I walked into the room behind the stage, clutching my parents’ hands, nervous and curious at the same time. I was like any other four year old, not knowing what to expect, yet filled with boundless curiosity.
A shiny bulb hanging down from the ceiling, attires stitched so differently, hanging from cloth lines, colors and paints of a million shades, all reds, yellows, golds, greens and what not!
My eyes widened to the size of two one-rupee coins.
All I wanted was to run about, touch and feel the clothes, dip my fingers in the colors, rummage through the golds and silvers! All so bright, all so respectful.
I looked up at my parents with pure wonder and delight, and they smiled, knowingly.
I looked down and saw a man, lying peacefully, eyes closed, face serene. Another man was drawing on his face with a thin stick, filling in with a bright green. A white substance held around his face like a boundary. I wondered how it stood up on the man’s face without falling. And, how is he sleeping when someone’s drawing on his face!?
My mind jumped up and down with curiosity.
I saw my father, smiling and talking to everyone, clicking pictures. Of whom, I wondered.
And then…I saw him.
Facing a wall was a tall man, dressed in the most colorful and majestic of attires I’d ever seen. Red velvet cloth covered his whole upper body, an umbrella shaped white garment went down to his knees, long straw like hair was flowing down. The figure cast a shadow on the wall from the golden glow of a small yet shiny lamp. The wall had dark charcoal stains on it. The man had a ‘കിരീടം’ (headgear) in his hand.
Praying, eyes closed, he touched his headgear, then his forehead and majestically placed it on his head.
There was a second of absolute silence.
He turned around, and my eyes were the size of saucers. He stood there and my father clicked a million pictures.
Amma knelt down and whispered – “മോളെ , അത് കര്ണ്ണന്.”
(That is Karnan.)
I sat down on the floor with my mother, right in front, watching Kathakali as Amma whispered the meaning of the padam, the story. I didn’t know what the actions meant, but for me, it was a spectacular story.
The sound of each instrument stood out, then harmonized.
Anger, Love, Peace.
All was felt.
It was 2 am.
The four year old couldn’t forget the story she’d seen and heard. For her, her mother’s stories came alive around her as she heard it. Even now.
My life has grown in the midst of pure lovers of art, in all its forms. And I’ve grown to love and appreciate the same.
I see wonder and delight in my father’s eyes, who would be passionately capturing pictures and in my mother’s eyes, who would tell me the stories.
And I, like always, lean in to listen.
Every day, there’s one story or another.