On being home…

It started with a coffee conversation with a friend who said “Unlike you, I actually like staying at home you know.” I was stunned. When did I ever give the impression that I hate staying at home? He just shrugged his shoulders and said that it is quite obvious that you don’t really like staying in Kerala. I opened my mouth to argue, but words seemed to have dried up. Goodness gracious – have I really been giving that impression? I know that I crib about home, but have I really been permeating that impression?

I realize that I have. But the worst discovery was to realize that I have become the kind of person who cribs about everything that she once believed was sacred. Of course, I have changed a lot over the years and my priorities and perceptions have changed. But the past has not – and I have no reason to believe that the present is different from the past – so when did I become this person who has given up on nostalgia; who has moved across time with no appreciation for each moment; who has left behind people, relationships, love and faith and traded it for a life which has no past, no heritage?

This time I went to Kerala I met one of my cousins after a long long time. This was the guy I had a crush for the first fifteen years of my life. And I was actually dreading to meet him. The first few minutes were very awkward where I groped for words. But within minutes, we were confiding to each other and it seemed like the connection had never ended. Oh I was no longer in love with him, but there was this comforting familiarity and affection, which seemed to make no demands on me. I was left wondering as to why I hadn’t written to him over the past five years. I made a resolution of keeping in touch with him. The visit ended and a month later, I still haven’t. Is this some kind of inertia or is it just damn indifference?

And my gaga talk about Kerala – does it sound like the gushing of a tourist? Does the beauty I describe, the people I depict, the culture I profess to love – some kind of snobbish fantasy? As I talk about loving the rains in Kerala, I forget that not once I have danced in the rains (in the past 5 years). As I discuss heatedly about Mal movies, I forget that I am no longer living the scenes which have inspired them. As I go to a fancy Mal restaurant, I forget that I haven’t eaten had the sadya at our tharavadu for years now. As I listen to Mal songs, I forget that I don’t really know what they mean. As I write about Mal tourism, I forget that I should have been writing on home instead.

Home was once a village – a huge house built on over the years in all directions – set in a hollow with rubber trees all around. Home was a family sized family with three uncles and two aunts and a bunch of over bearing cousins. Once upon a time, a little girl would be counting the days to the summer vacation. Each trip from Nasik to Kerala would be a huge adventure. The train journey took three days but she would wake up early on the third day and watch the dawn. She would climb on to her father’s lap and gaze at the lush greenery, totally fascinated. When the auto reached the house, there would be a group of people waiting around to see the family who have come from ‘Bombay’. She would hang around shyly, before running to visit the rubber thottams. As she played around, she dreamed of growing older, getting married to the cousin and singing around in the thottams. Each day was special – and there seemed to be too little time for everything. Going to the temple early in the morning, going to the river for a boat ride, trying to walk on the coconut bridges over the thodu, sleeping with some ten cousins on two huge beds in the afternoon, the ‘nammal cholal’ in the evening, and playing cards on the terrace, late at night – she loved every moment of it. When there was a wedding, it was even better. She enjoyed the hustle and bustle, loved the huge gold necklace that her mother put on her, loved the “mulla mottu” in her hair, loved dancing in front of all the crowd. She put in her cousins in the “palla” and pulled them around in the courtyard; made “chaka pazham” curry in coconut shells, and pretended to be a Mal movie actress.

Few years later, the little girl actually settled in Kerala. By then there were money troubles in the family, and she was old enough to see the cracks in the relationships. There were joys – but there were far more resentments. Through a child’s eyes, everything looked beautiful. Everybody was nice or bad – no half way shades. As an adult, she found the term “shades of grey” and started using it in every other sentence. Simple things now seemed complicated. And then there was education – and exposure. Once upon a time, a wedding just meant lot of people and lots of fun. Now there was outrage at the amount of dowry given, the gossip, and the unnecessary expense. Once there were people and there were people. Now there was ‘society’, and with it came the terms ‘apathy, narrow-mindedness, inertia’ and so on. There was the occasional burst of patriotic zeal, but she was now more used to ‘voicing the outrage’ – so much so that it had almost become a habit.

