Nostalgia ~ ThAththA & the Cycle!
The sagely elder in the pic is Swamy’s paternal ThAththA (தாத்தா ~ grandfather in Tamil, Swamy’s mother tongue) Thiru. T.R. Muthuswamy Iyer. He was retired (as Mathematics teacher & probably Headmaster as well) even when Swamy just started his schooling (check out that young Swamy here). Obviously very proud of his eldest grandson, grampa used to walk him to school daily and said to be very proud of his academic accomplishments. True to the gene, Swamy did very well in Maths (how ’bout a centum in X standard, eh)!
Grampa was a ferocious walker and would cover humongous distances by foot – bare, probably – on a daily basis. He was so fast while walking, it’ll be hard for even those half his age to catch up. When Swamy started traversing by foot & cycle, he was astonished by how far grampa used to walk. But Swamy has never seen him ride a bicycle.
The place where Grampa is meditatively seated – pretty much all day – is known as ThiNNai (திண்ணை – verandah). He has suffered from arthritis (the grape coloured Ksheerabala tablets he took still linger in the dusty shelves of memory) and eventually his walking got reduced to just moving around the house. His visual apparatus too became dim but his aural ones were as sharp as ever. So, he would always love to hear what his grandsons (5 of them in all, starting with Swamy) were up to, whenever they cared to spend some time with him, in his permanent seat of contemplation (and probably meditation, though he didn’t come across as someone spiritually inclined).
The seated man known for his fast walking and the bicycle that’s any middle class person’s choice for fast riding (we’re talking days of Solidaire B&W TV & the Murphy radio here)… Both remaining still and somehow connected looks not only poignant, but even poetic. The lighting makes it a surreal sliver of frozen time.
May be, the title should’ve been “Old Man and the Cycle!” But that sounds too American & very disrespectful in the elder-respecting Indian context. They don’t make ThAththAs like him anymore. Damn, for that matter, not even cycles like that anymore (remember Hercules)!
~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy
nostalgia is the new Swamygraphy© series, for old time(r)s’ sake