Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Peppermint Thatha"

I was cleaning up all the clutter on my desktop today, and I chanced upon this ancient folder, which I haden't opened in a while. Curious, I peeked in, and thousands of childhood memories rushed back to me. They were the stories and snippets I had penned three years ago, on the malfunctioning laptop back home. They were written without any specific intentions, before I even thought of creating a blog for myself, before I considered sharing my memories with others....They were written for myself, and they were typed simply because I loved to translate my memories into words. They were written with love, straight from my heart...a bunch of recollections from early childhood that I had then titled "My Heart Remembers". I am sometimes so thankful that I spared the time to write all these things down because they enable me to relive all those experiences. And I have not found a greater joy than in reliving these special memories. I re-read some of my own writings, and turned a little nostalgic.

Anyway, there is a personal favorite from my recollections that I thought deserved some space here. It was my most beloved peice of writing when I was sixteen, because it had come from the heart. And it still remains a favorite today. There are some memories that don't go away, and some things you have written that are cherished forever. "Peppermint Thatha" is one such trivial story that has stayed special to me....and shall remain so, forever....

It is simply titled "Peppermint Thatha*"

(*Thatha=grandpa in Kannada)

(penned on the 6th of December, 2006)


I think one of the most precious things that help us recollect, analyze and understand our lives are memories. Some of them are vivid pieces of imagination, some of them are mellow and soft instances of our past…but out of those beautiful recollections treasured preciously in our hearts, nothing else brings the joy of our childhood memories. You can brood over them, sit on the porch and remember the old times…the times when Grandpa bought you a lollypop, the day when you flew your first kite, the times you sailed a paper boat in the rains…if you make an effort to remember, childhood memories flash past your mind, faster than the wind. And there is a soft, mellow sort of beauty to them—just remembering brings a soothing pleasure to our souls and warms our hearts. I did just that today, and somewhere from the veil of loosely held memories emerged one little instance—one beloved creature that I had forgotten to remember. He was called “Peppermint Thata”. I don’t know how I could afford to have forgotten him, because he is part of my fondest childhood memories.

Some say we forget our early childhood pretty quickly. It is not the same with me. I can sometimes suddenly recount the days when I was a five year old, all those commonplace instances…I can recite a thousand stories about my past. There are many memories that I cherish, and they are safely preserved…sometimes, when I have nothing to do, I try to relive these small experiences…I search for every hint of a memory, even those wispy little ones which are receding fast…I gather these tender thoughts, and with deliberate effort, I try to remember, or even preserve them in writing. Childhood memories are the golden moments of our lives, and they should not be lost…I want to hold on to them with all my effort. This is why, dear Peppermint Thata, I shall dedicate this piece of my work to you, because I never want to forget you again.

I remember those wonderful evenings…they are etched deeply and vividly in my brain. The crows are cawing overhead and the birds settling in for the night…and the skies painted with a flashy display of orange and yellow. The evening is settling in, and the rumble of the late evening city vehicles can be heard. I am leaning against the gate of the house, dressed in a red frock with a ribbon in the back. I look up and grin towards my friends and they grin back. Then, all of us climb on to the gate and there is a deep, horrendous creak that issues from it as we swing from it madly. The hinges are rusting, and the coconut tree above sways slightly to the evening breeze. The breeze soothes my soul and makes my hair fly as I continue to swing from the gate, overcome by a some wild, childish joy.
Some people remark cautiously,
“Don’t linger under the coconut tree for so long! Can’t you see how it is swaying to the wind?”
The birds are now cawing raucously, and the light is dimming…but nothing can upset our little game—we rule all the gates in the colony, and this little game is our great invention. Ah! What a divine, pleasurable a thing it is to swing from a gate! Well, then my life was limited to my little colony, my friends, my family, my dreams and passions, and anything beyond that was unknown…and anything beyond my life did not matter. It was from this simple, uncomplicated life that I derived most of my happiness…and I must say, there is nothing which I can compare to this strange, wild happiness that I experienced.

