A New Neighbor
The days were passing by as usual. During rainy season we made paper boats, set up traps to capture frogs, cut irrigation canals for all the coconut trees in the backyard, got terrified by occasional appearance of snakes at homes or that swam along with us in the river, gathered as a group to the Thinnais and enjoyed the drizzles, felt the freshness in the air, loved the looks of everything cleansed by rains… K was enjoying unquestionable supremacy in everything we did. The season changed – summer came by and along with it a family of bank officer moved into our street. It was a cute family – parents, one girl and a boy. Boy was of our age and the girl was elder to us. Neighborhood aunts were saying that they had come from Madras (now Chennai) and the person was a big bank official. The presence of a ‘pattanatthu’ girl attracted many of our elder companions on the street. They helped to unload things from the truck and unpack things. We were watching eagerly to check if any stuff would be of our interest – since they came from Madras!
In those days, many of us would have seen only the trains that left for Madras from Tenkasi Junction! Infact, we got to see trains only once in a blue moon - station was far away from our place, and we had no reason to venture out in that direction. Watching trains used to be a fascinating experience with all of us standing in a line along the track and waving our hands in joy! We placed our ears on the track trying to sense the arrival of the train! One more reason we waited for the summer vacation was the new set of people those who would come to spend their holidays at Tenkasi with their grand parents! They always had some surprises to us! Like some one would show us a Bambaram of a different shape, someone would show us a toy train that runs on a track, a boat that circles in a tub of water when a lamp was lit in it or it would be a gun that would shoot plastic bullets etc. We had seen only our Diwali guns that we use to burst ‘caps’. Most of us infact had only a screw with two washers to burst the caps – could not afford to buy a gun!
We were watching the boy – we didn’t speak to him at the first sight as naturally we were shy to strangers. The next day as we gathered around, the boy came out with his mom! His mom introduced him to us as S and he will be studying in our own school – we all should be friends from that day! K was the boldest to greet S to our gang, introduced him again that S came from Madras. We all shook hands and K explained him about our culture. The games we played etc. It was a season for ‘Kitti pul (Gilli)’ and Golis (glass marbles). S had never seen such games and K assumed the role of a coach immediately. All was going well and slowly S became one of us.
S struggled with most of our games – but he would accept everything with a smile! He showed us some photographs of Madras!
S had some secrets as well! He taught us how to make candles!! As per the process, all of us would bring the ‘almost’ finished candles from our homes! Some of us would go around the church to find some or scrape the remains of wax left in the windows / door steps! During afternoons’ we gathered in the terrace of S’s home. S would bring a kerosene lamp and an old vessel. We put all the candles into it and melt them. We collected all types of ‘lids’ of bottles as moulds! Or we bent scrap metal into different shapes to make the moulds! We poured the melt candle wax into these moulds with one person hanging the ‘Wick’ into the moulds as we pour the wax – the Wicks (Thiris) were stolen from the temple/homes or made of old cloths finely cut using scissors! We allowed them to dry for some time – made holes from the top to allow some space for air. Again filled those with wax melt and allowed them to dry. After about an hour, we would pull the substance out of the moulds to get our version of candles ready! We sold these candles for 25paise per piece in the street! Right then it was so much fun and we enjoyed it thoroughly!
S had a different hobby from ours – collection of stamps. He had a wide variety of stamps from different countries. He told that stamp collection is quite common in Madras. We helped him to assort them and create albums. We gave him all the stamps that we could get from the posts/letters that came to our respective homes. S also taught us games like Chess & Trade. We taught him games like ‘aadupuli aattam’ & ‘Pallaanguzhi’. We showed him the ‘Chozhis’ (shells) that were used to play Pallanguzhi. He showed us a big shell wherein his name was engraved! He showed his father’s gold tipped ‘Hero’ pen and how to fill ink to it. We had traditionally seen only the ‘fountain’ pens which literally fountains ink all around them! His father’s watch had a ‘calculator’ built in! S had a lot of comic books at his disposal. Till then we had been introduced only to the ‘amar chitra kathas’ kinds of comics. The books that S had were of different breed – they had Superman, Batman, HeMan etc. Personally I preferred our own amar chitra kathas to these, but many of my other friends were so excited to read those books! They had a big ‘BUSH’ tape recorder in which he played some Hindi film songs which we had never heard of. S had many surprises to us! K and S were becoming best of friends!
… to be continued …