January 12th, 2017
“The dim lights of the kerosene lamp swings as the rainy Parijatha scented evening arrives. The nights are full of sounds – the cry of the frogs, the shuffling of wild porcupines, the laughter of crickets, and the soft flip-flop of moths beating against the rusted window panes. Glow-worms shine fitfully in the dark. 95-year-old Ajja lives alone in his house deep inside the Western Ghats, he coughs, stirs, struggles to walk sometimes. Life was never easy inside these thick forests. But Ajja is adamant about staying alone in the wild with no mankind around.
As a kid, I remember extending my tiny palms to Ajja who gleefully distributed the peppermint he had bought from Thirthahalli Pete. His nylon bag and old wooden almirah was always filled glucose biscuit packets and colorful Shunti peppermints. I remember spending my summers lazily lying on the attic, shooing away monkeys which used to pry on Grandma’s Happala SanDige, and watching the wild crows build their nests. Five years ago, Grandma died of cancer. The death of my Grandma has weighed heavily on him.
My Ajja is not a man of great stature or extraordinary brilliance, it is not the money or success but pride in himself that sets him apart. I haven’t heard of a single person who speaks ill about Ajja till now. Ajja is friends with everybody in his village, Thirthahalli town and Shimoga city. Irrespective of caste or social status everybody is friends with Ajja. My Ajja’s eyes always smile with a hint of pure compassion. His simplicity and tender warmness is infectious, his innocent individuality makes him standout from the common place.
As I grew up, I saw myself spending less time at Ajja’s house. So this March I decided to spend time at my native. The 8 days I spent with my Ajja were probably the happiest of my vacation. We argued, we fought, we cooked and ate together, we discussed politics, we discussed SL Byrappa’s books, midnight we cried together remembering grandma, we dreamt about my marriage and future.
He anxiously frets if the cows don’t return to their shed before the darkness falls. As I cut his nails, he complained about his cook, his servants who now try to cheat knowing he will not be able to keep track of their work. Ajja gave me his time, his companionship, his complete attention. I crave to live in the deep Western Ghats like my Ajja, happy and deeply satisfied.”
Story By – Neha Adiga
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