Hariharan Athimbar was like a giant banyan tree, and when it falls, there is a shudder of silence benumbing the entire dynasty for his sheer stature as a patriarch. I have felt his omni presence at every stage of my life from childhood till date, my memories are sharpened and the thoughts take me to the times when I have listened to him in awe, of his life and times at the helm of affairs in big Government companies, a voice with a unique timbre and blessed with the gift of the gab that can keep his audience in sway.
I remember vividly our few visits to Madras and the stately Nungabakkam house with the spiral staircase, our jaunt to the snake park and Vedathangal with Athimbar in the driver’s seat as always taking the wheel with utmost ease and dexterity, not to speak of his enthusiasm like a teen. He could engage us throughout the trip with a myriad topics suiting all ages.
The Koothatukulam days look just like yesterday and travelling to those times do give a sense of nostalgia. For me it was like going to a farm house almost every weekend, travelling alone enjoying the scenery and the hospitality of the Hariharans! All I did was sleep, eat, sleep, a cherished cycle and occasionally taking care of Harish! The precious conversation with Athai and Athimbar on all and sundry with the distinct Palakkad twang still echoes in my ears.
He was there as a pillar of support to his family in the most trying times with a differently abled child, present at every event, as a connoisseur of good food, as an ardent devotee, partaking in mom’s pujas at home, enlightening and sharing the pearls of wisdom. The greatness in this man is his goodness, his prowess at so many things, the involvement and the fine art of story telling. He also played a diligent devil’s advocate in many a discussion in the family and can recall the trouble shooting during the early days of my marriage.
An affable architect of the family, he could strike a conversation with any age group and my sons’ recount of his advice, recommendation, judgement and insights from the time of their Upanayanam till recently when they chose their streams in Engineering, is amazing as the generation that they are in do not warrant even a vague recognition of their kith and kin. Athimbar was especially pleased when my younger fella chose Telecommunication as his branch of study which struck a chord with him. A man of many interests, I have adored his business acumen and the interests in stocks, shares and realty.
In this journey called life, we meet and come across so many people but there are only a select few who make you feel alive and Hariharan Athimbar was indeed one among them. The banyan tree with its roots deep inside, outstretched branches, grandeur in stance with filtered sunlight, mesmerizing rustle of the leaves that spans centuries!