Monday, January 18, 2016

Hiraeth - the home you cannot return to..

Some things, some people, some places - they once occupied such a large space in your heart that it's hard to leave them behind you. I have never been able to unravel the mystery around these firsts  - your first laptop, first car, first diary entry, first love, first home...The firsts you can never get the memories of completely off your head.

I once had a home - the kind people say they'd want to get lost to on a holiday ,the kind that has every element of the countryside , the kind I dream of going back to one day. Though I shifted from there when I was very young, my heart still lingers around that place at times.

The house was sold to some other guys. And that kept us from hanging around there, where we didn't belong to anymore, for a long long time. I didn't visit the place for almost 15 years. The only few strings attached are our family crypt and our Ammama (the lady who took care of us when we were children).

Ammama - "Little souls find their way to you whether they are from your womb or some one else's"
Ammama is not keeping well these days. And I decided to pay her a visit some days back. I went alone and the drive was just beyond overpowering. The roads you have not been on for a relatively long time, yet you know every turns and corners of. Snippets of memories flash before you as you drive along.

Your school van that took you from home - the yellow one, occasionally autos, even jeeps and the vomiting tendency which demanded your staying put near the window so you don't throw up on other children. Sitting on someone's lap , who could probably be sitting on someone else's.......
The auto that had the curious small side seat in addition to the normal back seat, which was awesome fun for us tots back then, but no fun when I think back - for how uncomfortable we were in that confined space..........
The new comer boy who entertained my sister and me with the game 'look at each other's eyes without blinking'. He would not stop even when tears trickled down his cheeks and would always win.....
The girl who fell down the auto and whose missing was not noticed until the auto was 100 meters away.......
The huge cliff in Illichuvedu (a place) , the one the auto could not easily climb on. We would get excited and shout 'pull on, go on'. I choked out of breath one time and could not speak for a couple of minutes . I dared not shout again and would be careful on that cliff after that......

En route, I stopped by our church. I prayed before the family crypt. Fond memories of Ammachi , my grandma, hung around my head. I remember her whenever I see any old lady wearing chatta munde (archaic clothing in Kerala ചട്ട മുണ്ട്‌). Every time I see a chatta munde , I get happy and a little sad at the same time when I think that 'that' should be a gone sight after a while.

The family crypt. My papa and only my papa is responsible for preserving this.
No one else in his family gives a rat's ass.

On the way out , I stepped on the breaks to imagine a crowd in front of the church. And there's my father, my sis and I stopping by to see what's going on. We find a huge snake beaten and killed by the people. Three of us on a motor bike. Yamaha. Wohoo.
Occasionally my father would pick us from school, help us put on the rain coats and we'd have a jolly long ride. Around 20 good kilometres in the night , in the rain.

Memories around his bikes are countless- from the good ones [the group of five on a bike - papa, mummy, the sis, the little bro, I and the rains!] to the bad ones- [once one uncle got on our bike and got his feet hurt on the wheel. My father took him to the hospital. I  was so scared and asked my father "Will the police take you and leave me here?" He laughed away and said "No". I have a vague memory of me wearing the green and white frock on that day- my favourite one. I held on to my water bottle -  A bunny-like one with two ears and a mouth that could be opened to drink on from two straws inside.]

I drove on and noticed that it is indeed some pretty good distance between the church and the house.
"Seriously ?. We walked all this distance every Sunday to church.?"
That famous saying of my father echoed in my ears- " I walked 5 + 5 = 10  kilometres to my school !!!". You see , we walked too. :-t. In fact, I walked all that distance once with high pride , holding on to my first price ever, a cute plate, from the church for scoring the highest marks from the kinder garten section. I was so shy to receive it from the dais and kept complaining to my mom that I wouldn't be able to do it, but I did just fine :).

I passed by the rock quarry - the favourite halt of my sis and me. We'd write gibberish on our slate with chalk and wouldn't rub that off until we reached the quarry. We'd pluck some stems from there. The plant stem that was so watery , you could literally rub your slate clean. Again a trick our father taught us. I should get the name of the mystery plant from him....
And the ferns. How could I forget them.!. You press the rear side of the fern leaves on your hand and voila - you have a cute design of the leaves on your hand. Making bouquets using them was fun - the leaves stacked on top of each other and some cute flowers on the top.....

My love for the ferns!!!
And the touch-me-not plant. You snip off a stem of any plant (stem that's almost hollow), touch the watery tip of the touch-me-not leaves on the tip of the hollow stem. The water from the leaves gets into the hollow stem and when you blow from one end , you have bubbles coming out of the other end....
And the flowers I don't know the name of, but when we pinched them -they snapped with the sound of killing lice. Our father told us there were lice inside and we kinda believed him...
And thumbapoo (Leucas) , which the father told were duck's feet :/. We often sucked the juice from it. And let them float on water. They'd float with perfect buoyancy.

