The Three Roses Of Palakkad

Eighteen months after the late Daddykins, my father, breathed his last, his sisters, The Three Roses, still keep in touch with me. I resemble my three aunts almost entirely, both in looks and in character. We are fragrant as the Gertrude Jekyll rose—an aromatic rose indeed, by most people’s standards, and a repeat bloomer too, I hear. But quite unlike the plant, we tend to let off a big stink when poked.

The Three Roses do have a remarkable way about them. They keep in touch with all family and friends. They ask after friends of relatives of relatives. They trade gossip about particulars that matter to neither them nor their children. They remember everyone. Everyone remembers them.

The Eldest Rose, 85, should be on the next Republican debate: she recalls facts and figures and past exigencies in vivid, excoriating detail. If the bell goes off during the debate, she will elect to not hear it anyway. At 78, there’s really nothing The Middle Rose, a retired teacher, does not know about stem, stalk or stamen. And she’ll tell you that in a million ways. Be warned: She can blow her sweet scent and poke you in the haunches, at the same time. The Youngest Rose, 68, who’s visiting America at the moment, has happened upon Facebook. She may be reading this right now. Her sentences often begin with an imperative: “Do one thing.” She was once President of Victoria College at Palakkad. Sometimes, I think that she still thinks that she is. 

In my mother's lifetime, I recall that if she were annoyed at Daddykins for any reason, she would scowl and denounce him—and his three sisters—in the same breath. 

But every morning of the last two decades of my mother’s life, at 7 AM, The Middle Rose would call to talk. My mother would dive to pick up the phone. When The Eldest Rose called from Bombay late at night, my mother fossilized by the phone; her best friend was on the other end of the line. As for The Youngest Rose, she was born after Daddykins married my mother. My mother taught her many things. In the 50s, my mother even upgraded her to the modern brassiere. 

Today, I just want to say that despite our differences and the distances that might separate us, I’m happy that The Three Roses, frail though they may be, are still in beautiful bloom, spilling their bouquet and grace across the stories of my life. 

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