper in the pocket of his shirt that he planned to wear to school. Then he went for his bath. A student of that class who was living in the colony had seen mama preparing the question paper and saw an opportunity to become a hero in his class. He tip-toed in the room when mama was having his bath and had a peek at the questions and tip-toed out. Alas, he did not realise that mama had watched his back from the window in the kitchen. Mama had a quick lunch, tore off the old question paper and prepared a new set of questions. He narrated the incident to me in the evening with a twinkle in his eyes and said,’ poor fellow. He must have got the shock of his life when the question paper was given in the exam hall. I don’t know how he did in the exam’ I said,’ I’d like to know what his classmates did to him.’
By C.Srinivasan, nephew


Thatha trusted a lot of people. But Kannan Anna (C.Srinivasan, Thatha’s nephew) was the one he would trust and totally depend upon for arranging all major functions. Kannan Anna was the one who would decide the budgeting for food, hall, silver vessels, jewels, flower arrangements, even invitees list etc., I have seen Kannan Anna in action from Mythili Akka’s marriage to many other marriages in the family. I convinced anna that we would be of help in Kothaval Chawadi and happily got into a lorry that was engaged to bring vegetables from there. I can assure you it was quite thrilling than the Formula I race ride.

Once Thatha or Chithappa (or any other member of our large family had completed the search for an alliance for their daughter or son or grand daughter, Thatha would call up or send for Kannan Anna ‘Kannan, yesterday the alliance was settled. As I told you, they also agreed…….people seem to be very good……’ For thatha and paati Kannan Anna was a favourite nephew and was an important part and parcel of all our families. So, as soon as any alliance was over, paati would say ‘' neenga onnum kuttai kuzhappa vendam. kannanai kuppidungo.'(you don’t make a mess. Just call Kannan)” We children would be thrilled that Anna would come home every day and narrate a lot of anecdotes of olden times. (and of course we need not study whenever he came). If you want to know about how small budget marriages could be converted into a grand show, you have to hear him talk about ‘Dangar Pachchadi’, ‘Mango Payasam’ and all sorts of novel dishes.

I distinctly remember that as soon as my sister Uri’s marriage was fixed (and also mine, though it was after a gap of more than a decade and Anna himself had set back in his health), he was immediately called by Thatha and thatha would only say a word and Anna would do everything for him. Then the role play between them would be automatically attuned to that of a father and son. Amma as usual would leave for Ramakrishna Mutt with chithi. Anna asked ‘yenna Vanaja kelambitta?' - What, Vanaja, Are you going out? Marriage is for your daughter. We are going to discuss many things.” Thatha would say ‘math-ukku kelambittaya’ with a slight resentment in his voice. Amma would be on her way out after saying Kanna, neethan yellam pathukkanum. Unnathan nimbi irukken (Kanna, I m dependent on you and you must do everything)” and the marriage would turn out to be a grand show.

Though so many would go to Thatha, he would discuss most things mainly with chithappa and Kannan anna. I heard from thatha that Kannan anna had played an important role from a very young age (even when my mother got married). Their relationship was very special with mutual trust and special respect. Though Thatha was 25 years older, they were like friends. They shared the same name, a distinct sense of humour and quick wittedness. I was told that anna took up teaching profession after consulting his Periya mama and so their profession too was the same. Thatha, Chithappa and Anna could be seen teasing each other too.
By Radha, grand-daughter


All of us have our pet likes and dislikes. Other than some items of food, Thatha did not show his liking or disliking for any thing or person openly. But having grown up with him for over thirty years, I know three things that he disliked the most.

1. The first was his aversion for Gududuppaandi (I cannot translate this into English except saying that this is a term for an itinerant beggar). When Radha and I were small, we used to be terribly surprised to see Thatha’s reaction when Gududuppaandi was three houses away. Thatha would drop whatever work he was doing and wait the arrival of Gududuppaandi with a coin ready in his hand. He would thrust the coin in the hands of Gududuppaandi and would shoo him off without allowing the fellow to open his mouth. Seeing the normally phlegmatic Thatha so flustered made Radha and me afraid of Gududuppaandi for a long time. Years later I realised that Thatha’s reaction was not because he was afraid of the fellow, but because of his fear that he might forecast something bad for the family.

2. The second was his aversion to seeing anyone scold or beat children. (I think Thatha saw Lord Krishna in every child. I am sure that he would have chided Yashoda also whenever she scolded Krishna). So whenever Choodamani mami (my uncle Sampath’s wife) scolded Sujatha or Shyam, Thatha would show his negative reaction. So mami would take the children upstairs and scold or beat them out of Thatha’s earshot.

3. The third was his aversion to people doing echal (I can’t translate this word). Once he was traveling to Nagpur and was sharing the compartment with a couple and their small child. In one of the stations, they bought a kuchi ice (my search in the Net showed that the English term for this Tamil word is Frozen Sucker invented in USA in 1924) for the child. After the child tasted it, the mother started tasting it and then the father also started tasting it. Thatha called the ice-cream vendor and bought two more sticks, gave one each to the parents and told them,’ I am sorry, but I can’t stand the sight of echal. Please take these so that each one of you can take one.’
By Urmila, grand-daughter




Copyright © 2008 S.Parthasarathy