Monday, January 6, 2014

Annie's Story

The tin trunk with its sole occupant perched on it, looked forlorn in the deserted railway platform. She shifted nervously, twisted the handkerchief in her sweaty palms and thought,Where was Appachan?How could he leave her alone at such a place?

Annie (1st Child From The Left)

Annie was 19 years old, tall and slender, her hair tied in a single plait reached almost to her hips, but it was her eyes that people noticed first, when they looked at her, piercing, sharp and intelligent, they sparkled with intensity. It was her eyes for which her mother would often rebuke her, “Behave like a lady, look down and walk, sit with your knees together” And the last one which Annie detested the most “Go! Look after your younger siblings, you’ll not get anywhere by reading a book all day!”

Annie's House in Kaipattoor
Annie loved to read and solve maths (or was it the handsome Math teacher that made her so punctual at school? She blushed at the thought), and much against the wishes of her tyrannical mother, she completed the Intermediate level and was now hoping to do her medical studies from Madras. On the cover of her books she had often scribbled her name as: Dr.Annie Koshy, such was her determination to pursue the medical profession. Unfortunately she got jaundice and by the time she recovered, the admissions were over. Someone suggested Calcutta Medical College and her father agreed to take her there (against protests from his wife). As misfortune would have it, admissions to MBBS had just gotten over there too, and now her father and she were waiting in the deserted Howrah station for the train to take her back to Kerala.
Howrah Station

Dejected and lost in her own thoughts, it took a while for her to notice someone calling her name, she recognized him, it was a distant maternal uncle who had left his home many moons ago to work in the tea estate in some remote place. As they chatted, they realized that “that remote place” had a government medical college and after all, everything was not lost yet, she could still complete her medical studies and fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor. Armed with little knowledge of this new place she was going to, Annie arrived at Upper Assam and enrolled to become an MBBS doctor. This was India in 1956 and communications were very poor. Annie recalls how they had taken a ferry and crossed a mighty river, the widest she had ever seen, The Brahmaputra, changed trains twice and finally reached Dibrugarh.

Tea Garden in Assam

Annie shuddered at thoughts of her early days at this alien and remote land: the food at the hostel mess- everything cooked in pungent mustard oil, river fish, watered down yellow lentils and white rice; the dissections of animals and humans- the stench of rotting flesh and open wounds; and most of all the blabbering of a foreign tongue! She would cry some nights into her pillow, muffling her sobs so that her room mates couldn't hear. It was only her mother’s bitter last words stinging the back of her neck as she walked out of her 100 year old ancestral home that gave her strength to face each morning at medical college. “Don’t ever forget you belong to the most respected family in the village, your grandparents name must never be disgraced.”

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

And this is exactly what young Annie, daughter of Elizabeth and George, belonging to the oldest Mar Thoma Syrian Church Of Malabar did- disgraced her family by marrying her Hindu doctor colleague, the sports captain she met at the inter-university Athletic meet.
He was soft-spoken, kind and understanding. He followed her everywhere with his shy flirty eyes. On their journey back from Guwahati (where the event was held) they managed to get seats next to each other. They stayed up all night chatting in hushed tones, so no one could hear. Annie was amazed at how she could open up her soul to a complete stranger. She had never felt this way before. And from that day on till their 5 years of university was done, Annie and Aroon were shadows of each other. Everyone on campus knew that they would eventually marry, and so they did and had two lovely daughters.
Annie and Aroon, 1960

Cut to 2014: Annie looked up from the book she was reading, Aroon had fallen asleep as usual in front of the TV, she shook him gently, “Come, its late, it’s been a long day, let’s go to bed.”
And so, as they have been doing for 52 long years, my dear loving mum and dad went to bed.

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