06 August, 2009

Neighbours - Part II

If a child could be brought up with nice manners and habits then it could lead to so many advantages when they grow big. Bringing them up well not only depends on the parents, it is also important to have a good neighbourhood. One of my neighbours had a special child called Murali. Murali was elder to us. He could not speak well. Though he was fully grown and huge he preferred to be with kids. He liked calling me ‘H..A..A...N...U’ in his own way. As a child I started thinking very seriously and started showing more concern towards others because of him. Though he was a disabled person, he taught me indirectly that there are different kinds of human beings in this world. He laughed and smiled from the other side of compound wall when we used to play in our house. Whenever the ball or ring fell in his house he was there to pick it up and throw it back to us happily.

Every day he looked forward for us. Even while we were studying he used to stop by the compound wall and call me “H...A...A..N..U” (His way of calling ‘Balu’ which was my pet name). He would not move until I acknowledged him. Sometimes if we were studying seriously we would not notice him. But he used to remain there for minutes and will move happily only after we acknowledge his greetings. His mother Shankunthala Aunty was a bold lady. Though she had four daughters, Murali was her only son. Unfortunately he was born disabled and she showed lots of courage in bringing him up.

The compound wall was less than three feet. Whenever Murali was upset, he jumped over the compound wall and came into our house. We were small kids and he was very huge. Any visitor who used to come to our house was scared for the first time on seeing him. But later on after knowing him they became comfortable. My sister and self used to recite slokas everyday in the evening after finishing our play. As we started reciting Murali would jump the wall and come and sit next to us. He had peculiar habits which we were used to. But he was a harmless soul. Now after having grown, I think he was really a special person. He must have liked us so much that he was there to sit next to us every evening when we were reciting slokas.

Every time he wore something new he used to stand behind the wall and shout ‘H..A...N...U’. When we wondered Sakunthala aunty was there to explain that it was his birthday and he wanted to show his new dresses to us. He was afraid of ‘Gudu Gudu Paandi’ (the terryifying look sooth sayer who used to visit every house in the early morning with an odd instrument in his hand which made sounds like Gudu..Gudu...). Murali was also afraid of darkness. Whenever there was power cut and the lights were off he used to scream loudly. We were used to it and were never scared. As soon as the power resumed he used to clap loudly as well.

Every evening Aunty used to talk about her day’s experiences to my mom and she sought our help for few things. I remember her husband. He was an ex-serviceman who had served in Military. He had so much of love and affection on Murali. Uncle had plenty of books in his library and used to lend me during my holidays. I remember having read “Dr.Jekyl and Mr.Hyde”. He used to ask questions once we finished reading the book. As kids, this motivated us to read those books well. One night when he went to his toilet, Murali screamed so loudly and we rushed to see Uncle lying flat on the floor. He had collapsed and Murali who was waiting for his Dad had realised the untoward incident. For his knowledge he realised that his Dad was not normal and something had happened to him. He cried loudly. Aunty who was in some other room rushed. We felt afraid and Murali was holding his father’s head on his lap and screamed ‘H..A..N..U..’ and showed his dad. All neighbours rushed and sent message to Doctor. Some neighbours felt that the pulse had gone down. Murali’s father had a massive heart attack and had passed away even before the Doctor arrived. Murali was uncontrollable.

After his father’s death, he was dull for few days. Probably his father’s death affected him a lot. I knew how painful it is to lose a father since I had lost my father just few years before then. Whenever he saw me behind the compound wall, he cried for few seconds. Though he should have been 30 by then, we treated him as a kid. He made us realise many things in life. Aunty was always courageous and though her daughters requested her to move to their house she refused and remained on her own. She always worried about him. She often used to say that she wanted to see Murali’s life end before her life would end.

Years rolled by. We sold our property and moved homes. After my son grew a little, I visited my old neighbourhood. Savithiri Aunty was there who introduced us to our new occupants and took us around. I stood before the coconut tree which I had planted and watered regularly when I was a kid. My sister and myself were allotted two small coconut saplings in our younger days by our Dad to take care. He had told us that one day when the tree grows big I would have grown and may think about the old days. When I stood there before the tree I was emotional. I looked at the one watered and taken care by my sisters. All the treesl had grown huge and had plenty of Coconuts.

We went to Murali’s house. Aunty was there to receive us. Murali had become old. He was bed ridden. He could not be active as he was in his younger days. Aunty asked Murali whether he could recognise me. He got up from his bed and said “H..A..N..U..”. I was on tears. I am on tears even now when I type this line. I sat next to him. He was terribly sick and Aunty had grown old too. I stroked him gently and he felt so happy. My son was afraid. I showed my son to Murali. Looking at my son, he spontaneously replied “P..A..A..P..A..... H...A...N..U... P..A...A..P...A” (meaning ‘Child’). I had to leave with a heavy heart wishing Aunty good health.
Last visit when I made to India, I visited their house and was disappointed that aunty had become very old and moved to the City to live with her daughters. She could not take care of herself and so her daughters had taken both of them. I did not have time to find their address and visit them.

