This is something I had written last year in my blog on Rediff, as are the other write-ups I’ve posted here so far. Most of the old blogs have become outdated, so I’m copy-pasting only those in which the time factor is not relevant. Here goes:
These last few days have been really hectic. Had boarded Mangla Express on the 2nd , to reach my hometown , Kannur, very ,very, early in the morning. As a rule, I don’t wake up early, but as I was travelling alone, I had willed myself to wake up in time, to get down ,when the train stopped . I went to the loo, came back and rested my head , on the window bars, waiting for the last lap of my journey to come to an end. The next thing I knew, was that, the train was pulling out from the platform at Kannur Station, amidst the cries of,”Kaapi, Kaapi”, creeping into my ears as if from a distant dream.
Okay, so I had dozed off. Not to worry. I would get down at the next station. The only problem was that I had sent my brother in-law, who had come to recieve me, into a real tizzy. The battery on my mobile was low and I couldn’t even call him. Anyway, I borrowed a call from a co-passenger’s mobile and eventually got through, to explain. Got off at Tellicherry and took a train back, which to my good fortune was just arriving . Yes, I did buy a ticket. There was a queue, but that is what is nice about small towns. The people co-operate when they know the urgency of the situation.
I think that early morning adventure kind of set the tone for the rest of my stay here. I have been travelling a lot . First to Ernakulam to attend a wedding , back to Kannur, then to Calicut to attend the reception from the boy’s side, and back; then to B’lore by an overnight bus, to attend another reception and to be with my daughter , who is now settled there after her marriage. Returned back to Kannur again yesterday morning again by an overnight bus and this evening at 7.20 will be on the train to Delhi.
Hectic, yes; and yet, as I sit here, typing this out, I couldn’t have felt more at rest. The afternoon is langurous, so much like the afternoons, Iremember from my childhood. The silence of this afternoon siesta time, is broken only by the twittering of the lovebirds in the big cage on the verandah or the occasional local bus , auto or scooter which plys along the road just in front of my house. This is the house I have grown up in, with its tiled roof and red-oxide floors , the stones of half wall all around the compound, now black with the dead moss of the monsoons. The mango trees in front of the house and the lone chickoo tree at the side, that I had watered , when they were saplings, with water being drawn up in buckets from the well (we didn’t have muncipal water supply in those days), have now spread its branches so much, that the house remains in the shade even in the peak of summer. My sister complains that she can’t grow any flowering plants that require sunlight. She has many pots of anthurium though, and a few pots of orchids hanging down from the lower branches of the mango trees and flowering cacti and hibiscus and bougainvillea plants along the wall , beyond the shady portion …she shoudn’t be complaining , should she?
My sister stays at home with my mother, husband and kids. That is because we belong to the Moppilah tribe, of North Malabar region, supposed to have our ancestry coming down from the intermarriages between the Arabs, who came here for trade and the local populace here. We follow the matriarchial system. I’m not quite sure whether this was picked up from the Arabs or from the Hindu Nairs of Kerala, who also follow the same. As a child , (for no solid reason, except that it made the difference between us and the Hindu families a little obvious) I used to be kind of embarassed at the slight difference in our coloquial rendering of Malayalam, which is the language spoken in the state of Kerala. Words like “naashta”, “saboor”, “shakh”, “khair” “kismet”, “dajjaal” “maamool”, “manzoor” “aadat” were part of the spoken malayalam of mopillahs and had probably filtered in from the arab lineage. Now I feel embarassed to admit, that I was embarassed then:-)
I also remember a system of serving snacks during muslim marriages in my early childhood. It was called “suprah” . A big tray eac,of eatables, would be placed on round mats and the guests would sit in groups around it and eat from the same tray. This too , I think was a tradition that came to us from the Arab tradition. The tradition disappeared gradually.
Social customs have a curious way of amalgamation. Initially, muslim brides never used to wear flowers on their head by way of decorating themselves. It was considered to be something that only “kafirs” did. Now , the jasmine strands are a must. Exchange of flower garlands and rings , have all been borrowed from the way hindu marriages are conducted, to make the ceremony a little more elaborate.
The “nikah” ceremony in itself hasn’t changed and it continues to be the short affair between the bride’s father and the groom , when the father solemnly hands over the girl to the son-in-law. The girl still has no role to play . In North India, there is at least a ceremony, where the girl is asked whether she is okay with the marriage. In Kerala, even that is dispensed with and such willingness is sought formally only in the case of a bride, whose father is no more. The “Mehar”, which is supposed to be a sum, substantial enough to give the girl financial security and which the boy pledges to the girl is now only a token. What is more effectively in practice now , is the dowry , which is just a social evil prevalent all over India, irrespective of communal identity, with a few exceptions. And in my homestate, more than cash, it is being given in the form of gold ornaments. There is a jewelry shop at every corner and most of the media channels get a fair chunk of their advertisements from those in the jewellery sector. Seventy five to hundred sovereigns ( One sovereign is 8gms of gold) is the going rate for a bride belonging to a middle class family.
Kannur has changed over the years, but fortunately not so much, as to completely wipe out the laid back ambience of this place. Ernakulam, on the other hand, has all the glitz of the commercial blitz that has overtaken it. It appears to be a place where there is big money floating around and the consequent consumerism.
Well folks. I am off now , to pick up my little niece from school. She had agreed to go to go to school in the morning only on that condition. I will take her to the beach and then for ice-cream(I’ll have my glass of fresh grape juice) and on the way back buy some fresh banana and tapioca chips for my friends back in Delhi.
Life , right now is beautiful and surrounded by love.