Thursday, March 08, 2007

Relay race

On Tuesday, I saw my aunt Revathy after 15 months. It was a shock to see the transformation wrought by the killer disease. But I was then able to see her in another light altogether. I saw what she was: a being of pure light / love, distilled essence of her father / my grandfather, in whom she had been able to see something of what he was.

Revathy adored and revered her father, SV Kailaspathy (1904-90).

In the poem “Reclamation” in Last Possibilities of Light, Revathy wrote:

…You stood on your head every morning;
and spun thread
as Gandhi did,
and you had a history
we knew nothing about, so profound
was your reticence. …

Hard to imagine then, as I lent
my shoulder to your enfeebled step,
that there were epic journeys
you made, quite casually;
icy Himalayan pathways
and sun-baked Mohenjo-Daro,
circling the Shwe-Dagon, and briefly
years later,
the Pyramids.

It’s as if I am bound in some way,
to keep the hours, to imagine
what I do not know for certain.
From the corner of my eye, I catch
you running through fields, hands clutching
stolen green guavas, and then at last,
memory becomes my inheritance.

In an essay Revathy wrote last year on Chowk, she recalled:

The life we lived in Bombay where I was born, was the one set by my father’s example whose fairly impoverished beginnings and subsequent rise as a government officer by dint of hard work and complete integrity was held up to us as the standard. This still works for me. He lived largely within himself, a gentle, reticent man, whose principles of behaviour have profound resonances for his children.

He adored Gandhi, adopted his simplicity, celibacy (after I the youngest, was born), his complete openness where religion was concerned. The stories passed down by my mother concerned his having mainly Muslim friends in school and college, among whom he enjoyed feasting and keeping the Ramzaan fast. He loved the Urdu language and long after we were grown, practiced its prescribed courtesies when guests entered the house.

After reading this I wrote to Revathy:

Thank you for this account, which expresses exactly how I remember Thatha, and I can now see how much I too have been formed by his example.

She replied:

“…Stuff happening, and one is not best equipped to write buoyant, cheerful notes. Glad you felt the truth of whatever I had to say about Thatha. He is probably more relevant to us now than at any other time. Feel the huge shift in what the world has become since his lifetime.”

Revathy most ably received the baton and passed it on, in the grand relay race of life.

The awesome mystery of Death ... Death unites the living, Death illuminates life. Revathy has gifted her loved ones the most supreme gift, the gift of her Death, through which she assumes eternal life.


Dilip D'Souza said...

I'm so, so sorry, Ramaswamy. She was a lovely lady and I have so many fond memories of her. My thoughts are with you. Dilip

Paul said...

Another thing I've noticed about death: while people who have lived well die with integrity, the two people whose deaths I happened to witness died better than they lived, so to speak. They seemed to focus on the things that really counted for the first time.

einat said...

Dear Rama-
I am so sorry to read this. Knowing what it feels like to lose your beloved one and to go on living, life changes with every lose we experience. I think what moulds us most are losses - not only of people, friends or relatives, but also the lose of fantasies and their innate innocence. Yet, these loses and the pain they inhere are also what makes us grow. I wish I didn't have so many chances to grow in my life, alas - I had. And so I hope that your aunt's life and death will eventually constitute your growing. We say in hebrew - may you never experience sorrow again.

karrvakarela said...

I knew Revathy briefly through Chowk. We had common interest in poetry and whenever I had occasion to speak with her, she came across as a wonderful person.

May God make this difficult time easy for you and those who loved her.

Irving said...

What a beautiful soul, may God give her peace and raise her to the first ranks of His beloveds.

And her poems are sublime, beautiful and stirring. She was a poet in the best and truest sense. I am only sorry I had not heard of her until this post.

I am so sorry for your loss, dear Brother Rama. From reading her poems, I feel that I have lost her too.

Ya Haqq!

PS Are her books available in the US?

mfm157 said...

So sorry for your loss...sometimes there are no words.

Kartik said...

A son's tribute to Revathy at:

isaiah said...

"It’s as if I am bound in some way,
to keep the hours, to imagine
what I do not know for certain.
From the corner of my eye, I catch
you running through fields, hands clutching stolen green guavas, and then at last,memory becomes my inheritance."

Rama, this is beautiful. Carry her memory smiling.

Peace & blessings

Yves said...

She sounds a most intelligent and sensitive woman.

I too wonder at this phenomenon of impending death which distils a person to a being of pure light, where essence as well as limitations speak more starkly than in the main flow of day-to-day living.