OLDEST HOME IN MYLAPORE
In my real life experience, this would be the most touching one, I visited this house two year back for a door to door invite for Sahasranama Paarayanam samparga where we found this house to be the oldest in mylapore on SALAI STREET, met the inmates of the house, invited them, for a little while talked about the house and left. On 26 December, i.e. yesterday, evening I had the urge to go visit that house after two years, as I wanted to report the history, memories of the still existing oldest house in Mylapore. I recognised the house as it was devoid of any people’s existence in the house, I just called out for the availability of any one inside as it was very quiet. An old lady walked up to the window and asked me to come in. I told her who I am and I was surprised she recognised me, even after two years, despite her old age.
Her name is KANNAMMA, born in the year 1935, at vellivayilchavadi, in Chennai. She started narrating her life history, the house belonged to her grandfather Sri. Kadhirvelu Mudhaliar, a civil contractor then, who had amassed huge wealth and properties in and around mylapore. His son, her maternal uncle was Sri. Devaraj Mudhaliar and his son Sri. Kuppusamy Mudhaliar, to whom she had got married in 1959. Being issueless, her husband passed away in 1994, she has been living alone since then. When I asked her how she manages being alone, she said her relatives come to see her now and then and her neighbours are also helping her. She regaled her story with enthusiasm and new added fervour that someone has come to hear her life story as I started making notes of everything she shared.
She told me that all the wealth earned by her maternal grandfather those days were squandered by her maternal uncle, who was her father in law too and her husband (maternal uncle’s son).The house then had lots of relatives staying at this house, her mother’s sister’s family and their children. But after her grandparents and husband’s death the house had become deserted. But now with lots of bodily complaints, her health has taken a beating and set back, her mobility is very restricted and confined to her room mostly and depends on many people to come and help her. As I was talking to her, there were influx of at least two to three people having an eye on her and her needs. But,able to maintain herself from the rent that she gets from houses in Mylapore.
Her grandfather’s name is inscribed in the steps of theMYLAPORE KAPALEESHWARAR TEMPLE TANK, as person residing in salai street, at house No. 19, belonging to chozhiya vellalar caste, Sri. S. KADHIRVELU MUDHALIAR, has contributed towards the tank work, for three feet breadth, 36 row steps, in the year 1916. She showed me the old document to this effect which she still has a memoir. This information stoneengraved in the MYLAPORE KAPALEESHWARAR TEMPLE TANK and can be seen even today. Even till date and from her grandfather days their family has been the SOLE UBAYADHAARAR, or the sole contributor towards expenses for the SEVENTH DAY, where Lord kabali is taken on a palanquin in the inner compound of the temple in the month of vaigaasi every year, that is between May and June months of English calendar.
The house though is bereft of maintenance, but has retained its original glory with the open lighting, the fire place, courtyard, skyopen space in the centre of the hall, with iron railings on top to stop any strangers trying to gain an entry into the house, which is permanently fixed to the walls of the house, as in old buildings of those days. This has retained its lived well looks, though now it’s almost in a very dilapidated state but liveable for a single person like her. She is very lively, bubbly and happy that I came to see her, asked for help towards her health issues in suggesting a good Neuro Doctor. I promised her I would suggest her the best doctor in Chennai and revert back to her.
Sometimes I wonder, how people like her manage, with no one around her on a permanent basis just visitors, guests like me to look up on her which is a rarity, with her food supplied by the priest, who looks after their family’s Amman temple on that street, being managed by her till date. Reminiscing their temple sevas she showed me the Kapali temple palanquin photos of Lord Kapaleeswarar’s and the Amman temple. She also told me at one point of time in her life, she thought of going to an old age home. But she gave up the idea later. She wanted to live in this house, with the good memories. Probably that gives her a reason to get on with her life I wonder.
Now at 83 years of age, frail health, I could still see the sparkle in her eyes, her continuous talk about the house, people who had lived in that house, her innumerable anecdotes about the past, gives her the will to live. It was time to leave and I left that old house with a heavy heart and thinking of so many old people who live like her, alone or in old age home. Living with house full of people one wouldn’t know, how well one would be taken care of, these days with the changed times. Old people who live with their families are the ones blessed I suppose, given the fact there would some be some minor adjustment problems, as they get older their demands and moods are different from the young ones in the family. This needs more understanding from the young people, to handle the older people at home, who can get too cranky and handful at times. People change with the changed family, societal, demands, to strike a balance of living.
VIJAYASHREE RAMESH, CHENNAI BASED ADVOCATE.