By Saroja Subramaniam
A heartwarming story of the manifestation of maternal bond in its various manifestations.
Your April 2013 issue on the wonderful theme of Love in its wide-ranging manifestations, and especially the maternal love of Anuradha Iyer, was extremely interesting to read.
The last-named feature reminded me of the unusually affectionate bond which my husband and myself had developed with my nephew, Karthik. As a three-year-old in 1977, he had asked my husband whether we had any children. When we said ‘no’, he at once declared that he would be our son and also told his puzzled father, my brother, that he would be staying with us at Delhi!
Karthik had his schooling at Chennai. He spent all his summer holidays with us in the sweltering heat of Delhi, and smothered us with his love and affection. While he studied at IIT (Madras) and then at IIM (Calcutta), he made it a point to invariably visit us at Chennai when we had shifted there.
As a student in the eighth standard, he astounded his teachers and classmates with his fluent chanting of Chapter 12 of Bhagavad Gita, and his extempore commentary on it. That same clarity of thought and lucid style of presentation was evident when he presented his company’s marketing strategy to a group of company executives abroad while at Germany.
He insisted on our staying with him at Kuala Lumpur, once as a bachelor, when he was posted there as a management trainee, and then for a second time when he had set up his home after his marriage with Ms Anjali Jain. Both of them then relocated to Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany, when he took up an assignment with a metallurgical consultancy firm and Anjali with a software firm. He never missed the opportunity to call on us at Chennai whenever he managed to visit his parents amidst his busy official tours in North India. He also used to ring us up frequently.
When we once visited the ISKCON Temple in Bengaluru, he gifted me a calendar based on the theme, Vatsalya, depicting Lord Krishna variously with Maa Yasodha, saying that it was specially meant for me.
In May 2007, when Karthik’s parents, who had gone to Frankfurt to spend some time with him, cut short their stay there and came to Chennai to look after my husband who had suffered a heart attack, Karthik, who had just returned to Frankfurt from his business tour to India, handed over his baggage to Anjali and managed to accompany his parents to Chennai so as to be at my husband’s bedside. He thought that my husband would recover faster after seeing him. Then again in June 2010, as we were leaving along with his parents for Tirupathi to attend the Kalyanotsavam of Lord Balaji, he came up the staircase of our flat at midnight and remarked with a sheepish grin on his face that he wanted to give us a surprise on our 50th wedding anniversary! Karthik was more than what our own son would have been.
His last phone call was on April 15, 2011, when he wished us on the Tamil New Year/Vishu day. Then came the most shocking news for his parents and us when on April 26, 2011, Anjali called to tell that Karthik had drowned in Lake Innenthal near Zurich, while swimming. Karthik was then 35 years old, in the prime of his life and career.
Karthik was a most lovable and humane person with a friends’ circle extending globally. One Egyptian colleague from Germany recruited by Karthik for one of his company’s projects in North India, broke down at his funeral, saying, ‘When Karthik entered the conference room with his beaming smile, it was like a whiff of fresh air. He had a kind word for everyone and a solution to each one’s problem.” All Karthik’s friends, alumni of IIT (Madras) and IIM (Calcutta), have such a high regard for him that they have contributed towards instituting a merit-cum-means “P R Karthik Scholarship” Fund at IIM (Calcutta) to perpetuate his memory.
Two years have since rolled by. Only his pleasant memories remain, and the same affection shown to us by Anjali who has since been blessed with wonderful twins, a boy and a girl, Arihant and Ishani. Karthik always wished that he had had a sister. The reason: “Only then would my children have an athai (aunt), because every one should have an athai who is the most affectionate creature in the world!” May enduring and everlasting love ever prevail!
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