Saturday, July 08, 2006

Home is where the heart is...

Down the street from where I live, live an old couple. Mr and Mrs George. After retirement they had settled down in Bangalore, as their children were studying here. Uncle is 86 years old. Aunty died last month. They have lived a better part of their retired life alone after their kids migrated to the US. Since there are so many mallu families in my area, they never felt the pinch of not having anyone around them. Then age began to catch up and soon, they were unable to go out and visit friends and relatives or for their evening strolls.

A son came back and arranged for an elderly Anglo Indian lady to look after them. We rarely saw them out as they were mostly confined to the house. On our visits to check on them, they would talk wistfully of Kerala, their childhood and happy times there. Uncle used to regale us so many stories about his childhood, the thrilling adventures that he and his friends embarked on and the naughty childhood pranks. Their ardent wish was to be buried there, next to their parents and siblings. But that was not possible as they had left their village many decades ago. A visit to Kerala was ruled out because they were too frail for the journey. Aunty and Uncle's last wish was always to go back to their village one last time.

Nowadays when I go for my evening walks with the dogs, I can see Uncle hunched in front of the TV or being served dinner. I drop in from time to time with some Pavakkai thoran …uncles favorite and his eyes will light up. He hates the soup, the lady makes. When I say my byes shouting goodnight into his ears, I feel so helpless to see the loneliness in his eyes. When I got back from Kerala last month, he was so excited to hear about the place. I didn’t tell him of the rampant construction and fast vanishing greenery. I told him that the place was the same and his bleary eyes glazed as he imagined the Kerala of his childhood and youth.

For aunt’s funeral, there was a large contingent of relatives from Kerala to bid her final farewell. After the funeral I did what I like most, i.e. walk around the peaceful cemetery. The place is so well kept with so many trees. The atmosphere is peaceful. There is a fair sprinkling of mallu names on the tombstones. People who had left their home and hearth many years ago to find work, respect, dignity and a productive life outside their home state, wistfully hoping to return in their lifetime.

How many such dreams are buried here I wonder.


Alexis Leon said...

Nice post. You have captured the emotions very beautifully and expressed it wonderfully. The photograph reminded me of my home. We also had the paddy fields and a road to our home through it. Now the paddy fields are replaced with coco plants as growing paddy is not at all profitable and we won't get people for the harvest.

It used to be fun in the good old days and the coco plants do not have the same beauty of the green paddy field or the golden brown paddy field just before the harvest. It was nice of you to tell the uncle that Kerala still looks the same, yes there are still some places that looks the same, but most places have been transformed beyond recognition.

Nice and thought provoking post as usual. And the last line is very beautiful How many such dreams are buried here I wonder. Nice...

Dhanush said...

Nice post silverine. Nashtapetta Swargangal Thirichedukkan Manushyanaavillallo.. Ennu maathram parithappikkane ivide kazhiyoo.. Marunna Malayaliyeyum Keralatheyum patti Unclente aduthu parayathirunnathu - A very nice mind of you. You have realy kept his memory of Kerala intact.

As Alexis said, that one last line was gem. It meant a lot.

venus said...

That is so sweet of you to see him and give him company. I feel very bad for elderly people, especially when everyone wants to get rid of them. keep it up what you are doing.. god bless you..

Immigrant in Canada said...

The picture reminded me of my home and my dreams..and my heart is aching with the longing of going back home!..

off topic.. But is this Colonel uncle and his wife?.. I am looking for a couple..must be in their 80's.. Aunty had short hair( very fair too) and they were the most gracious couple I have ever known.Aunty was my patient when I was working in B'lore.Can't remember her name..

calvin said...

eah dude. The Kerala even I used to know is fast vanishing. Talk about greenery. :(. I am glad i studied and am working among the last bastions of greenery in Trivandrum

silverine said...

Alexis: You so right! Paddy fields have their own charm and beauty right from the time it is seeded and transplanted and harvested. Thankfuly in my village people still have paddy fields at least to grow rice for their own consumption. And we get our share too every year :) Nothing like rice from Kerala! But the Coco, Nutmeg, Pineapple and Rubber is fast encroaching on the paddy fields :(

Thank you for your kind words. Uncle will pass away with fond rememberances of Kerala as he had seen it many years ago :)

Dhanush: Thank you :)
"nashtapetta swargangal" is exactly what it is :( And there is no point in telling Uncle the truth is it?

Venus: Uncle is more or less adopted by all of us. Even his kids call my mom or the other ladies in the neighbouhood when they want help or the latest stats on uncle :) At least here in Bangalore, mallu families living in the same neighbourhood have a rare unity which may be impossible in Kerala :p

Sarah: *hugs* There are so many like you... so take heart and make that journey one day. This unlce is not a colonel.If you send me the details I can try and find out through my Uncle who is a retired Colonel himself.

Aashik: :( I don't know what else to say.

Jagan said...

monday morning ...and i read this senti post ...
next time , u meet uncle, give him a hug on my behalf .

pophabhi said...

Very nice post. You have captured the minds of these helpless beings trapped at many places, but not their home. I guess, its more about making a decision at a point of time - some say its going by your heart, rather than your head. It takes some spurts of decisions like that, to return to your roots. I guess thats what is missing the most.
As Alexis told, 'How many such dreams are buried here I wonder' evokes a tenderness in the heart, and an assurance that I would not feel the same!
Well written!

Ganja Turtle said...

hmmm...i know exactly what you mean...during a recent tour stopped over at kadamattom church around sunset...with crickets chirping in the nearby trees, the sun setting and by the side, an ancient church, it was a magnificent sight...behind the church is a cemetry...on an impulse, walked down and read out the names on various graves...there were so many family graves...with generations buried in the same family grave...on a couple of graves people had planted flowering plants and they made for a beautiful sight...facing the setting sun and the mountains at the front and rubber trees at the back and everyone you loved around you...suddenly it isnt so difficult to imagine how this old uncle feels...

