It is an early summer morning in Neyveli. The schools were closed for the summer vacation. The house was quiet with no hurry-burry of preparing for school. The children (Ravi, Jyothi, Sridevi, Kiran, Surya and Chinni, and sometimes, Sujata too) were still in bed. Sarojini Atha was in the kitchen and Ratnam mama was reading the newspaper on the veranda.
“Rrrrrrrring – Rrrrrrrring”, the telephone shattered the silence.
The children awoke with a start and rushed out of the bedroom. They silently stood behind the door of the room where the telephone was kept, quietly giggling among themselves. This was a daily ritual at Ratnam Mama’s house, where we had gone for the holidays.
The B&C ( Briquetting and carbonisation ) plant was operated 24/7. The night shift in charge would call Ratnam mama every day at 7.30 AM and give his report on the phone before leaving for his home. On this side, the only words that were uttered loudly by Mama were, “AA…AA…AAMAAM!”, which meant, “Yes…Yes…OK!”. We would listen to him from far away and giggle amongst ourselves.
Later, when the adults were not around, our game of role-play was to stand at the phone and go, “AA….AAA…..AAMAAM!” and pretend to be Ratnam mama. This was a favourite game that would go on for hours!
Veerayya was an employee of NLC and a Home-Guard. We were told that he was a poor man, who walked all the way from Madras to Neyveli (about 200 km) in search of a job. Ratnam mama helped him to get a suitable job. Ratnam mama was a very helpful person and would always go the extra mile to help deserving persons. Many people in Neyveli gratefully remember him as their well-wisher and saviour.
Ratnam mama, Lakshminaraya mama and my father Janardhan, our three families, related to each other and employed with NLC, had close family bonding. Picnics, swimming pool activity, clubs, games, children’s birthdays, family events, religious events, and festivals were all time for celebration and bonding. I recall all these with happiness.
L to R Back row
Satyavati (mother), Janardhan Rao (father), Ratnam uncle
CV Rao (Cousin),Sridevi (sister), Me, Kiran(brother), Surya Kumari (sister)
I have lots and lots of memories of my Ratnam mama. Though as little children sometimes we were scared of him, his infectious loud laugh and his affection towards me remains etched in my mind. One more thing I have to mention is, he uses any small opportunity to expose us to new learning experiences. Thus enhancing our knowledge and good values.
Thanks a lot for this opportunity to remind us and to recollect our time with this great person Ratnam mama during his birth centenary.