Friday, August 31, 2007

An old friend and compatriot


One of my fondest memories of Kerala and childhood was the njaar. A sort of a small river or brook or stream which flows independently for some stretch before joining a larger river. The njaar flows half a kilometer away from my Dad's house, but the gurgling of its flowing water can be heard throughout the day, more pronounced during the night. I have slept to its gurgles and chuckles and woke up to its roar.

As soon as we reached "home" we the kids would clamor to be taken to the brook. Ammachi would click her tongue and tell us to get acclimatized to the weather and well water first before plunging into the cold mountain water. She always knew it was a losing battle but she tried anyways. The preparation for bathing in the brook was simple. Copious amounts of fresh coconut oil drizzled on the crown of the head and we were ready to go. Being the youngest I had to hold on to my ammachi's hand as she lived in perpetual fear of me being washed away. She would snort with indignation on the way back when people jocularly exclaimed that they were so relieved to see me alive [:p] Her phobias were well known to all and sundry! :)

The first sight of the brook, glistening in the sun is indescribable! It was like spotting a dear old friend waiting for us to come back to play with him. Getting out of our clothes was a record breaking feat and the first plunge bought shrieks and screams as the cold water touched our warm bodies leaving us gasping at its icy coldness. After that it was nightmare time for my ammachi as she could never get us out of the water. Finally she would have to send word to the house to get my Dad to come down and get us out of the water. My Dad would come down and haul us out or most of the times join us in the water. Ammachi's "yatha raja tatha praja" still rings in my ears :))

Finally when we got out, we compared our shriveled hands and legs. The one who was soaked the most got admiring and envying glances.

The brook brings back a lot of memories. Of freshly pressed coconut oil and ammachi and thorth fishing. Of clinging on to my Dad's slippery back while he swam in the deeper areas, Dad’s *ouch* as I grasped the hair on his back for fear of falling in the river, Pears soap, glass bottles filled with tiny fishes, cold mountain water and shouts of flash floods! Of lying in the water looking at the sky and peeping into the clear bottom of the small river. Jumping off rocks into the small depth pockets and tiny fishes nibbling on our legs. Of coconuts and other flotsam that floated downstream on its way to some land far far away and sulks when we were told to get out and dry ourselves. Of my Dad or Ammachi taking us to see the elephants that worked in the Teak plantations to compensate for pulling us out of water and sheer blissful times of skipping ahead of them through dense paddy fields and rubber tree forests.

The njaar still flows. Instead of rollicking kids you see plastic, old slippers and such effluvia floating in it. The water bodies of Kerala are dead. A culture is dead. Long live the water bodies of Kerala.

19 comments:

shruti said...

BEautiful ... How can we get back our heaven ... because if man wants he cna exprience heaven on earth ...The nature draws one to relaise our true nature ..our unity with creation and a silent plea to save it ...

emmanuel said...

nee oru thani malayaali pennu thanneya.......no doubt..... ;)

vembanad lake was actually about 315 million sq. km in size in earlier 20th century and now it's almost abput 120 million sq.km...so it's clear how waterbodies are "killed" in kerala...... :(((

the experience of bathing in brooks is one of the sweetest childhood memories......beautiful post by the way... :)

mathew said...

aahh..pure torture...the vivid description just makes me go back in time..almost could smell naadu in there... :-(

really beautiful post!!

Atleast we had seen the good times in our childhood..next generation wont even know there existed such blissful and carefree life!!!

pophabhi said...

That was a dream. The memories are so vivid, and the part about the fishes nibbling the leg have a touch of memories.

The water bodies are clearly dying with the pollution and 'commercialisation' of waters. Hope it turns back to the old ways!

Annie said...

Those were the days...sigh. Beautiful post.

Alexis said...

Nicely written... Took me back to good old days.

And the last para was simply superb. Try telling all this to the land and resort mafia... They think they can recreate everything after demolishing everything. I thought only God could do that; but today these goons and thugs are trying to become Gods

I don't know whether God can save his own country...

Abhay said...

well written. got reminded of a vacation i had in kerala. the only thing i was told throughout that trip was - kerala and coconut are synonymous :)

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

Nice post. Took me back to our childhood vacations in Kerala. My uncle's house was accessible only by boat. Mornings, we would go to the water to brush our teeth, and shriek in delight as the fish wandered by to snack on the Colgate.

BPSK

J said...

Quite a nostalgic post... Hmm, times, then and now have changed quite a lot.

Josh said...

i havent been to kerala b4.. but i cud feel the njaar and its cold waters thru this post.
beauty!

wanderlust said...

made me nostalgic about my childhood holidays and the fun and the frolic in the 'kuttanaadan thodu'. as you said, all that remains now is a miserable excuse for what once was.

rebel said...

You Keralites are so lucky!

An ex-teammate from Kerala used to describe how he went to school -- cross 2 streams and a water fall! Hello, that is trekking for us!

All I know is roads, cars, two-wheelers and pollution. This is why I loooooooove visiting Kerala!

neermathalam said...

I wnat to go back now...
:((...
I am fed up seeing ultra cultured dogs and kids.
Here the kids grow so fast they attain maturity at the age of 5
From 5-10 I really don't know what they are.!!!!
and from 10 teenage starts...:)
uncultured...kids with ansuranakedu is much kyute...!!!!
and this is indeed a the celebration post of your childhood...
Envy....u...amazin post....!!!

silverine said...

shruti:"our true nature...our unity with creation and a silent plea to save it" So true!!

emmanuel: That info about Vembanad is really saddening :(

mathew: You are right. I pity the next generation too!

annie: I know :(

Alexis: It is so sad to see the bulldozers mowing down trees. I am allergic to that sight now.

abhay: Kerala is synonymous with coconuts and...pristine water bodies and forests...but now its another story altogether.

BPSK: Those were the days...


J: Things are changing at a really fast pace now.

Josh: Thank you :)

wanderlust: That is so sad to hear!!!

rebel: We are indeed lucky...hope we can save the place from 'roads, cars, two-wheelers and pollution' :)

neermathalm: I so know how you feel!

MC said...

effluvia in the brooks just reflects the pollution in the mind of the people..its a real pathetic situation.

your post took me back too..fishing and boating and swimming and what not..wish we could freeze ourselves to our childhood.

Anonymous said...

the backwaters in kerala were always the biggest attraction for us non-resident keralites..and the kolam within our ancestral house..aah..how we used to love jumping into the cold water..my father taught me to swim in that kolam.how we used to enjoy:)
nice post..thanx..brought back too many memories..

Anonymous said...

Anjali, I feel like crying after reading this post. You bought back so many memories. Heart breaking post :((

ഫ്രാന്‍‍സിയര്‍ said...

The rivers lakes and the ponds of Kerala reflects the present state of mind of mallus.Brooks Rest in Peace!

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

:')@(post minus the last two lines)