Very recently when I established contacts with another neighbour they informed me that Sakunthala aunty has passed away. I felt sad for the news and silently mourned for her soul to rest in peace. I heard that Murali has also become very sick. He is a lovely human, a pure soul.
As a neighbour who had grown spending wonderful days I wish Murali recovers soon and live with a good health. I am very positive that I will be able to meet him again and spend few moments.

He had taught me so many things indirectly about life.


Kavi said...

A very touching post. And very movingly and incisively written one too.

It is in such sharing that you get to know how small the world is and how connected our experiences are.

There are many Murali's of the world that i know too. There was a 'mad man' called 'Kanna Kirukan' by the neighbourhood. I am reminded of him.

We used to run scared of him. But there was a man next door who always had conversation with him, and even fed him. And thats a lesson that i carry till date.

And its so nice to know that you are still grounded to go back to the coconut trees that you planted.

Such grounding will keep you flying. And such sharing makes the world a much better place.

Thank you!

Swatantra said...


I had tears in my eyes when i read this. When ever i read your blog, i see life from very close.

You are a person with a beautiful heart and thought. I am sure you will meet murali again and express him your love again.

May god bless your sweet relationship.

Anonymous said...

very moving.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Thanks for sharing. Yes, there are wonderful people on this earth too. My brother-in-law is my role model. He took me during my younger days to lot of rural mental health centres in Hyderabad and showed me these kind of children. Believe me or not! As soon as he entered those care centres, those children used to feel happy and come towards him. Some used to come and hit him and used to have some peculiar kind of behaviour. He explained to me that they were just showing and expressing their best way. He opened my eyes at a very young age. Even when he visited us he used to have chat with Murali and gave lots of tips to his Mom. He is a Doctor by profession and after his advice Murali was given lot of physical jobs like watering the plants, drawing water from the well and etc., Those small physical activities did help him.

In western world there are lots of societies and charities. I find lots of help coming up in India too. I wish such souls get more help from the Governments.

Anonymous said...

excellent post .....you definetly have a very unique writing skill that can make the hardest of the people to cry. Your blogs are very practical and from reading your post i can tell that your a great man. PLease continue writing more and if you do have any other sensitive stories please share it with us.I am very proud to have a dad like you. Thank you very much dad.



Narayanan Venkitu said...

I have good memories of Murali / his Dad and Mom not to forget his sisters !

I feel sad for him !!

We had very good neighbors when we grew up Balaji. Not sure if it is valid anymore..even back home, forget the West !

Life is so commercial these days !! I feel !!

Jeevan said...

This post touched me so much H..A..N..U..

I do remember few of them like Murali in our neighbor, and there was a girl a home next to us and she was mentally affected and always shouts from the balcony and says tata bye bye… to anyone passes the road and used to visit the bunk shop near to our home and ask for chocolate… she must be in her 20s now. I have seen some people tease her to make shout aloud and she call every one as anna.

“She often used to say that she wanted to see Murali’s life end before her life would end.” my dad used to say like this sometime, that I go before he gone and he don’t want me to struggle with him. Thanks for sharing about this wonderful soul and I wish wherever he was now, have been treated well and healthy, and u met him soon. I too wish to write about my neighbors after your post and sure I write sometime.

Swamy Srinivasan aka Kittu Mama said...

what can i say. it was so touchy balaji.

the concept of neighbours has purely become passing clouds these days. we just say hi with a cliche smile and have no intentions to interfere or show interest. I too had great neighbours during my lifetime in india. Infact, its just a reference to use the word neighbours. I had slept in their houses. Involved in family occassions and they have been there with a moral support. Seriously, the world is moving into a solitude and too much of commercial/robotic life is truly killing. many a times i used to think. I'm ofcourse living a great life. Yes, I've family with me but we are missing something in present day's life. Some of the sweet nothings have always been lingering in my mind. But I feel these kind of thoughts persist only with men and I don't know why most of the women forget or avoid to think their past. I've always seen Men discussing these issues but not women. Anyways, according to me, life and god is always a mystery to me.

-- kittu

Ponniyinselvan said...

dear Balaji,
Missing our dear loved one cause irrecoverable pain.
Tears never stop.
Sharing our pain with others is the only remedy.
karthik amma

Balaji S Rajan said...


Thanks for your kind words. My words reflect my thoughts. I thank for this wonderful life and good people around me.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Thanks for your comments.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Thanks for your comments.

Balaji S Rajan said...


I agree. Yes, we had wonderful neighbours. Everything is changing. We are unable to accept these things.

Balaji S Rajan said...


I have the same doubt. Women in our societies are so different than men. Everything changes after their wedding. I have even asked the same question to few whom I know. I think it is instinct and true to their nature. It is a pity they sacrifice everything for their family and do not relish on these things.

Balaji S Rajan said...

Kartik amma,

I agree with you. It is a great loss which cannot be described. But what to do? We need to keep the ball rolling. We should also look forward to the life left over. We should do something good as long as we live. Probably that is what we need to learn from our past.