Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I am touched!!

Well, here I am, spouting off again with my yesterdays visit to Vattamalai, a village near Salem yesterday. I had an official visit there. Though I am not from Tamilnadu, with time I had developed and emotional attachment with Tamilnadu. May be it is because I had spent a good share of my time (4 years) in Tamilnadu, where I got to know Tamilans better. Or I should say, I knew a tamilan boy named Tankaraj before, even before my teenage. He was staying in our house, used to help in house hold chores. He was a young (around 20’s) and active boy. I never heard him complaining about anything. The best memory about him is he used to get us (kids) “parippu vada” when ammachi sent him to buy things from shop. He was more like a family member. Some impressions last for a life time. Its sad that he is no more there... leaving us with some good memories which will never fade.
The traveling from Bangalore to Salem was ok or it has become more like a habit. I will always sit in the 1st or 2nd row. The best thing about sitting in that seat is, I can exchange the seat with conductor whenever some dirty lust minded man creates trouble for me... and it’s not uncommon. I should say I am tired of complaining this to driver “sir” or Conductor “sir”. ( if you don’t call him sir, then its not going to workout. I see this trend only in Tamilnadu). Anyway this time I dint have any trouble. And one worst thing about sitting at the front is, by the time you reach your destination you will be almost deaf and your eye power might have increased by 0.25 (if you can manage to see the TV through out the journey). The two small TVs in their maximum volume and the colorful Tamil songs is an inevitable part of journey in Tamilnadu, and I am used to this, though I used to feel frustrated in the beginning.
I reached Vattamalai early morning by around 6 am. I could feel the fresh air and cool breeze. On the way to my friend’s room, I could see big bundles of thread, which they had dyed and put for drying..., in long sticks. There were hundreds of them. I always used to think why they don’t use any bright colors. This time its dull green threads on one side and the dull blue threads on the other side. This is not the first time I see this. Still every time I reached Vattamali, I saw something new.
I am always amazed by their hospitality towards the guests. I doubt whether I will take the same pain, if somebody else comes to me. The house owner is a good lady. She took care of the girls (my friends Selvi and Anitha).. She brought them milk, so that they can study well. (this is not included in the rent.. and its free.. daily two glasses of milk for girls to study Cool right!!J ) That was just a way she showed her affection towards them. She enquired everything and made sure they are safe. The same enquiry was there towards me also. I don’t feel open to strangers... and I used to get annoyed when people ask personal questions.. but now I consider it merely as their curiosity.
My work was done, faster than I expected. (dunno’ if its bcoz of the Lucky sari I was wearing yesterday). Evening I spent some time in VATTAMALAI... which is a small hill. Sitting there at the top of the hill, I felt so peaceful. I rarely get time to sit idle or look back at myself, if I am in Bangalore. Sitting there I could see, the whole village. All were busy returning home after their work. Mostly they were farmers. The only vehicle I saw was bicycle. Some had bullock cart. In the one and a half hour I sat there I couldn’t see any car or jeep. I could see children playing, wandering, fighting and making up again. I could see couples (it has to be husband and wife) happily returning home in cycle. The flowers in their head, which they had kept in the morning, all dried up. They looked tired and sun tanned. But still they were happy. They lived as if there is no tomorrow. I could see some thaathaas and paattis, talking under the big banyan tree. I wonder what they would talk daily, and don’t they go get vishayadhaaridhram, something I face very often. Air temperatures well above normal but there was an awesome ambience As night got darker, all I could see was the stars. I lay there. It was more beautiful than the sky I saw in Bangalore planetarium. Some stars were brighter than others. I could see three stars, winking at me. It might be the people who left me.. my mind was crazy. As it got darker we started back to room.
The best part of going to Vattamalai is the night eat-out. We eat kothu-porotta or Muttai-dosa (which I find only in Tamilnadu Thattu-Kadai’s). I had to leave by night. I remembered the big banyan tree in the bus stop which Propelled sunward. It covered large areas of the intervening surface below with an umbrella of shadow which was there in the bus stop. This time it’s been cut from the base as a part of Government plan, to make the already rubberized, straight and wide road still bigger. (I was thinking of my home-town in Kerala, which has many educated people, more shops and few hotels. Everything was good except the road. The houses are constructed in the road. Its many years since any patch work is done in that road. Our roads were more of gutters and less of tarred road... and yet, making the road a better doesn't exactly seem to be on the agenda of the Government or the concerned).
So, now I'm standing near a cut banyan tree, bags clutched in hand. Standing there waiting for the bus, reminded me of a Malayalam movie, where Mohanlal is given sent off by the whole village. There stood with me my friends, selvi and anitha, the house owner aunty (her youngest son Dinesh. he was too innocent and small for an 8th grader. He took the responsibility of taking my luggage which was a medium sized bag, in his superman cycle as he called it. The cycle wasn’t a small one which a boy of his age can ride. I doubt once upon a time it might have been used by his father. He had to stand and ride, as his legs won’t reach the pedal) and her friend (suguna). On the way to bus top I was offered a chips packet (locally tapioca chips- which tasted superb except for the excess red color they added while frying) by the thaatha...from whom I used to buy things every time. He tells me the same story of his disturbed sleeps at night and his leg pain. He dint expect an answer, or a remedy. All he wanted was a listening ear. I started late (around 9.30 pm) as I dint want to reach Bangalore too early. As it was a small village, everybody knew each other. Some busses didn’t stop there. One anna with a byke (I think bike is something rare in vattamali.) stopped to help us. Slowly I cud see around ten people, all were selvis’s or House owner aunty's friends or neighbors. By 9.45 pm, when I got the bus, more than a dozen people were there to bid me good bye... some of them I never met (I may not meet then again either), some faces which I had seen and forgotten. As the bus started, all of them waved at me. I know that there is something missing always, something we lost in civilization's social bargain, something we instinctively long for. I was touched by them; by the amazing humbling overwhelming love (which doesn’t expect anything in return) they showed.


leosevents said...

Hi Beena,

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Raphael Alwin Kalathil said...

Hello...Nice writing.I found it interesting because I too lived near Vattamalai,from 2000 to 2005(During my college at SSM),and it was something transformed the young boy from Kerala into a Professional.I can still feel that cool breeze in the mornings,that pilots the hot and dry day in the semi-arid wasteland.

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