It’s a lovely Christmas eve morning if I may put it that a way, here in my village in Kerala. From the time I have landed here, I have been roaming around visiting people, in our neighborhood. It’s a delight to see people’s reaction as you open the gate and walk in. Pure joy, some tears and some emotional outbursts, it’s like walking back into time to childhood. Yesterday I went around the small township, walked into the quaint old shops, wished the elders, took blessings and reveled in their attentions. I prefer to wear a salwar as I do my rounds. The gesture is appreciated. Women landing up at the market in pants are still looked at as outsiders.
I can see several NRI’s shopping. Some of the buxom ladies are wearing tight pants inviting stares. You can see the chasm between the two sets of people. One are quite oblivious of the stares and quite comfortable in their outfits, while the townsfolk are embarrassed at seeing fat women in pants. I am caught in the middle, while I giggle at the jokes doing the rounds in which me, “our” girl is included I empathize with the NRI ladies too because they are acting naturally and not trying to make a statement or something like that. Annam, my maid, who is accompanying me is wonderstruck at the NRI ladies and whispers that she thinks they are going to explode any moment. I tell her that these ladies were wearing what they felt comfortable in and that we had no right to pass judgment! She agrees solemnly trying hard not to laugh.
As a kid I remember, when we drove out back to Bangalore after our vacations, we would stop at this small village market and say bye to all the uncles who ran the shops here. There would be wistful byes and the all too familiar scenes of people standing at bus stops waving goodbye to families heading back out of Kerala. We would be the only ones going to nearby Bangalore.
There is a change in the air now. People seem somehow ‘grown up’. There is a comfort level among people. Unlike yester years, when family members worked far off in the North, nowadays most people have their kith and kin in Bangalore and Chennai. Visits are frequent and thus there is more contentment in homes.
Infosys, IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, GE are common names and being an English grad is not such a sad deal anymore :P People understand what I do, or least have a hazy notion and know that there is more to IT companies than software/hardware engineering. I saw an appachan working in his field wearing an Accenture T Shirt. “magan accenturil annu” he informs proudly.
The area is seeing a huge rise in IIMites. A good sign indeed! Changanassery town hasn’t changed much, though I can see some snazzy Supermarkets and shops. But the white mundu clad men and Ammachis with the ubiquitous umbrella still abound.
Today at church I met the entire village. This is an agrarian community and everyone knows everyone. There is so much joy when people spot you and as is the usual practice, we lingered around till 11 after mass, greeting people asking about "viseshams”. My Dad comes here every month or so, so he is not the centre of attraction…we are :P Thanks to the many airlines that have mushroomed, my Dad can now fly down monthly.
Liberalization, besides providing job opportunities, has bought families closer together. Children drop in more regularly and not only during summer vacations like the olden days. There is less talk of whose car is better and more talk of which car is more fuel efficient. More emphasis on two wheelers than four wheelers. I see a lot of people who want to return and in my area; land is being preserved for such an event. A very heartwarming thought indeed.
There is less talk of getting girls married and more talk of a girl being career minded *whew* :P A welcome change I see in the women folk is the increasing trend to marry late after settling down in a job.
The contentment in the air is almost palpable. Yesterday I went to meet our old parish priest. He presided over my parent’s marriage, our baptisms and First Holy Communions. As I wheeled him around the well manicured lawns and garden around the convent, he filled me in on all the happenings in our village. He is like a social barometer for us. An acutely sensitive person, he has always rightly predicted the mood of the people. He seems to be happy that the young population has more opportunities to come home now. He feels this will infuse new thoughts and ideas into the population here and bring about changes in the mindset. He feels that this is the crucial transfusion of new thoughts that Kerala needs. Sitting and talking to him I feel so far away from Bangalore and more close to my roots. I realized as he talked, how much part of this community I am, wherever I am and whatever I may be at work.
Change is inevitable, this community is also experiencing it, but what I witnessed is a change for the better. Perhaps there are ugly sides to it, I don’t know. But for the common people, there seems to be reason to cheer this Christmas.
(This post was written on 24th December)