Today I remember my uncle fondly and with love. July 9 was his birthday. I am in a rambling mood, so please bear with me.
Nee Kothandaraman Thyagarajan, known to all as T K Raman, he was my mother’s brother.
Considered lucky by some to have passed on on his 60th birthday in 2002. Loved dearly by all
I will never forget that time when we were all booked to go to Chennai for his 60th birthday celebrations – which is a pretty grand thing and almost like a full-blown marriage. We had intended spending a week with them, attending the function, and returning. A day before we were due to leave, we got a phone call saying he had an accident – slipped in the bathroom – and was in serious condition.
Naturally, we were worried because we were anxious that he should recover before the birthday. Well – fate was not kind – he passed away on his birthday. We did go to Chennai as planned, only our spirits were in the dumps because the occasion was no longer joyful. It was a sad trip, with my mom falling completely sick – and we had to practically bundle her into the train while returning so that we could be back home and near her regular doctors.
What makes this uncle, Mr. T K Raman special?
Plenty. He was two years older than my mom. He stood by my mom when I was born in 1963 and was devoted to me. He was the liveliest and the most radical among closely knit 10 siblings. I have never seen siblings stand up for each other, no matter what, as much as my mom’s.
Kondu mama, as he was known to us kids, was loved by everyone. Energetic, broad-minded, generous – it was always fun when he visited. He would write long letters to all of us that were actually legible (which is more than I can say for my other uncles.)
In 1997, he was all around us when my son Vidur was born – and for my mom who lives with us, it was like rewinding time back to 1963 when I was born – because Kondu mama showed the same energy and enthusiasm to do all those things he did back then. He behaved like he was the midwife – making the லேகியம் – lehiyam – which is a mixture of lots of herbs that are supposed to strengthen the new mom in multiple ways, making methi laddus, buying betel leaves, washing and wiping them- supposed to aid in digestion and of course serve as a mouth freshener, buying ‘sambrani‘ – and generally being everything a wonderful and knowledgeable grandmother would be!
Kondu mama taught me to appreciate good books and movies. He also taught me the concept of limericks when I was very young – and he gifted me my first set of Rugby jokes books when I was about 14 years old (ha, ha). I still remember the brand new jeans and jacket he brought me when I was 16 years old – based on a sketch I had sent him about how I precisely wanted them.
I remember during my childhood, when weekends came, it was time to celebrate. Kondu mama would take over the household chores right from cleaning to cooking for the day and keep us entertained and treat the ladies in the house like royalty while pampering the rest of us.
He would have us laughing all the time with his stories of his office mates and work experiences.
And his wonderful kindness and generosity did not stop with the family. The neighborhood adored him. He always had a kind word and was ready to help anyone in need. In fact, I know he set up quite a few homeless people with a means of income, helping them start mini-businesses, giving them food and clothing, helping them put their kids through school – the list is endless.
I don’t know – I just have a feeling I sound rather stilted up there – but my problem is this – I just can’t do justice to this wonderful uncle with mere words.
Some people just invade our lives and leave a part of it empty when they leave. But my heart is full, and my mind will remember and always cherish those wonderful times. My son just loves to listen to ‘Kondu mama stories’. I am lucky. May Kondu mama’s soul rest in peace.