Share a special moment from Manimekalai's life.

Her coffee ritual

Shared by Perry Venugopal on April 8, 2021
My mom was born in Kumbakonam, a town that carries the moniker of “temple town” in a state that has 30,000 temples. The other claim to fame for Kumbakonam is being the birthplace of the famous mathematician S. Ramanujan – a fact that she never let me forget while drilling into me the need to be good at math (Indian parents will always find innovative ways to motivate their kids). The other famous product out of Kumbakonam is its “degree coffee” – a strong brew generously laced with chicory and traditionally imbibed in brass cups to accentuate the flavor and aroma.

The temperature and strength of her coffee were 2 qualities that she was particular about. The daily morning ritual during my school days was as follows: My father would be sitting in the front portico reading his newspaper and my mom would bring the super-steaming brewed coffee in the pot with 2 glasses – lest that it would cool down when transferred to the cups. She would pour the coffee into the cups and enjoy it along with my Dad while chatting with him, as he read the newspaper.

While this daily love ritual was unfolding, there would be 2 creatures patiently waiting for this to end – my dog and me. I would wait for my dad to finish reading the newspaper so that I can dive into it – sports page first and then followed by the front page. My dad liked reading his newspaper unencumbered and the last thing he wanted was someone looking over his shoulder while reading the news. As for my dog, who would patiently wait till the moment my dad gave me the newspaper, he would get up with a spring in his step knowing that his morning walk with my father was imminent.

To be honest, I had forgotten about this for a long time till my mom’s recent stay in the hospital. I would allow myself a 15-minute break each morning in the hospital cafeteria to gather my thoughts, plan the strategy and jot the down the points to discuss with the doctors during our meetings and a hot steaming cup of coffee was my companion during this break.

While I will never get to enjoy a cup of coffee with my mom again, I am happy that she is back drinking coffee with her partner after 25 years. I am sure that she has a lot of things to tell him and get him caught up on. Miss you Mom & Dad and Chintoo, of course.

My friends and my mom

Shared by Perry Venugopal on April 7, 2021
Thanks guys for all the lovely tributes, calls and messages. While it is never easy during these times, your messages have been the sole source of respite from the pain.
Most of you knew my mom well and for her, any friend of mine was, by extension, a son of hers – for whom there would be no compromises in terms of care, calories and “kindall”. The SBOA Boys were of course the first set of guys that she came to know, and she would always talk proudly about how we have all managed to stay in touch for over 40 years. That would also mean that she would never forget our missteps too. She would never let Dina forget how he once called her fish curry, sambhar; or how Subba reminded her of my brother for the last minute fire drill that she and my dad had to go through to get his US visa application in order. She justified Vatsa’s smoke rings as the ring of brotherhood amongst us.
That ring got wider as we entered Pilani – a destination for which all our parents travelled together for the first time in 1990 when they came to drop us off. She saw Simha’s v2.0 potential long before any of us did and Simha would have been my BIL if I had a sister (thank god for that!!). Even to this day, she would always save a portion of whatever she cooked for Simha and asked me to drop it off in Simha’s house on my way to work. She was Al’s biggest FB fan and would update me on his antics during our daily calls. With Sant, she bonded on food and always made sure that she made fresh addai batter for him. She always thought Gan was very level-headed and wondered what he was doing with our “tharuthalai” gumbal. Babu’s Thirenchengodu-Rasipuram connection made him one of her own kin.
The familial bonds extended to the spouses as well. Sujatha & Lakshmi were practically daughters based on their SBOA lineage. Laddoo was her favorite Tirupati travel companion. She always appreciated Mayuri for her dress sense and how it was so apt for her name. One afternoon after one of those endless laccha sessions during the MI trip, she gave me this look of “why didn’t you introduce me to Uma and Kameshwari all these years?”. She knew Deepa’s love for seafood and made sure that she rolled out her seafood trifecta – fish fry, fish curry and shrimp fry during our last lunch in London, to go along her signature dish Madras Biriyani for Deepak. 
It is soul-eviscerating-level hurt to not have her around anymore and even more painful considering the fight she put up over the last month. Her condition would improve one day, and the finish line would be in sight, only for the course to take a different turn or a new obstacle to pop up. This emotional roller coaster went on for 24 days. I had an air bed, a full-time nurse, local dialysis center all lined up for her – ready for her transition home. I had set up insurance, a nephron consultant in the US along with an authorization under compassionate use for an unapproved drug that could help her fight the rare disease that she was diagnosed with. It is incredibly gutting when all of this came to nought – but I have come to realize and accept that like all other things in life, she independently chose the place, date and time of her passing and she wanted to say goodbye on her terms. Our last conversation was tearful & truthful and, in some ways,, I feel that she was waiting for me to say goodbye before she was ready to go. She always had a sense of timing and this occasion was no different – her 11th day ceremony is going to coincide with my dad’s 25th year death anniversary and this year would have been their 50th wedding anniversary. While this is not easy, the only solace is knowing that she is right where she belongs – next to her soulmate.  
I am hoping that the palliative care of her memories will help me tide over the lingering pain and hurt. Thanks again for all the beautiful messages from my friends who are my brothers for life....