Then the little girl actually left Kerala. Distance makes the heart fonder, and it did. She missed Mallu food, mallu greenery, and mallu people, but she didn’t miss home. Over the years, people at home seemed much more alien – people who didn’t share her beliefs, her convictions, her principles. Oh she didn’t develop these principles overnight, but back them, it didn’t matter that nobody believed in her beliefs. Now it did. While she pretended that it didn’t matter, she slowly distanced herself. It was easier to pretend at a distance.

Today, a silly comment from G, actually caused some pain. It was suddenly scary to realize that I did care. That I did miss home, and I didn’t want to ‘hate being there’. That life was not about the home that I wanted, but the home that I have. That somewhere in time, I have lost the little girl who absolutely loved her home. As I write, the memories flood through forgotten alleys; somewhere in those alleys I search for that little girl. For now, it suffices that she still lives.

23 comments for “On being home…

  1. June 21, 2005 at 5:55 pm

    Beautiful post. Makes one feel like hugging the little girl 🙂

    • June 22, 2005 at 3:26 am

      Thank you:-)

      Been reading through your blog regularly. Add you as a friend?

      • June 22, 2005 at 6:08 am

        Sure – i’d kind of lost track of your blog, then saw it on ‘s friends’ page. Added you.

  2. June 21, 2005 at 8:00 pm

    So howz the new apartment u moved into???

    • June 22, 2005 at 3:28 am

      Its not ready yet. Will move in a few months.

  3. June 22, 2005 at 7:05 am

    I love the stuff you write! Every single thing. It’s so touching. As far as G is concerned, he’s blunt very often…without actually intending to be mean or anything. So don’t think about it too much.

    P.S: I didn’t get any of the Mal words you used though. But they sound nice. Will ask you to explain sometime.

  4. June 22, 2005 at 9:50 am

    Thanks sweetie. will explain the Mal words later:)

  5. June 22, 2005 at 9:51 am

    Thanks sweetie. will explain the mal words later:)

  6. June 23, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    Lovely post. Reminds me of my days when I used to visit my village often, long ago, when I was a kid.

  7. June 26, 2005 at 11:44 pm

    Eh. I think I know what you mean.

  8. June 27, 2005 at 6:49 pm

    You do it so well time and again. Your posts are so contemporary and touch a similar chord with every 20s- early 30s folks.

    If the G you are talking about is the G who keeps smiling after a glass of beer – dont even bother. I am sure he didnt really mean it.

    anyways you write so passionately about home and your language – you are still very much a part of your home, your culture (your own imaginary homeland which you have built over the years along with your dad and mom). Not wanting be physically back in your home does not really reflect anything. So dont let it bother you.

    • June 28, 2005 at 6:32 am

      Thanks man.

      And yeah, same G:-) and I know he didnt mean to be ‘mean’. He was just being his usual blunt self.

  9. June 27, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    Nice post coz being a Mal who has stayed in Kerala for only a year apart from visiting the place desultorily I could relate to parts of it .I came across your journal hopping from one friends page to another. Don’t remember which hop this is though:)

  10. June 28, 2005 at 6:29 am

    Thank you:-)

    • June 28, 2005 at 1:40 pm

      good post…sheesh…miss kerala too badly…

  11. June 30, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    OMG *WHAT* a beautifully written piece!
    I’ve never been to Kerala, but somehow always had lots of Mallu friends, and my conversations with them (as well as reading The God of Small Things) have helped me form my own mental image of Kerala — and this post just made me ‘miss’ Kerala. You might wonder how that’s possible, since I’ve never visited Kerala. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t visited that image in my head in a long time….
    PS: Hi, I’m Ruchi! Nice ‘meeting’ you 🙂

    • July 1, 2005 at 5:57 am

      Hi Ruchi! Nice ‘meeting’ you too:-)

      Btw, you should visit the Kerala; you will find that reality matches or exceeds the image in your head.:-) and thanks for dropping by.

  12. Anonymous
    November 12, 2005 at 12:56 pm

    I can relate to your post 100%

    I read your last couple of entries and I feel as if you are relating my life story, only exception is I left B’bay and now live in the US. But everything else seems to be the same, 3 day trips from B’bay to Kerala, the crush on a cousin, bragging about home but never making an effort to maintain relationships and of course the grand daddy the conflicts at work with friends who are now “subordinates”.

    • November 15, 2005 at 12:41 pm

      Re: I can relate to your post 100%

      I guess, in the end, all of us have similar issues:-)

      Thanks for dropping by.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *