The jow mittai man, an old lady remembering her dead son, a potter and a circus clown are just a few of the people who will remain unforgettable to Akila Kannadasan

“Raari raari raari mutho…” sang 82-year-old Kuppathal, a faraway expression in her eyes. There was absolute silence that afternoon at that thinnai in the village of Thennamanallur.

The small circle of women around her looked at her tenderly. Kuppathal’s voice trembled. Her eyes welled up. “She’s thinking of her dead son,” someone whispered into my ear. I was working on a story on lullabies.

It has been several months since I met that old lady who had made me cry. But I can still hear her voice in my head. As a reporter with MetroPlus, there have been times when people I have met have haunted me for months after I met them. It could be a gesture they used or something they said.

A wizened paati called Sindhathri who spoke to me on the banks of the Valankulam, said that the waters were once like “kannadi”. She created such a poetic image of the tank!

“I’m 64 and single. I badly want to get married,” said clown Tulsi Das as I sat before him surrounded by camels at a circus for an interview. “But who will marry me now?” He burst out laughing and left for his next performance.

For someone who made jow mittai every day, for over 19 years, Thavalingam would be tired of eating the chewy candy, I thought. But I found that not one day went by in his life without him eating it. “I eat all the leftovers myself,” he said, as a matter-of-fact. “I love my mittai.”

Sundaravalli trumpeted out of the blue and I jumped. I was stroking the tiny trunk of the six-year-old temple elephant at a rejuvenation camp in Mettupalayam. My instant response was to run. “Oi!” hollered the mahout who was watching me from a distance. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out what he wanted.

An old potter I met for a story brought tea for me in a chombu. He poured me a tumbler, waited for me to finish and poured me another. When I finished that too, he readily refilled my tumbler. I protested, but he wouldn’t listen. “Drink up, child. You’ve worked so hard,” he said sternly. I obeyed without a word.

I found a man making clay figures under a tree one evening. He was Sivakumar from Ariyalur who spent his life travelling across Tamil Nadu, making and selling clay figures for a living. When I met him with a copy of MetroPlus which carried my story on him, he said: “Thanks paapa,” and handed me a tiny clay thamboolam with miniscule fruits, coconuts and betel leaves, all made of clay “This is my seedhanam for you,” he smiled.