The name Nileena Abraham (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nileena_Abraham) wouldn’t mean anything to the new gen FB frequenters. The two main reasons why they are not being able to relate to that name is because age had caught up with NA, and Mathrubhumi weekly is no more edited by the likes of N V Krishna Variar sir.
It was uncle Mubarak who had inculcated the habit of reading to my cousins Amitha and Safar kakka and me. He simply flooded our cognizance with tales from Home…r to Vyasa to Vikramaditya to Bram Stoker to Dickens. I was hardly nine when I and my cousin were circumcised and confined to bed for about ten days. During that short period of convalascence, Uncle Mubarak in his deep resonant voice read out to us Sir C Rajagopalachari’s abridged versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. On yet another occasion he recited with alluring endearment Vailoppilli’s ‘Mambazham’ virtually reducing all the three of us to tears. There were two huge glass shelves in our house, both of which contained years and years of back issues of Mathrubhumi weekly and black shiny 76 and 45 RPM vinyl records. We grew up listening to Soja rajkumari (K L Saigal), Piya milan ko lana (Punkaj Mallick), Mera sundar sapna beet gaya (Geeta Dutt), Engane nee marakkum (Kozhikode Abdul Khader), Distant drums (Jim Reeves).. From those dusty racks of worn out magazine pages Nileena Abraham brought to life for three little children, the vibrant literary universe of Bangal in all its splendour without ever spilling over either its pastoral flavour or urbane ambiguities. She had struck a chord with the brush strokes of Bibhuthibhushan Bandopdhyay, may be at a closer proximity than the great Ray himself. Meghamallar (short story) continues to fascinate me in the same degree as it did more than a quarter of a century ago, as also did its illustration by artist AS.
During her tenure in Ernakulam Maharaja’s College, a student on his very first day went to meet her. When he addressed her as “Didi”, NA was pleased but at the same time felt curious. What came out of the young admirer’s mouth next kind of bewildered her; “how do you say ‘I love you’ in Bengali”? Peels of laughter broke her answer after every other word, “Didi, omi tumi bolo bhashi”. Like a parrot he repeated the little Bengali he learned just a moment ago: Didi, omi tumi bolo bhashi!