Palakkad - when I look back…
Aji John Joseph
I am so proud that I am from Palakkad. And Palakkad is at her best in the monsoon! The whistling wind ahead of the rains, fully drenched nature, dampness in the air, all are adding to the nostalgic memories of my childhood, my friends, teachers and the culture I reflect. Palakkad is more than a hometown to me. There is no other place for me to call as mine.
It all started 55 years ago on 27th July 1966, when a 19 year old girl (my mother, Alice) broke the shackles of her conservative upbringing and decided to board the transport bus from the then Kochi boat jetty stand to Palakkad, an unknown land for her then to take up her first posting with Central Govt. (CTO). She used to remember like yesterday the first memories of erstwhile Palakkad. The swaying paddy fields, scary black palm trees and the old time jadka (horse cart) stands were some of her favourites.
Though born in Kochi to parents from Central Travancore who got settled in Palakkad, I believe my outlook would not have been the same if I had not grown up in Palakkad, the cauldron of my inner soul.
I had my schooling in various schools like St. Sebastian, Kanikkamatha, Bharatha Matha and Pandit Motilal Govt High School. I am proud that I could do my Pre-degree at Govt Victoria college and Engineering at NSS College of Engineering. We had some inspiring teachers throughout like Mundur Sethumadhavan Sir, Anandavalli Teacher, Ramachandran Sir, Singh Sir, Marakkarkutty Sir, Basmal Sir, Prof P S Ramaswamy Sir, CKSP Sir, and Vishwanathan Sir to name a few who instilled in us amazing world views and life lessons, that shaped us more than the academics we learned from them.
All throughout my childhood we always had wonderful neighbours even when we moved from one locality of the town to another, and from one rented house to the other. The sweet memories of the banana pieces sprinkled with sugar shared by our neighbours after their weekly Namaz is still lingering fresh in me. All my Vishu and Onam days were at my best friends’ places and the sadyas can never be forgotten and even today those happened to be my benchmark of any sadya.
During my childhood days in Palakkad, I have been to temples more than I had been to Church. I used to go and stay with my Dad’s friend during the whole one week during Puthur vela (Thirupuraikkal Bhagavathy temple annual festival), sometime succumbing to sleep in the temple’s open ground during the kathakali or koodiyattam performances and in the morning realizing that we are the only ones left there . And during the day, we used to befriend the Kalamandalam artists and have had the privilege of watching them getting ready in the green room transforming into their stunning costumes for another stupendous performance. I remember like yesterday, how proudly I used to carry the traditional lamp while accompanying the modest non-caparisoned elephant (para eduppu) going around the village visiting the neighbourhood houses which is a tradition we follow even today. The same is with my involvement with the annual festivals in my immediate neighbourhood of Kalvakulam during Manjal Neerattam, Kanal chattam or Uriyadi. I have seen my father telling the temple committee to write the amount they would wish in the receipt book when they come home for fund collection for these festivals. It is not that he could afford any amount, it was more a sign of solidarity and mutual respect.
My memories of Palakkad, as is the case generally with most of Kerala, is of amazing harmony and brotherhood. Above all, as a child, never was I looked upon as an outsider nor was ever side-lined by the otherwise deep-rooted feudal attitude in our general psyche.
And hence for me Palakkad is a special place, always worth another home coming, to relive its beautiful culture of brotherhood and camaraderie and to pass on those pleasant memories to our next generations.