If you hear the stories Appa and his siblings have to say about their mother, you will think that she was a legend. My earliest memory of Ammachi is me accompanying her after my uncle's wedding. She was dressed in the typical elderly woman's dress of white chatta and mundu. The difference was that she looked so dapper in it. It was a bright day and the white outfit literally sparkled. I can also remember her eyes, twinkling behind her large spectacles. After this, my memories are of her being bedridden. At that time, it seemed that she did not have much of an idea of what was happening around her. She always seemed glad for company so my mom used to ensure that we spent some time with her and told her what was happening with us. Also there were times when a priest from our church would drop in for a visit. They would spend some time with her and conclude with a prayer. She seemed really happy at this time.
Appachan was a tall man, taller than Dad and pretty broad at the chest. When we met up, someone would invariably mention the fact that I was named after Appachan and I would feel pretty kicked about it. I never grew as tall as him, probably because I never had his appetite. During dinner, he used to sit at the head of the table. There would be a mound of rice on his plate, accompanied by little mounds of veggies and meat. I think he was pretty fond of red fish curry or it was served very often then but to this day, I always associate the curry with him.
He seemed to be a very busy man as he was constantly going out for some function or the other. Even when he was at home, somebody would drop by to chat over a cup of tea. I think he was pretty fond of his siesta cause afternoons were quite times and we were shushed and/or threatened if we made any noise. So, we would stay away from his or Ammachi's room. In Appachan's room, there was a big single bed, a desk and a clothes horse which would be burdened with lots of shirts and couple of mundus and lungis. Ergo, it was one of the chosen spots during a game of Sat (kerala version of hide and seek). Talking about mundus, I remember that he used to have a peculiar habit of wearing a belt on top of his mundu. Why, I still don't know.
Towards the end he became forgetful and could not remember our names, which grade we were in etc. In the evenings, when we were playing in the front yard, he would sit on the porch and watch us and the road behind us. He wouldn't say much but would smile benignly when we came close to him. Even in that state, he was a gentleman and to date, people talk about him highly. They always remember him as a strong person whom they could look up to as well as count upon for advice and help.
I am trying to dredge up some memory of Appachan and Ammachi together but I am not able to. It's probably because Ammachi was busy managing the household from her kitchen stronghold while Appachan was out on his numerous visits. I think they got along well though and were pretty much a team though. Aye, it must have been tough to raise Dad and six other kids and they all turned out right. All of them speak very fondly of my grandparents. Whenever two of the siblings get together, the conversation would invariably turn to some quirk of Appachan or a snippet where Ammachi perceptively caught out somebody. It's never spoken but you can just feel their love and regard for their parents. That's what I call a living legacy and I can only hope my kids hold me in the same regard.