Her London Escapades

Shared by Perry Venugopal on April 5, 2021
‘The valiant never taste of death but once’

(Julius Caesar)

After a gallant fight, my mom passed away on Friday – transitioning while lying in my arms, on a video call with her closest family, with a smile on her face and listening to her favorite devotional songs.

Working as a tourist guide for the past 30+ years, she was fiercely independent – financially and emotionally and was working up until the pandemic brought her industry to its knees. Her health problems started only after she realized that the prospects of her work, that was more of a passion rather than profession, began to dwindle.

London was truly a place that she loved, and she and I had recently discussed her relocating to London as she wanted to be closer to my brother and me and she preferred UK to the US. She lived with me for a considerable period during our Sloan year and enjoyed getting around town on her own on the tube. She was moved to tears on seeing Ramanujan’s statue in Cambridge, as she shared the same birthplace with Ramanujan. Our trips to Edinburgh Castle, Bath and other tourist places always had to be accompanied by a professional guide (a requirement she never compromised on). She was awe-struck by what nature offered during the drive on the Road to the Isles, trips to the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District and the moonscape-like vistas on the island of Skye. In a moment of overwhelming emotion, she held my hands tightly as we were standing for a pic in front of Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon and thanked me. When I dismissed her nonchalantly for this gesture, she recalled listening to her father liberally quoting lines from King Lear and Hamlet as a child and never once thought that she would be standing in front of Shakespeare’s home and that made her tear up.

She was a Math major in college and had this remarkable memory. Till she started using a cell phone, she would always remember innumerable phone numbers by heart – never once writing them down. As I analyzed her life, even her life story was a tale of this love with numbers. She was 24 when she got married, lost my father – her soulmate – at 48 and decided to say goodbye to me at the end of another 24 years, just in time to rejoin my dad on what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.

When she was hospitalized in early March – mainly due the side effects of the medication that she was on to treat the rare blood disorder that she was diagnosed with in early 2021, I left for India within a few hours. I was with her for her entire hospital stay, willing her to get better while taking care of her like a child. Unfortunately, the combination of the fighting a deadly disease in an immunosuppressed state and the multiple organ issues took their toll. I was with her in the hospital for a total of…..yes, you guessed it – 24 days and she was in great spirits till the last day. Only when I sensed the pain in her eyes on the last day, did I tell her that it was okay to rest, thanked her for everything that she did for me, that I would always love her and that she would be with me forever in one form or another.

While it is incredibly gutting to lose her, there is a part of me that feels at peace knowing that she is no longer in pain and has re-joined my dad, catching up with him after 25 long years and relishing the joy that she truly deserved.

‘Death lies on her like an untimely frost’ (Romeo & Juliet)

Share a story

Illustrate your story with a picture, music or video (optional):