“Sandhye Kanneerithenthe sandhye
Snehamayee kezhukayaano nee
Nin mukhom pol nomparam pol
Radha woke up early in the morning and was scrolling her FB posts when she saw a video of a friend singing this . A bitter sweet song. A song from the Malayalam movie Madanolsavam which was a big hit in the late 70’s.
And all the memories came back. Another summer holiday in Kerala . They came each year by train- a 3 day journey which was an epic in itself with the packing of food for each meal, the fighting for window seats in the day and top berth are night , soaking in the changing landscape, changing vendors and changing languages as the train chugged through the 3000 odd kilometers to our destination. The excitement when the early morning hours on the final day brought in the dense green vegetation of Kerala, the swaying coconut and banana palms and the sloping tile roofs and how they would count the stations till Trichur came. Where they got down and 3 smelly ragamuffins they lumped into the taxi with their parents to their grandparents home in Ambaloor where they would spend 2 glorious months until schools reopened in Delhi again. And all the cousins came and it was basically non stop games paused by mealtimes until it was time to sleep.
Sandhya was their distant cousin who lived next door. Radha remembered that she had a younger sister called Mala. Sandhya was her age though and they spent a lot of time together. She remembered how she would take misshapen hangers from the cupboard and run around in a pretend sale mode – “ Hanger- angeray “ And how they used to be inseparable for 4-5 years of those summer holidays till life and routines changed . That was the year Madanolsavam released and they were 10 year olds. Sandhya had seen it 3 times and knew every single dialogue , could narrate it word & description perfect. Even if Radha had not seen it, she knew all about the movie, the dresses Zarina Wahab wore , Kamahassan’s expressions and she cried along with her at the end when she described the tear jerking final scene. The radio station frequently played the songs and “Sandhyae kaneerinthinte Sandhyae” was a favourite . They listened, they sang and cried in unison. That song, that was a special bond .
The years rolled by. Radha became a doctor, moved and lived abroad. Her grandparents were no more and their house was sold and all the multitudes of uncles and aunties and cousins who all seemed to fit in it in those days were spread around the globe. It was more than decades they had last met.
She had last heard about her 5 years ago. On a visit home , her mother had told her that Sandhya had become a nurse, was married and settled in the Gulf countries with her husband. She had 2 children- they must be the age of yours , she said. Her mother had heard that her husband hadn’t been very well, but had little other information. Mala had been a sickly child who passed away before she finished school. She looked her up on FB- she did have a page but seemed to be a very infrequent visitor, so infrequent that her friend request was left unacknowledged. The profile pic showed a middle aged lady , quite slim , a rather sober expression along with her husband and children . She looked quite different too.
The next trip home she decides that she must track her down. And after landing in Trivandrum where her parents had moved to from Delhi, she got in touch with an uncle and aunt who had remained in the native place.
“ So how is Sandhya? “ she asked . Her aunt went strangely silent. She probed once again” How is Sandhya”?
Her aunt said- “Her husband was unwell – he had some form of recurring cancer requiring a lot of treatment . He came back and was living in his parents’ home. She stayed in the Gulf working to support his treatment and the children’s education . Things were getting tougher and the bills were getting steeper. Then one day she came with the children- admitted them in local schools such that they could stay with her parents and go to school. Then she took them to her husband’s place and they all spent a week together. I had met her that time. She seemed happy and jovial amidst all her problems. She went back to her job. A week later, we got the news that she had jumped off the roof of her apartment . She left a letter to state that she was giving up”. Her aunt paused “ And her husband also passed away a few months later”.
Radha remembered a strong sense of remorse that day. The finiteness of a childhood friendship- despite the closeness when they were thrown together- they were still just ships who had passed together at night. United by one night sky and it’s stars . Did she ever think of her, Radha wondered- if she had been accessible would she have turned to her for help? Was it fair that life should be all oddballs for some?
Her friend on FB was still crooning “Sandhyae “ . Unbidden, the tears fell. A 10 year old girl’s recount of how hopeless and irreconcilable a terminal disease must seem.
“Nin mukham pol, nonparam pol, nilppu rajanigandhi”