If you are a KovCat, you know who this silhouette belongs to.
There is no tale, about IHM Kovalam, that can be completed without the mention of the ubiquitous Mohan Chettan. He is a part of our active memory, an ageless edifice, with whom some of the most important events of the Institute are connected.
I meet him, once a month at least, even now, and the nimbu-paani (lemonade/naranga vellam/bwonjee) still comes free. He will come bounding out of his perch in the shop (it is much bigger and flourishing), which has catered to generations of KovCats, smokers and non-smokers, the moment we let out that familiar bellow announcing our arrival.
I remember those early mornings, the nip in the air still around, when I would wait at his shop to buy stuff needed during the day. He would tote up the cost verbally, cancelling the decimal point, INR 2.50 becoming 250, and so the total which ran into thousands had to be then converted in your mind by affixing the decimal point at the appropriate point. It was interesting to watch how it transpired, this mental arithmetic a highlight of the shopping experience.
He will invariably enquire, with much personal concern, your well-being and the latest events of your life. When I am with him, I am still that fresher, quite the schmuck with no grip on realities of life. But that doesn’t matter with him, you can still read the kindness in the eyes, in spite of the rough exterior.
His daughters, whom I remember as four year olds, are married and Mohan Chettan is a grandfather now. His grand-nephew works in my office as a driver. Yet, after all these years, Chettan doesn’t forget my name.
No wonder, along with the teachers of the Institute, he was the unanimous choice of the Alumni Association to be honoured at the Reunion in Aug 2010. The standing ovation that he got is perhaps the longest in the history of IHM Kovalam. I remember him being misty-eyed and flummoxed at the same time, looking demure in his new kasavu mundu.
And, folks, the nimbu-paani/bwonjee still tastes the same. Awesome.