Happy birthday Achacha...you are so far away...yet you are within me. There is no day I think of you...I dream you...sometimes I am happy...but sometimes I cant control how much I miss you.... I am always happy you shared so many details of your life with me.. even the most challenging moments in the most positive way..
My Achacha Tharayil Appu Velunni was born as the 4th child to Appu and Narayani in May 27, 1921 in Kaippamagalam, Coastal Trissur. His family was not well off and it was only he , who was interested in Education and wanted to carve out a better life for himself. He did his primary education in the Fishery school in Kaipamangalam after which he had a choice. Stop studying or walk to Kattoor 12 km away for secondary education. He chose the latter and walked to school and back everyday. The high school was run by the British missionary those days.
Rains in Kerala especially in June meant heavy downpours and flooding. One day he arrived at the class very late. The headmaster was not happy to see the rather dirty drenched up young Velunni. He asked " What's your excuse young man?" To which Achacha replied " The fields flooded up, so I swam to school".The headmaster's eyes welled up with tears and called his parents. From then on, the next 3 years , Achacha stayed with an aunt to go to school. Achacha became the highest in Trissur for year 10. But alas ,his parents didn't have the finance to sponsor his education and that dream went down the lane.
Achacha went to Bombay to become a teller in the bank. Salary was on the minimum side and stress on the maximum side. He sent the lion's share of the salary to support his family and a frugal amount for basic expenses. From there he went to Iran as an accountant where he met his future father inlaw, the supervisor. The war came and both lost their jobs. Whilst returning home in the ship, the marriage was fixed. Achacha returned to Kuwait to start off as an accountant and was there for the next 35 years, to return home as the Director of the Kuwait Construction company.
Achacha was a very simple man with beautiful messages.
My birthday and the festival Vishu was a fortnight apart. So it was pocket money time for me. When I was in year 3, I managed to collect Rs 300. Achacha then took me aside and told me with serious eyes,"Mol today you have become a rich girl. You actually have Rs 300 with you. Don't tell anybody. If the income tax people come to know, it means serious trouble. Put the money in the bank. Save it and probably you can buy a..."
"Maruti car" I completed with more seriousness.
Before he departed permanently he managed to instil some values to which I am eternally grateful.
1. It is not what you earn, it is about how you manage it. If you cant manage Rs 100 what capability you have to manage a lakh of rupees?
2. You dont have to go, seek blessing and shower donations to every temple across the country. The one closest to home is enough. The temple prospers, your area gets blessed and you will be blessed.
3. When you have happy days such as birthdays, take a moment and think of the less fortunate ones such as the poorest orphanage/ old age home. Donate what you can.
4. Help a person in real need and not help for the sake of it. Feeding a man with an empty stomach is far more rewarding for both people than someone with a
half-empty stomach. There will be less faults and more gratitude.
5. What you are today is indeed the actions of yesterday. Your good actions and intentions will come as blessings for your future descendants.
6. Charity always begins at home. Make sure your family is looked after before proceeding out.
8. Your wife is your life. Treat her well and she will treat you like God.
9. You can choose your setbacks to break you or make you.
10. Share your childhood anecdotes with your children like an exotic experience. Make them feel envious.Those stories-food ensemble will ingrain a deep sense of connection and belonging.
When Achacha was around, we would sometimes have the dishes his mother cooked for him. Paal Kanji was his favourite in the evening. He used to say " Kanji kudikkanengil , plaavu ela venum , ennaale taste ullu" ( To have Kanji- rice soup, you need to use a jackfruit leaf spoon, then the taste is exotic). The 5 year old me instantly wanted the Plaavila (Jackfruit leaf) and then the hunt began all over the town. Finally Surendran Chettan brought the Elas from somewhere and I was in the magical world of Achacha's childhood.
Achacha made me relive his days depicting his bleak childhood in the most exotic way that even thrills my children when I tell them.
Presenting Achachas's favourite dish " Paal Kanji"