Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Friend Aleykutty

I have decided this shall be my last attempt to blog about my friend Aleykutty. All previous attempts (more than half a dozen) got aborted by my sense of inadequacy. I feared I could not capture in words her person and personality with the limited linguistic resources at my disposal. For how do you analyse what goes into the making of a gentle soul who can laugh at everything in this world, and most of all at herself and her troubles, be they pinpricks or rifle wounds? Life doles out its share of miseries to all – but unlike all of us, Aleykutty can laugh about her share of it. She has that capacity to step outside every trying situation she finds herself in, look at them from the outside with eyes of a story teller gifted with a keen sense of humour, and then talk about them as though they were scenes in a comic play in which she too has a role to play.

Her terrific sense of humour and fantastic narrative skill make her the best storyteller I have ever listened to. She has us in splits all the time.
She was the nerve center of the Department (she has retired – how we miss her!). When she sits at the common table placed in the center of the room, others would leave their seats one by one and join her, as though drawn by an irresistible magnetic pull. And those memorable sessions round that table would be like laughter holding both her sides.

The subject of her hilarious stories is usually herself – she is the butt of most her jokes. She stayed in the staff hostel and went home on Friday evenings for the weekend. On Monday, she would arrive with her bagful of jokes and funny stories, built around her journey back and forth, and the weekend happenings in her house in the heart of rural Mid-Travancore.

Here’s one of her Monday stories. She was a little indisposed on a Friday but still chose to travel home, despite feeling nauseous. As soon as she got a seat in the bus, she fished out a couple of lemon flavoured wrapped toffees from her handbag, put one in her mouth and kept the other in her hand just in case she continued to feel pukish. Lost in a reverie, she didn’t hear the conductor asking her to buy the ticket, till he tapped her on the shoulder with the edge of his pencil. She shook herself out of the daydream and told him her destination, and then absent-mindedly handed the lemon-flavoured toffee to him, instead of the fare. The conductor’s eyes flew back and forth rapidly between the toffee lying in his palm and Aleykutty’s face, and then he said to her, “Madam, this is worth only 10 paise. The fare is three Rupees”. Aleykutty’s description of the conductor’s facial expression when she put the toffee into his palm would put the most established author of farcical comedy to shame.

Yet another journey story. This time, she was traveling in an overcrowded private bus, which stopped in a no-man’s land between two stops, in order to issue tickets. Aleykutty, who had a window seat, looked out and saw a barbershop with a name board “Chandrodayam”. From where she sat, she could see the comings and goings in the shop. She sat patiently, looking out of the window, watching rather abstractedly the activities in the barber shop, her eyes straying occasionally to the name board “Chandrodayam”. Soon the conductor came to issue tickets. She gave him three rupees. “Where to?” he barked. Absent minded, Aleykutty replied ”Chandrodayam”. The people sitting near her burst out laughing but the irate conductor snapped, “You don’t need a ticket to go to Chandrodayam, lady. Just get down from the bus and take ten steps forward.”

Aleykutty is not tall. She missed 5 ft by a little more than an inch. Of course, she has plenty of jokes and stories about that. Like this one, when, as a PG student, she was assigned the role of a judge in the College play. With the coat and powdered wig, she looked impressive on the high chair (specially provided to make the judge’s daunting presence fill the stage) in which she sat during the course of the scene. The most dramatic moment arrived. The verdict was going to be delivered. She got up (or down? as she herself puts it) from the high chair and the huge audience dissolved into laughter. The judge, whom they expected to loom large, was shorter standing up than sitting down. Struggling to keep a straight face, she managed to deliver the judgment to an audience in no mood now to listen to any solemn pronouncements. The curtain came down before time and the tragedy ended up as a tragic-comedy!

I have many many more stories told by Aleykutty – about herself, or about her interactions with life, enough to bring out a book titled Thus Spake Aleykutty. But no more stories, ‘cos they reduce her to a mere teller of funny stories, doer of funny deeds. She is more than that. Much more than that. And, I must ruefully admit that, once again, this effort to write about her has failed to achieve the desired results. For I have made no mention of the largeness of her heart, her generosity, her genial outlook on life, her refusal to be judgmental – all of which, and much more, form the stuff she is made of. And if ever there was a person with no airs whatsoever about her, it was Aleykutty. The unassuming manner in which she conducted herself and the self- deprecating manner of speech misled many into placing her below the millionaire slot to which she actually belonged. Never have I come across a more modest, unpretentious, self-effacing person, or one whose sense of humor kept her so alive and sensitive to the lighter side of life.


  1. I do not know you but know Aleykutty. There is another story. Aleykutty as a school border in palai being taken for Andu kumbasaram . The cardinal sin the children committed was - being touched by the shop keeper while buying things.
    Incidently I am Rose marys Aunt . Aley kutty Taught me . As she was taught by my brother

  2. Neat! Looks like you did a good job and she should be happy to read this :-)

    People who only show a lighter side, who laugh at everything are often cast off as mere comedians one would look up to have a laugh. Many forget they too have all feelings of a human being. Hmmm...

  3. hey, nice read:) came from a friend's blog entry (
    bytheway enthanee "paraltank"?:)

  4. @nithin rajan
    the apt i lived in when i started blogging was on pareltank rd.

  5. I can literally see Ms Aleykutty's smile...reading this.

    A wonderful tribute to a friend!!!


  6. Mollyaunty, You certainly did an "Aleykutty" with the narration of the Kalpana incidents and the "Mollycoddling" of an Aiyappa Daasi :-). Thanks for the laughs!!!

  7. @a
    hey, who is this 'a'? i know 2 persons who could fit. your blogs must b v interesting. y dont u give us access to it?

  8. It's me, Amala - just forgot to post my name :-)


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