Loneliness

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“Not association constant, not affection’s token bind;
‘Tis, the unison of feeling friends, unites of kindred mind” –Kural 785

It is a seven-story subsidized apartment building in Mississauga, located next to the main road. Many seniors live in that building. Luximi Ammal, a widowed Brahmin lady, is known to many people in that apartment building as she has been living there alone for many years, after losing her husband in a car accident. Luximi could always be seen in white cotton Sari with hardly any jewelry. She lives a simple life and the holy ash always appears on her forehead. She became well-known in that building as she cooked delicious iddaly, dasai, uppuma, vadai, etc. Being a Brahmin, her style of preparation is different as she adds ghee to many items and the people like to buy from her, but she only accepts limited orders. Luximi is good in singing devotional songs. Every Friday, the apartment crowd gets together to sing Bhajans  and Luximi leads them. She is a devotee of Sai Baba.

Long time ago she lived like a queen in a Sivan Temple at Jaffna. Being the eldest daughter of the chief priest, Swaminatha Iyer of Thirunelveli Sivan temple, the whole family respected her. Her two younger sisters revered her. She married her Subramania Iyer who was the son of her father’s sister and an accountant in a company. Subramanian although an educated person, was a very religious person and frequently helped his father-in-law in performing puja at the temple. Subramania Iyer won the confidence and respect of his father-in-law Swaminatha Iyer. At a young age, both Luximi and Swaminatha used to play together and eventually fell in love with each other. Swaminatha Iyer’s sister Maheswary wanted her son to marry Luximi and maintain the close relationship with Swaminatha Iyer’s family.

Luximi boasted about their ancestors who were from Rameshwaram temple in South India. Being a conservative lady, she was proud to be a high caste Brahman and liked the company of people from her own cast. Every evening, she made it a point to visit the Ganesh temple in Tirunelveli, with her husband. Luximi’s other two sisters got married and the entire family lived in a large house provided to the chief priest. Swaminatha Iyer lost his wife due to a grave sickness and Luximi took over the responsibility to look after the family. Swaminatha was respected by many people because he was a good astrologer. If anyone fell sick, they went to him to get his blessings, and he applied holy ash on their forehead, chanted mantras and blessed them. He cured them and the people believed that he had some form of magical powers. He was also good at reading horoscopes. Although the place where they lived was an old six bedroom house, the father, Luximi, her husband, and the families of two sisters lived as one family. Running the house was Luximi’s responsibility. Luximi’s two sisters had three children, two boys, and a girl. It was very unfortunate that Luximi and Subramanian Iyer did not have children although they married ten years ago. Luximi started loving her sister’s children and looked after them as her children.

Luximi’s routine involved getting up early morning, taking a bath, doing Kolam in front of the house and milking the cow before doing the puja. She also taught her sisters’ children. They also took food orders from people to generate some additional income for the family. Although Luximi looked after the cooking, her sisters gave her a helping hand.

Luximi had never expected that there will be a change in her life. The war forced her and her husband to migrate to Canada. Subramani’s friend Sivarama Krishnan, who was also an accountant and CEO in an export company in Canada, helped Subaramani to migrate to Canada. First he refused, but the war made him apply for migration with his wife. Luximi’s sisters advised Luximi to migrate so that they too in the course of time get sponsored by Luximi and migrate to Canada. The new life was very different for the couple. Initially, they had problems in adapting to the Canadian life and mingling with people from the other community.

After coming to Canada, Luximi loses her husband in an accident, which occurred at a pedestrian crossing. The sudden death of her husband was a shock for her. She had no one to guide her and was left alone. Luximi was tired of working hard and living a lonely life. She never anticipated that she will lose her husband and without the help of her relations who lived in India. Her plan to bring her sister’s family to Canada failed after her husbands’ death. She started missing her sister’s family and children, and there was no one to support her. Subramani’s death brought loneliness in Luximi’s life. She presented her case to the housing department and managed to get a subsidized single bedroom apartment to live a solitary life. Every day she sat on the side of the window of the apartment and watched happy couples. When she recollected the happy life she lived with her husband and sister’s family, tears filled her eyes. She thought that it was very unfortunate that she did not have a child. If she fell sick, there was no one to look after her. In her free time she read religious books and Tamil papers.

