Old and Young

Hopping over puddles, in a little pink frock
Hardly as tall as your knee cap,
Grasping tightly your index, with an entire little pink palm
Running to catch up with you,
Even as you lift and place me
Across small pools of water on the road

Over time your pace slowed and mine picked up
That you slowly heave to match my pace
Making me wonder when I outstripped you..
Have you grown old, or have you always been that slow?

Your shoulders were the highest places on earth
Whether to watch fireworks at the temple fair
Or looked egotistically down at siblings on my mother’s shoulders
From my high up perch, higher than everyone
Although, you don’t seem so towering today..
May be because I grew up!

I could never cease to be captivated
At your many animatic retellings of the fox and the sour grapes
As you enacted the fox, smacking hungrily at the grapes
And I watched still with suspense
Wearing nothing but a little chaddi on Sunday mornings
and letting slip bursts of giggles and wild applause at the end
Prevailing over the twitch of steamy dosa batter
As Amma spread them on hot pans in the kitchen

Your sneeze could shake me with shock
Jolting my heart inside my very chest
Your palms and feet were large as a scary predator
But of late, wrinkles have lined up your forehead
Your smile has grown tired, your face scaled
Your slouch paining and arms have grown saggy
Each time I visit, do you grow a little older?

Your hair line has retreated, and your belly grown pronounced
A few more gray hairs have propped up on your scalp
Couple more lines on your face
Looking back, you are not the man of my childhood
With a stiff bare back and haughty pace
Running up and down the stairs youthfully
and throwing imaginary cricket balls in the air, pacing
Your temper softened, your voice mellowed
Reading your newspapers with spectacles now
Slouched like a caged, retired lion
And a youth gone by..
Looking back, you are not the man of my childhood
Even though your eyes are menacingly curious as ever
You’ve grown old..
and I’ve taken your place!

Inherited your love for pepper and books,
Your haughty pride in our ancestory
And stories of the British honouring your great-grandfather
And estranged relatives that set sail to Ceylon!
I have taken on, your love for Carnatic and Nehru
Tales of landlords and cesses
And playing by the Bharathapuzha
Broken sculptures piled in an old Kalari
Where no one lights a lamp now
Up for sale are old roots

Barren, broken and changed,
From Ottapalam to California,
What a long way we have come
Seeds of our DNA, and creative destruction of the old
Soon my skin will wither away
My muscles will atrophy..
To give way to the future, somewhere we’ll have a mark
A tiny remembrance
A testimony to a full, colorful life lived.

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