It was a lazy Sunday morning. We were playing cricket on the small maidan on the banks of Meenachil river. Playing cricket midday till Sunday was a ritual practiced vehemently by our gang, there were only seldom Sundays when the event did not happen. Not that playing regularly improved our game by any measure, but it was an unwritten tradition. Humid southern Indian summer or torrential south westerly monsoon, the game invariably found a way to happen.
There was another tradition which accompanied our Sunday morning game. The journey of Achutan, with his long fishing rod, accompanied by his son Ramu. Achutan was a peon in the nearby Government Polytechnic College. And Ramu was in kindergarten, at the local Anganwadi. The game used to pause when they were passing because they had to cross the field to reach the bank of the river where Achutan used to fish. Little Ramu used to wave to us and we used to wave back at him. The father-son duo was a sight for us to watch. The son used to always walk three steps behind his father, it was almost like a two person march past. Achutan would be holding his fishing rod over his shoulder whereas Ramu would be holding a small earthern pot which normally would be filled by the time they used to make their return trip back homeward.
Achutan and Ramu used to talk loudly about a lot of things when walking along, could be about Ramu’s school, Achutan’s job at college, fishing, household stuff. A lot of things. On most occasions, Achutan used to be the speaker and Ramu used to be the listener. Achutan was very patient when answering Ramu’s question. It was evident that he was not well educated, so he had his limitations. But he was always mild and patient when talking to Ramu. The scene was virtually the same every Sunday, our game, the duo’s arrival, our pausing of the game to let them pass, and their return through our ground again after a couple of hours or more. They used to fish very on the bank adjacent to our ground, so we could hear Ramu’s cheerful shouts whenever Achutan caught a fish. The pitch in Ramu’s shout was in direct proportion to the size of fish, we knew Achutan caught a big fish when loud ecstatic cries from Ramu used to reach us. When returning back, the walk would be reversed. This time Ramu would be running ahead and stopping for his father to catch up, with the pot generally full of freshly caught fish. And Achutan would follow behind, contendly smoking his beedi.
It has been ten years since then. The landscape in our small village has more or less remained unaltered. We still play cricket. We still pause the game when Achutan and Ramu cross the pitch to their usual spot on the banks of Meenachil river. Barring a few differences. All of us used to be in school back then, wearing shorts and shirts with more holes and fewer buttons. Now we wear lungis and random branded T shirts. Our cricket graduated from makeshift bats chiseled from coconut tree branches and tennis ball to BDM bats and cork balls. And Ramu has advanced from kindergarten to high school. And they don’t walk. Ramu pedals on his bicycle with a grey haired Achutan on the pillion. But the sweet camaraderie between father and son has remained untouched.
Time doesn’t keep everything frozen but it certainly does preserve the essence.