Just then, an old man hobbles slowly down the road—the falling leaves and the colorful yellow flowers create a fine carpet for this gentleman, and he smiles, enjoying the pleasurable evening. He leans on his stick and walks slowly, wincing with every step. He is pretty old…his skin is horribly wrinkled and brown, and is cloths are faded and clumsy…but there is nothing to beat that genuine, toothy smile he flashes once in a while. Some people greet him merrily, and he returns the greeting with his smile and continues down the road, slowly…silently.
Just as his weak shadow falls into the line of my vision, I spin around…there he is! With a spurt of natural excitement, I run towards him madly, screaming with joy, closely followed by my friends. It is time for our daily celebration—we surround him like vile robbers, screaming, “Peppermint! Peppermint!”
We all know what is hiding in that small pocket of his…a treasure trove of goodies! He stares at our eager faces and smiles…we are tugged on his shirt now, demanding what rightfully belongs to us…he puts his old, blue-veined hands into the pocket and slowly, much too slowly, brings out a plastic bag filled with peppermints! Those brightly colored, delicious goodies catch the last light of the evening sun…making them even more colorful and hard to resist.
“Peppermint Thata! We want Peppermints!” we scream, mouth-watering…almost begging.
“Alright…alright…” says our old man. He is fair and just, because he gives us all an equal share. Well, an equal share means all of us get much too less…we are quick to gobble it up…ah, such a nice treat for the taste buds! But that is only momentary because the treat has now disappeared down our throats….and I am greedy. I want more of it…and I will stop at nothing to get what I want.
“I want more!” I scream, “Please give me some more,”
It is a known fact that Peppermint Thata’s pocket is always overflowing with goodies…he never ever runs out of peppermints. He smiles and says,
“Well, I’ll give you some more tomorrow…now all of you go home like good girls,”
We never usually listen to anyone, but I don’t know what makes me obey his commands. There is a strange aura to this man…he says things with rosy benevolence and a smile…and dreamily, I follow his commands, like a petty servant. I am ready to do anything for more peppermints…I wave goodbye to my friends and go inside the house.

I emerge stealthily after twenty minutes and guiltily stare at my surroundings, trying to see if anyone is looking. I am treacherous to my friends in this one aspect….but I am also overcome by liking for peppermints. I know that Peppermint Thatha returns from his walk by this time…I stand watch and wait for him. Ah yes…I can see him now…hobbling slowly, he emerges into the street light. I resist myself till he comes to my house and then, I run to him cautiously and stretch out my hand and whisper,
“ Peppermint,”
He laughs merrily and says, “ Tomorrow,”
I shake my head. “Today,” I murmur.
“ Alright…alright,” he chuckles, “ Today.”
Once again, I receive a handful of peppermints. I quickly gobble them up…now I am satisfied. I nod to myself, and let him pass…and then he walks away, chuckling to himself and moving away from me, away from the dim street lights…

Ultimately, there came a day when we assumed we were too old to sheepishly beg for peppermints and stopped asking for peppermints…and slowly, Peppermint Thata was not noticed by us…him walking down the road did not matter so much to us anymore. Now, when I think of it, I do feel bad…I never got to know that old man’s real name.
Peppermint Thata died a few days after that. He slipped in the toilet, and it was a fatal fall. Somehow, he disappeared from my life as mysteriously and quietly as he had come.
It is true that all the kids in our road loved peppermint Thata more than any other neighbor. Something about his genuine love for children, his toothy smile and his gentle, calming manner bought joy and liveliness to our otherwise mundane city life. I truly liked him…and I don’t know if everybody remembers Peppermint Thata today. But I must say I do…I remember that man so well. He will always remain the same loving, gentle old “ Peppermint Thata” in my memory.


kallu said...

Lovely Lakshmi. You have such an eye for detail and can express it all so well. keep going.

Ravan said...

hey i like the name peppermint thatha... did not realize ur sentiments wid it first...

and yes the post is very beautifully crafted!!

ARJuna said... reading it, I miss the old man as much you do.
Thank you for coming by my blog, your answer, I must say, reflects your creativity.
I would like you to know that "Just Think And Answer" is an initiative. How can you contribut to it? Send me your feedback on what you feel, what kind of question would you like to ask and so on...
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C S said... u shouldn't have written this... rather i shouldn't have read this....coz now i am left in deep thoughts about my childhood... specially when i made my first paper "titanic" using a meter long scrap of newspaper.....
anyways....enough of fooling arnd.... now to some serious analysis.... i liked the way u used simple and basic english to convey ur emotions so vividly..

Naveen said...

very descriptive .... perhaps u'll be a renowned novelist one day :)

Disha said...

Lovely memories.!!...Aditi used to call "Biscuit thatha" for a relative of ours. He had once bought her a biscuit packet.

aravind said...

can i cry please......this just too awesome.
descrpition and the emotions fantastic


Suresh Sathyanarayana said...

guess what kid... do you see a semblance to Kabuliwallah by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore... if you havent read it... good job...keep going