I was never a “birthday boy” and seldom do I celebrate my birthday, though a few around me remind me of the glorious occasion, the day after India turned a full republic..a very important year as that. Birthdays to me are normal days of the week. I can never imagine wasting my time planning for celebrations, then executing it and finally blowing off the candles. All these look childish and bogus to me and when someone wishes “Happy Birth Day” I would like to reply “Bah Humbug” like Ebenezer Scrooge. And getting older by one more year is no occasion to celebrate either. Celebrations need victories and I haven’t done anything special to celebrate. By Malayalam era it falls on one particular day, Gregorian calendar it is another day and it is yet another day by the star under which your are born. That doesn’t make sense. In fact the only day worth celebrating is the day you are born, your real birth day, the day you started business in this world. Well! my daughter thinks otherwise and she decides this birthday is something special and flies down from Mumbai unannounced. And my daughter in law composes a poem, rather a paean.
Since many of my friends and relatives, who crossed this milestone had celebrated it in a big way, with great reluctance I agreed for a small prayer at home with family and just a few other close friends. But a formal prayer demands someone to lead us in prayer and that is how our Student Chaplain Rev.Vineeth Mathew Achen, a genuine priest in theory and practice, and his sweet Baskiama Seba Kochamma were invited. Knowing about my love for books, Achen thoughtfully presented two books – Ethirpokku by Joy Mathew and The Namesake by Jumpa Lahiri. The books were not only a gift for an eager reader but a memorable present that can last for ever as it was signed not only by Achen and Kochamma but by their little angel Joanna too who had passed away in a tragic accident a few months ago.
I reserved The Namesake for serious reading and started off with Joy Mathew. Half way through this book was this reference about “Koottu” another book authored by Boby Jose Kattikkatt, a Capuchin monk. I left Joy Mathew and ordered Koottu over Amazon which promptly arrived the very next day. Here is what Joy Mathew has to say on the book:
“യാത്രകളിൽ ‘കൂട്ട്’ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നെങ്കിലും വായിക്കാൻ തുടങ്ങിയത് ഏറെ കഴിഞ്ഞാണ്. വായിച്ചുതുടങ്ങിയപ്പോഴോ പുസ്തകം താഴെ വയ്ക്കാൻ തോന്നിയതുമില്ല ആഴത്തിലുള്ള വായന നൽകിയ അറിവിന്റെ , അലിവിൻറെ, സൗഹൃദത്തിന്റെ, ചങ്ങാത്തത്തിന്റെ ഉദാത്തമായ സ്നേഹത്തിന്റെ വെളിപാട് പുസ്തകമാണ് ഈ കൂട്ട്.. ഇത്രയേറെ എന്നെ കൊതിപ്പിച്ച പുസ്തകം അടുത്ത കാലത്തു ഞാൻ വായിച്ചിട്ടില്ല. നെരൂദയും കസാന്ത്സാക്കീസും, ദസ്തയേവിസ്കിയും സച്ചിദാനന്ദനും സുഗതകുമാരിയും ഫെല്ലിനിയും ചാപ്ലിനും ഗാന്ധിയും രാമനും കൃഷ്ണനും ഇതിഹാസങ്ങളും കയറിയിറങ്ങി നാം ഒരു തീരത്തണയുന്നു. സ്നേഹമെന്ന അലിവിൻറെ തീരത്ത്.”
Joy Mathew is bang on. I read the book in one go and can undoubtedly recommend that this is perhaps one of the best books in Malayalam that goes in to the deeper meanings of friendships of all hues including that with God and Nature. Friendship or koottu is the essence of life that pulls you on. To overcome the killing solitude or loneliness one has to necessarily build bridges of friendship and the book celebrates that with beautiful imageries and frequent bits of intelligent humour.
My birthday celebration was worth the troubles thanks to this classic book – almost a treatise on friendship and strange is the route it has taken to reach me..thorough Vineeth Mathew Achen, through Joy Mathew and finally Amazon. As Joy Mathew himself writes; “അതങ്ങനെയാ ജോയി, ചില മനുഷ്യരിലൂടെയേ ചില കാര്യങ്ങൾ മറ്റുള്ളവരിൽ എത്തുകയുള്ളൂ.”