Thumbapoo :)
The clap leaves which again I don't know the name of. You clench your hands in a fist, place the leaf on the fist and slap on the leaf and it blasts with a poof.

Myriad of memories and I didn't quite realize I was almost there. The home that was once ours.

..The huge gate.
..The stream that runs alongside the gate.
..The long driveway with tall trees on the sides.
..The paddy field around the driveway. 
..The big steps to the house.
..The bathroom outside where we once spotted a snake in the toilet bowl. I know a bit scary, but usual scenes for us back then!. 
..The veranda and the car shed attached to the veranda side. There was a blue colour separation between the shed and the veranda. We'd never step down to the front yard and get to the shed the straight way, but throw our legs around the wall-like separation and get there.
Waiting for my mom on the veranda to get back from town with the nail polish I told her and some fancy items was restless I tell you. The rainbow bangles she got us were the best. She'd get my sis and me the same things. My sis and I had similar dresses too.:).
..The rooms. Especially the small room (the one we called കുഞ്ഞു മുറി ).
..The rear-side veranda. We rarely went to a barber shop, because of course my father did all the hair cutting!. I can still picture me crying on that veranda every time he showed me my hairdo in the mirror. Mostly bob cut.

Oh yea, and plucking our milk teeth with a thread. We were told to keep the teeth below our pillows so they turn to coins the next day. And every time, they did turn to coins. Obviously!. Who else ? The father.
..The cow shed and the cow-dung store towards the back. The room attached to the shed, where I remember shingles were stored. Did you know- when you have blots on your tongue, you could touch shingles on the blots and get rid of them? We go in the room once to get a shingle piece and there goes a huge snake crawling around!.
..The machine room (മെഷിൻ പുര) , where rubber sheets were made. My sis and I used the machines to run leaves through instead of the rubber. We'd get different designs on the leaves.
..The almost-broken-termite-infected bridge to the neighbourhood.
..The chicken coop. The fun of waiting for the hatched eggs to turn chicks and running around them.
..Our land where we grew rubber, mari (മാരി ) as we called it. Once we caught a rabbit from the mari. My brother got so attached to it. That was his first pet. We used to feed the rabbit some cute pasture and milk.
Though the bro was 3 or 4 years old, his company were elder men like Rajuchettan - the guy who made him a toy bus. I can still imagine the brother roam about the yard with his bus.

It's funny how small things, things you thought would never matter again , resurface from your subconscious psyche and let you wonder. Remember Urvashi in Kadinjool kalyanam?. Her first mango tree experience. :D.  Sure I am crazy , aren't I? At least there was someone I knew who thought I was crazy, who hated every bit of my emotional side.

I took a tour of the home and the mari with my Ammama. Ammama had been bedridden for quite a while, but she decided to step out for me. She felt proud in the car and kept asking me to take her to more places. I met some old fellas - from the tea shop wala to the 100 year old grandma. The grandma who wouldn't agree that she doesn't remember any one. If we ask her " Amma, you know me?" and she replies , " Of course I know", but she wouldn't say who. I guess she didn't want to admit that she is senile and has lost her memory.

The 100-year-old grandma!

The house that I saw and the people I met were no much different from my memories, though some inevitable of course.

The gates are rusty now. The stream unclean and messy.
 You have pineapple plantation instead of the paddy. And the house a little different.

I had some food from Ammama's house. You don't have a proper way to reach to her house. Some slippery rocks with brooks around, some structure that looks like steps and there you go.

As I bade good bye and drove back, I kept wondering whether such overpowering emotions will show up if I visit again. May be yes, may be no. The more you visit the less intense they may resurface , for sure.
As my father says ,  " There are a few things that you were once helpless about, that you didn't want to let go but had no choice about, that you may have lost forever. They can only hurt you if you cling on to them. Certain things are meant to be forgotten."

"  It may not hurt you much when you miss someone, it may hurt you more when you know that you are not supposed to be missing them but you still miss them. " - Unknown

I have mixed emotions. Good and bad. Good that I got to revisit the place and relive my memories. Bad that I may not feel this way again. As if something precious that you preserved has just left you. The same has happened with you, hasn't it?. Catching up with your old friend and knowing that they have changed and don't have that kind of warmth now. Meeting your ex after a while and seeing him as a different person sweeping the ground from beneath you.

But yes. That's it. You get past it once and that's it. :)..May be I should do this again. May be it's time to forgive and forget. May be it's time to let go. Your life is too short to be anything, but unhappy.

May be...

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