Jaguu... said...

Hmmmm :)

Not 86 yet...but I still miss the Green Paddy feilds around my Tharavadu...which has slowly dwindled in size...replaced by housing units of 8- 10 cents.I find asking myself so many a times is this GROWTH & Comfort all of GenX crave for transform to real happiness...I know My Answer to that.

And Yay fot the Paavaka Thoran Loving Uncle... I hope though that when I am Old and helpless I dont have to Depend on a Funny Neighbourhood Girl to Bring me Pavakaa Thoran :)...

Very thoughtfull Post....touched many chords:)

Jiby said...

my heart skipped a beat seeing that snap...i have been away barely 40 days and i long for kerala.

its not just 80 year-olds...i have seen 20-year olds to all ages helpless at how life has taken them far away from home..

the other day i was telling my friends of the rice harvest at my mom's place coinciding with my summer vacation and the beatiful walk under the rubber trees with the sun not reaching down at my dad's place...i felt my eyes well up for a moment...can imagine how much ur uncle misses his place.

great post...remembered of the time many years...when 2 weather-beaten, haggard souls came to live with us and changed our parents brought our grandparents back from the US to live with us knowing how homesick and unhappy they were...i really felt proud of them for that.

silverine said...

Jagan: I will, so sweet of you :)

Pophabhi: Thank you..I think we mallus are the only people who would, given a chance would go back to our home state.

GT: That was so beautifuly described!!

Jaguu: I hope too that when you are old you will have the missus to bring you pavakkai thoran :)

Jiby:Hats off to your parenst for bringing your grandparents home. That was indeed a big thing to do.

mathew said...

beautiful post where you have underlined a really ugly part of modern lifestyle...Maybe this Appoppan has lived his life fully but still I somehow feel a hatred for any children who dispose their parents at the mercy of some housekeeper!!!

How many such dreams are buried here I wonder..

Nice line!!!!!!!!!!!

silverine said...

Mathew: Thank you for the words of appreciation.
Just like people leave Kerala to seek their fortune, Uncles kids too left for US for the their Dad before them. So cannot blame anyone here. But the lady looks after him very well. I know it won't compensate for a family, but he is at least comfortable, well fed and looked after :)

b v n said...

None of these poor souls would have left the small green strip thinking they wouldnt go back....bangalore,mumbai,chennai,gulf,US..all these were like temporary rootings for them...its so sad that life finally merges them in some foreign someone put it before, the closing line is wonderful.nice post.nicely done.

meanwhile i scrolled a bit hard after the second para...settled in your previous post and was quite confused about why people where playin cards and downing beer in the old mans story :-)

Dr. Pissed said...

A few months back, I remember seeing all those trees in full blossom. Man that was a pretty sight!

Very nice post again!

verbaltorture said...

Neat post. Makes me wonder why people throw away their parents like old shoes. Out there in the garbage somewhere, after their very best has been extracted from them. Can't they see they'll be there one day? Don't they just get it?

That being said, old age homes are big business these days! Many oldies choose to live there, mainly to avoid living at the expense of their children, sometimes even being ill-treated. We went to visit this realtor in Chennai, who was selling plots of land, but was famous for his signature old-age home. And out of curiosity, we asked details. Apparently it was full and had a wait time of approx 2 yrs. I wondered how they could say that?! What were people supposed to wait for? For an occupant stranger to die?!

Beats me.

silverine said...

b v n: Thank you :)
"its so sad that life finally merges them in some foreign dust"
That was so beautifully expressed dear.

dr pissed: It indeed is a pretty sight :)

verbaltorture: Old age homes are a must as our life is increasingly taking on an American hue. I saw one in Kerala run by nuns... a very beautiful place. The waiting list would be for vacancies since they have only so many rooms.

Mind Curry said...

which brings us back to the same question: what is the purpose of this life? sighh..i was feeling blah..and now i feel blah blah :|

you write very well, just in case i havent told you before :)

monu said...


i used to think lot of time wether i can settle in kerala sometime...i miss it...but i dont want to settle in a town...i want to settledown in a village...a calm and quiet village...but i dont know wether i can find it in kerala

Question to u

Will u go back to kerala and settle there ?

How u identify yourself ?? as a mallu or banglorean ?

Just curious

silverine said...

Mind Curry: LOL :))

Doc hope that comment made you laugh like I did when I read it and hope you are feeling less blah now *hugs*

Monu: This is not nostalgia, just a old man's longing to return to his roots.

"Will u go back to kerala and settle there ?"

This post is a thread of a discussion that has been happening
here , here and here

You will have to read it to understand :)

shruti said...

dear that was very beautiful ..I guess questions abt life arise in each one of us .. and everyone seeks there own answers and only we can do it ourselves ..we need to seek and find our own truths..
I have also written abt life recently ..just a thought that came ..
as for ur post I would say - one needs to be in touch with one's reality and what one wants out of life .. we seem to be stuck there itself..we dont knw what we truely want ..there is always a tension of opposites .. a very nice term of defining the confusion within us I picked up from a lovely book I am currently reading .

Pradeep said...

You have capture the reality so well, Silverine.

Suji said...

That was such a touching post. Deep down inside I suppose every Malayali wants to return to Kerala, even Malayalis like me who have never had the fortune of living in Kerala. Very thoughtful of you to have kept Uncle's vision of Kerala intact.

silverine said...

Shruthi: Thanks girl! :)

Pradeep:Thank you Pradeep :)

Suji:Thank you. Deep down everyone wnats to return but the prevailing conditions is what makes people leave in the first place and the same conditions makes them settle outside after retirement.