One day an old divorced Canadian lady who lived alone on the fifth floor of the building, suddenly passed away. For three days, her milk bottles were not collected, and the building security got a smell from the floor. He detected that the old ladies’ body was getting rotten. The Police, on a complaint from the apartment, removed the body of the woman. Luximi feared that one day she might be in similar situation. One day she happened to read an article in a local newspaper about meditation and how to overcome loneliness. She attended a meditation class conducted by Swami in the hall in the apartment building. Like her, there were few lonely ladies who attended the lectures. On the advice of the Swami, she decided to go in the evenings for a walk in the park, meet people, and enjoy the pleasure of nature. She decided to search for a good friend to find company. Although she saw many Canadian ladies, she hesitated to speak to them and to become friendly.

Months rolled out. She started going out and enjoyed the company of nature. A beautiful stream in the park attracted her. By standing on the bridge, she enjoyed feeding the ducks that swam in the stream. She saw them swimming happily with other ducks. The ducks were not lonely, then why do I feel alone, she thought. She fed them with pieces of Vadai she brought daily from home. An old Canadian gentleman watched her feeding the ducks. He admired her for the love she had for the birds.

“Madame, it looks as if you are trying to keep company with the ducks. It is a pleasure to watch the little ones following the mother” he started the conversation with Luximi.

“Yes, I love birds. See how happy they are. I have brought food from home for them. There are rabbits in that bush. I see them playing happily with their little ones”, Luximi expressed her love for birds and animals.

“I am John Harrison. They call me John. I am eighty years old. I am a retired police, officer. I never miss to come to the park and enjoy nature. I lost my wife ten years ago when she suffered from breast cancer. I have no children. I am a lonely man. I have a three bedroom bungalow and get a decent pension to lead a happy life. I drive an old car to do shopping. I need a company in my house. I do my own cooking. The only the problem is that there is no one at home to talk to and share my food. Why don’t you visit me and give me company”.

Luximi never expected the invitation from John. “Let me think about your suggestion. I do not want people to talk bad about our friendship” Luximi replied to John. Initially, she did not agree to John’s suggestion. As time went on, she decided that the only way to overcome her loneliness is to forget about her caste, ethnicity, tradition and religion and embrace people who are different from her. She decided to accept John’s offer as he appeared to be an honest, friendly man she thought to herself.

Luximi gave a piece of Vadai she brought for John. He tasted it and enjoyed it. He gave a piece of apple he had brought for Luximi from his garden.Their friendship started blossoming. She told him that she was an orthodox Hindu lady from Sri Lanka. After coming to Canada, she attended English classes and started talking in English. At John’s request, she taught him few words in Tamil and narrated their heritage. She showed him how to greet people in Tamil by saying “Vanakkam” and putting both hands together. “Tamil is an old language and more than 80 million Tamils living in the world”. John was surprised to hear that. They started talking about each other’s culture.

“What is that mark on your forehead Luximi. What does it imply?” John was keen to find out its significance.

Luximi smiled and replied “John it is called holy ash in Tamil. I am a window. As such the Tamil society will not permit me to have red Tilak on my forehead.”

“Why is it holy? We have Ash Wednesday in Catholic religion””

“You know that Hindus cremate the body after death. The final product of the body is ashes. Ash in the forehead reminds the person that one day his body will turn into ashes.” Luximi said.

“It is an interesting explanation. Symbolism carries a meaning. Every religion has its philosophy.” John replied.

John and Luximi exchanged Traditional and Cultural views of Hindus and Catholics. As time went by John, and Luximi could be seen standing on the bridge, talking and feeding the ducks. They exchanged English books. John started to learn about meditation. Gradually the loneliness that existed in both of them, disappeared. They did not care about the views of the people from their community. They were not a married couple, but a friendly couple belonging to two different ethnic communities. Luximi started living in a room in John’s house. They lived together as good friends. She gradually adapted to the western culture. John too began to converse in Tamil. Loneliness brought two cultures and languages together.

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From the age of ten, Pon has been writing short stories in Tamil. He is fluent in English, Tamil and Singhalese. Pon is now a Canadian citizen and lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. He is involved in Social and Cultural activities. He served for 4 years as the President of Senior Tamils Society of Peel in Mississauga. He is planning to unite all Tamil Seniors Association in Ontario through an eGroup and also runs a web magazine.

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