Memory and memorialising

Experts say people hit the streets of nostalgia when they are lonely or when they feel unhinged, to get rid of their social anxiety. It helps create a sense of belongingness and restore the continuity between yesterday and today. What triggers it? It can be anything, a piece of music, or an old friend, or maybe sketches of one’s hometown.

When cartoonist Sudheer Nath began to make sketches of his hometown Thrikkakara from his memories little did he know that they will open floodgates of memories in several other Thrikkakara natives as well who were cooped up in their homes, coming to terms with the pandemic.

Once Thrikkakara had hills and forests. Foxes, mongooses, and rabbits were seen in plenty. Does anyone remember the first bus that used to ply in the town? The barber who used to sit by the roadside? Or the old cinema talkies?

Several people who grew up in Thrikkakara began to share their memories with Sudheer upon seeing his sketches and buoyed by the interest they triggered in them, Sudheer, who had a short 10-part series in his mind, has gone on to publish as many as 50 blog posts till now.

“Now, I am thinking of turning ‘Thrikkakara Sketches’ into a book. People have been sharing their experiences, anecdotes, and stories about Thrikkakara. After a few posts, I was able to attract up to 1,000 readers. Then it just went viral. People share them on WhatsApp, and the readership has zoomed to about 1lakh now,” says Sudheer.

“Thrikkakara temple has served as a location for several blockbusters. The most famous among them was Mammangam (1979) featuring some of the best-known superstars of that era including, Prem Nazir, Jayan, Adoor Bhasi, and Shankarady. With the film crew coming in, the small and silent town was suddenly so full of people. There were not many vehicles around. The entire route till Edappally was lined with cycles. Some people raised protests over Nazir entering the temple. Film director Appachan is said to have offered the protest leaders Rs 10 each day to ensure that the shoot goes smoothly,” says Sudheer.

Most of the stories sketched by Sudheer plunge into the history of Thrikkakara and portray the changing face of the townscape. There were no tarred roads or vehicles. A few people had Ambassador cars, he says. “I remember hearing about the first bus that came to Thrikkakara. Its name was Sriram and it began its service from Thodupuzha to Ernakulam in the 1950s. One Mr Swamy was the bus owner. The area was so quiet those days. One could hear a bus horn almost 1.5 km away from Pipeline Junction,” says Sudheer.

There were four cinema halls around: Kairali in Edappally, Shobha at Toll and Tharam and Preethi in the north and south Kalamassery, respectively. Most of the youngsters of those days would have seen a movie in at least one of the theatres, he says.

One of the blog posts talks about the local ice cream vendor, who used to sell ‘ice fruit’ near a school in the area. “I drew the ice-cream seller from memory. After seeing the sketch, a person who visited my blog messaged me pointing out that this man was selling ice cream for years in the area.”

Those days there were hills and dry forests in the region. The locals would hear foxes at night. Now, the hills are gone and so are the foxes. “When our parents got angry, they threatened us that they will throw us to the foxes. There used to be so many rabbits and mongooses as well,” says Sudheer.

Elephants were yet another craze for the people of Thrikkakara just like in any other village. The jumbos brought in during the temple festivities used to draw locals in hordes.

The neighbourhood barber, Thankappan who used to sit by the roadside has also found his way into Sudheer’s blog post. His son Kumaran used to play the flute. “When we hear the flute, we know he’s free. Then we go in for a haircut or a shave,” says Sudheer.

The feedback from readers helped him build ‘connections’, that’s how he started talking about several more people, places, and buildings that were part of Thrikkakara history, Sudheer says.

Even as the pandemic continues taking its toll and stressing out people, several Thrikkakara natives seem to have enjoyed this walk down memory lane. It is not just one person, but several others who appear to have re-lived their lifetimes.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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