Much before the clouds rumble
And travel inward from the sea
My heart begins a restless grumble
My thirsty soul prepares to flee
Home is where the heart is
Mine dwells here and that’s for sure.
When the city smoke begins to choke
The homestead casts its magical lure
I know I’m home when I can draw
Water and wishes from the well
I know I’m home when the rain dances
And the breeze brings in the briny smell.
I know I’m home when amongst the grass
I still can find the watery reed
Those slender stems that we would hoard
To have our slates all nicely cleaned.
Home is where the window weaves
A tapestry of secret dreams
Home is where the falling rain
Pauses in puddles and runs in streams
Home is where the old brown walls
Soaks in the rain and turns green with moss
Home is where the gnarled mango trees
Whispers stories of past pain and loss.
Home is where the dark wet nights
Listens to the croaking serenade
Home is where I sleep in peace
And dream sweet dreams till the stars fade.
I wrote this on my visit to my home town in Kannur, Kerala, last June. Here I am again and the feelings are just the same. I feel rested, secure and a child again, comfortable in the familiar surroundings and the continuity of certain aspects of a small town that has decided to do slow-cycling instead of the sprint. Even the numbered planks that are fitted side by side to make for a door, in front of some small shops are still there at certain street corners as also the jars of marinated gooseberries and raw mango pieces. Shankara Vaidyar’s shop , just next to the compound wall, with the rows of “arishtams” and other ayurvedic concoctions still smells the same. He has grown old though, but the white strands in his crop of hair seem fewer than mine. Now that’s not fair, I thought.
Returning home from a weekend trip to Bangalore on an overnight bus, I had reached the town very early in the morning. The sea front at “Ayikkara” was however alive with the boats that had just come with the night’s catch. There was busy trading going on, with small carrier-autos lined up to ferry the baskets of fish to different places. Money lending was also going on. The small fish merchants would return the money the next day , or not, depending on their profits , I guess.
Fish is staple diet in these parts and its no different at my home here. Even breakfast begins with a fish item , if Kadirka,who even at the age of seventy five goes about on his cycle , selling fish, is early on his rounds. May be the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes are deeper now , but that’s about the only change I percieve in him. He stops by everyday, throwing a fish or two to the cats , which are perennially here, thanks to my nephew, Anjum. These days there is a female who has trooped in and has given birth to three little kittens. They keep scampering past between our legs and my sister is soon going to have them tied up in a gunny bag and let loose near the fish market , where it can not only survive but thrive as well.
But how is it that for some physiques, time petrifies in their muscles and skin? That is what I meant about the continuity here. Some people too just don’t change. There was Eramanikka , who would walk by with his uneven gait, to open his small provision shop next door. Till he died , he looked the same to me, not a kilo more or less on his leam frame . There is Pappamma with her one good eye, whose black skin still looks tauter than mine after all these years. She has become too tired to sell milk and curds. We’ve been seeing her with her basket placed on her head right from our childhood and though the times have not been kind to her, her wide affectionate smile is still like a bright sun beam lighting up her dark face.
There was Bastian (I think his real name was Sebastian) , who was short of hearing and who would always keep track of those who had left Marakkarkandy for greener pastures and had come back for a holiday. It was a taken for granted thing that he had to have his “bakshish” , when they came back. He too remained the same , with a “mundu” tied casually on his head , his red mouth full of beetle-nut juice and his slow unsteady walk on his varicose -veined legs. I miss him , much as I miss “kalla kunhiraman” , who for a time was my father’s Man Friday and his “spirited” partner. He was called Kedi kunhiraman. I have racked my brains all these years and asked many people as to what that epithet means. All I know for sure is that he used to indulge in small time robberies and was on the list of eminents in the local police station.
Yes, I like coming home to the “smallness” of this place and people. There is still a sense of belonging, of not being lost in vastness. The colours are of the earth still and as long as the flashiness remains confined to the “Malabar Gold” and “Lulu” and the “Alukkas ” outlets and the “Kalyan Silks”, which thankfully are some kilometres away, I still feel safe and comfortably cocooned from Time’s rush.