Monday, March 9, 2015

Day 4 - 3 March 2015 - Chennai to Visakhapatnam

 I have known Rajendran ever since he joined the Pius Joseph household as cook. His exceptional talent in the kitchen, particularly the speed with which he can conjure up feasts, is something I have always admired. However, he was always ‘in the news’ for the wrong things; his fondness for the daily tipple invariably landed him in trouble, so much so that Abraham had to keep him in his house. Last evening I caught up with him to understand the person better. An amazing life story of a person the outside world will hardly know.

Rajendran was born to ‘Delhi Perumal’, as his father was known; his mother died when he was very young. Perumal, who honed his skills with the Britishers in the then Ceylon, according to Rajendran, was the best Chef yet born! Although they belonged to Tirunelveli Perumal was a sought after chef in Mumbai and Delhi. He is credited with a few personal ‘chicken creations’ too. Rajendran learned his skills under his father’s tutelage; his father never rushing him but always encouraging him. Perumal lived to the ripe old age of 97. All along it was Rajendran who was with him. Even though he was addicted to liquor, a habit that Rajendran too picked up early, Perumal was extremely fit. He started wasting away after his employer told him, at the age of 95, to go home and take rest. Rajendran said that the rest laid him to rest! In a world flushed with media channels and reality shows Perumal would have been a hit had he been alive this day.
Rajendran started with odd jobs in Delhi, Ambala and Patiala, often with officers of the armed services and in high ranking positions. Keenly observing and servicing their requirements he kept on learning. His fondness for politics and the English language developed during this time. He worked in the households of Pandit Nehru’s secretary, Pillai, as well as with CP Ramaswamy. He walked out of the latter’s house when he was asked to wear a Gandhi cap. He said that he never liked the Congress party. An ardent admirer of Karunanidhi, who he refers only to as ‘Thalaivar’, his political analysis is often skewed due to the affinity to the leader. In the younger days Rajendran was addicted to gambling, wine and women. The handsome tips he received as a bar waiter in the Madras Race Club and Connemara vanished every day; he says he came to work every day with the intention of making some money to blow it up overnight. His wives and children did not take too kindly to these ‘vocations’. However, he claimed to have provided for them and then indulged with the rest. Truth lay somewhere in between. He is honest about his transgressions and failings, but does not regret any part of it. Pius Joseph, to him, is the best person he has come across in his 81 years. He wants to keep on working as long as he can. The indulgences of the past are taking a toll of his health. Yet he labors on. I took leave of him before hitting the highway to Visakhapatnam.

A few days back I got a call from Nagarjuna of the Andhra Pradesh Motor Club asking for my itinerary and the scheduled arrival in Vijayawada. He kept on updating my travel progress and insisted on a reception in Vijayawada. I requested that the venue should be as close to the highway as possible and that the function should not consume more than 30 minutes. At a vantage point on the highway a group of enthusiasts organised by Nagarjuna gathered with flags and flex boards. The felicitation was to be at the Andhra Club, a short distance away from the highway. The Rotarians had also joined hands with the Motor Club to get the function up. They had invited the Press and organised a lovely breakfast, during when I got the opportunity to detail the trip.
Thulasi and Nandini received me at the outskirts of the city and piloted me to their home, which is almost bang on the Chennai-Kolkata highway. I have been a regular visitor to their home on the many drives that I have undertaken in the past, as also on professional visits to Visakhapatnam. Therefore, I had no hesitation on in knocking on their door, yet again, for hospitality. I feel so comfortable in their presence that formalities do not come in the way. Everything from slippers in the room to eats for the journey were all taken care of. Despite the long drive from Chennai of over 850 kms I did not feel tired, but then yearned for a cup of tea. One cup became three in no time; it was that tasty.

Before we went out for dinner to the Palm Beach hotel, friends of Thulasi dropped in with their families. We had a long chat on the trip and the local society. I distributed copies of “Record Drives..”. The Sr. DOM of Waltair division, his wife and young son joined us for the evening out. While sipping some beer I was interviewed by the correspondent of The Hindu. Deccan Chronicle also took a telephonic interview for a report in their paper. The food in the hotel was exceptional; we had many rounds of short eats and called it quits. I had prunes and ice cream for dessert. By the time I turned in for the night the social media posts were done and so were the blog posts I had completed.

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