The best part about Manojavam was the timing of his stay on earth. Born in 1913 he completed a century in 2013 and remains unbeaten yet. Travel , as far as Manojavam’s life is concerned, can be interpreted in two ways. One is his travel in time from the pre-independence era to the post-independence era and the other is his travel in space, not outer space but space as on the surface of the earth.
His father had actively involved himself in the freedom struggle and Manojavam continued that trend. Five years after the Jallianwala Bhag massacre, he along with his father had travelled to visit the place. His father had sadly remarked “This is what happens when man forgets that he is a human being first.”
He accompanied his father to various south Indian coastal towns to make salt supporting the Salt-Satyagraha. He had actively participated in the Non-Cooperation movement. He had travelled to Bombay along with his father to hear the Mahatma ask the Britishers to ‘Quit India’. When freedom arrived, Manojavam had listened to the ‘Tryst with destiny’ broadcast by AIR and later joined the festive celebrations of an Independent India. But his heart was broken when his mother was divided into Pakistan and India and later when India was further divided into states. “We fought as one for one reason and now we break apart” he had yelled.
He had lived through the two world wars. The world wars hurt him deeply. In fact, the second world war had shaken his hope. “What do they want to prove?” he had asked himself. Manojavam belonged to an upper middle-class family and could afford travelling abroad. In 1960 Manojavam along with Manjula travelled to Germany and Poland. They visited the Auschwitz State Museum, which was once the Auschwitz Extermination Camp, where Hitler had killed 1.1 million people with 90% of them being jews. While standing inside the camp with his eyes moist he remembered what his father had said ” This is what happens when man forgets that he is a human being first.” He had read extensively about how this camp worked and how cruelly innocent people had been killed. As he walked through the place, his imagination supported by what he read brought to his mind vivid scenes of people being brutally killed. He was so much into his imagination that he felt almost choked when he stood inside the gas chamber.
In 1965 the couple travelled to Japan. They visited Hiroshima. Standing inside the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome, the skeletal remains of the building that survived the atomic bomb, and looking towards the sky Manojavam had remarked “Never again, never ever again”. “The human civilisation must learn from its most heinous act.” he told Manjula who was standing next to him shocked, as a guide presented some facts.
In 1970 the couple ventured on a North India trip. The last week of the trip was dedicated to the chirpy romance always abundant in the couple when they toured Darjeeling. They finally topped it with the visit to the epitome of love, the ‘Taj-Mahal’.
In 1975 they embarked on a South India trip. “The huge temples of South India are an illustration of how much our magnificent kings loved art” Manojavam mentioned with a lot of pride. Manojavam revered Swami Vivekananda a lot. He meditated on the Vivekananda Rock when they visited Kanyakumari.
After 1980 the couple were too old to plan and travel on their own. Whenever time and age permitted they travelled with the families of their son and daughter. They accompanied them to the US tour. At the insistence of Manojavam the family travelled to Chicago and visited the shore of Lake Michigan, the place where Swami Vivekananda had delivered the world famous speech on the opening session of the Parliament of the World’s religions in 1893. Manojavam had listened to the speech a million times by now and it ran in his mind as he walked around the place. “Sisters and Brothers of America” he murmured many times.
Thus he had travelled with the hopes of the country towards freedom and travelled to places he thought would teach the younger generations a lesson on what they should not let the world become.
As Manjula flipped to the last page of the album, there was this latest photo of the couple taken on the occasion of Manojavam’s 100th birthday. The couple glanced at each other. Their faces were wrinkled but the love in their eyes for each other was still as young as in their first glance after Manjula had accidentally pushed Manojavam into the gutter. They both thought about the moment when they first met and had a hearty laugh. The laughter was interrupted when their six year old great grand daughter Priya arrived. She fondly called him appajja (father of the grandfather). “Appajja, everyone says that you are a good person and they love you so much. How did you become a good person?” she cutely enquired. “Due to the people that have inspired me in my lifetime dear” Manojavam replied…………………………