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Tuesday, August 15, 2006 

Vignettes of home

(A ramble in many parts. Prelude, and then here earlier).

That bridge near Tonk Phatak, where in the winter little children blew out small puffs of vapour, like dialogue balloons in comic strips. And ran behind the overladen tempos groaning up the bridge, pulling out radishes, fresh, pungent.

That last row of books in that dusty basement library, next to the Woodlands, where much coveted membership was restricted only to the school holidays. And where one hot summer holiday, we finished all the Macleans, one after the other.

The house near the District Library in Dwarka Nagar. Where the eldest embarrassed all of us by giving directions like “You know the Oasis Bar ? Ok, it’s second house on the second left from there”, where the more staid landmark would have been Diamond Park. But then, she was always that way.

And the cinema street in that beautiful city, named after that stone theatre in the middle. Where once, in order to celebrate the first time away from parents ever, Wild Geese II, followed by Silkwood. And just for the heck of it, a Kannada movie immediately after. Though one came out feeling slightly green after that. So that every time that place is revisited, we think of Meryl Streep asking if one was huchcha.

Salisbury Park, Gidney Park, old world cantonments, pretty girls in Deccan, Aurora Towers and Ten Downing Street and LB Road, all subsumed in memories so bitter that the abiding memory still remains of the final stretch of nearly vertical slope on that famous fort. Where burning muscles asked if there was any point in going through all this, before the bliss of cold coffee on top regenerated both rebellious thoughts and limbs.

God’s own country, where the evening run ended in a steaming cup of Horlicks on a bench near Priyadarshini park, ostensibly watching the mammoth tankers leave the channel, but actually waiting for that particular girl who worked at the Taj to catch the evening ferry back home. To see her stop at the same bench everyday, make pretence of having a breather, whereas what she actually did was to swap her dainty heels for sensible flats slipped out from her bag.

That stretch of the Western Ghats, where once a daily run consisted of going up the whimsically named hill, and sitting in solitary peace on the edge of nothingness. Till a blue coloured Udayan Express chugged its way out a tunnel in the hill, an oddly coloured rabbit, pregnant with sweaty hawkers selling 100 year calendars, pocket diaries with a goddess on one front cover and Madhuri Dixit on the back, and key chains.

That beautiful stepped path, a relic of colonial times, starting ahead of Nayantara Sehgal’s house below. And going on through achingly beautiful stretches of moss covered stone. And just before Jharipani was it, that moss covered stretch ending in a turn, where a sudden gap in the trees showed the Bahai temple below.

That computer lab in the slave camp turned educational institution. Where we worked and played and sometimes did both, obscure programs for gridding irregular objects interspersed with shooting monsters that oozed green, gelatinous slime before vaporizing when shot with the BFG.

That lonely stretch of the marshes in the arid, baking land, the stench of the salt pans, though the delicate pink of the flamingos that come there will now forever be associated with the bloodletting that effectively erased all traces of the spectacled man who once came from those parts.

And the allegedly Maximum City. Hideously, graspingly wannabe and wretched, like an aged crone wearing rouge. Over the years, I have grown to understand some of its compulsions, some its drives, maybe even reconciled to them. Affection ? We’ll pass.

To the homeless, every place is truly home. Shorn of a place to identify ourselves with, we call ourselves Indian.

Happy birthday, home.

when i was a teenager in the 60s, the favourite mock comment on the anglo indians used to start with 'back home in england....'.

growing up in the immediate nehruvian post independence euphoria, there was no room for accommodation of anything 'western' in our society. we deliberately removed the statue of most white person, renamed the roads and tried to whitewash 400 years of our history starting with warren hastings.

now that a significant number of desis are having their own homes abroad, kids who speak with an accent that they mocked once upon a time and facing an ever increasing mix of cultures who are at the same time polarized.

'when in rome do as the romans do'. the sooner, we divest ourselves of the supposed superiority of our culture, and move in to 'fit' with our new hosts so that we too become part of the adopted culture, the easier it is for our children. sticking to our past, is the classic breeding ground for the foreign born confused desi, and depending on the religion, the more the alienation, and the violent aftermath that we have come to witness.

the bottom line: we have not been good guests or settlers.

You, sir, weave silken webs of the finest words we've ever read. Each bit of this was exquisite. We will not trivialise this by saying something really cheesy like "Wish I could write like this." But, we WILL say this - Take a bow, sir.

We shall take this conversation (hopefully) off this board to another online interface.

We really hope you are free for a talk about nothing at all.

Phantom : I would both agree and disagree.

Yes, in an over-reaction, we did get rid of several things post-Independence. One of them was a reasonably efficient administrative ethos. We still suffer bouts of it, as evinced in the Bombay-Mumbai and Madras-Chennai inanities. But on the whole, I think we have been pretty decent to that marginal section that stayed back, the Anglo-indians.

As for our own diaspora : everybody has to adjust. That includes the country that calls for the able-bodied and the intellectual to migrate to it as much as the immigrants themselves. But no, enriching oneself with interaction with an alien culture need not necessarily mean dumping one's own. Funnily enough, in the Karan Johar movies we see patriarchs spouting "Indian cultural values" in conflict with younger generations. But several of the people from the UK/US I have interacted with have retained a balance between their origins and their present pretty well.
(see, I told you we ramble :) ).

Me : Thank you. Embarassingly high praise. 'Cept that some people would again allege it is I. : )

So sweet.

Just like the kid who knows no more than to hug me and say 'Amma, you are the bestest', and in a similar vein, 'India is the bestest country'!

To the innocent, every thing is truly the bestest!

And Happy Birthday! :)

thank you patrix. i really don't deserve this praise. but then i am fat, short and bald. don't deserve that either. :) :)

ofcourse, keep up the good work. i am ready for any arattai, as long as it does not hurt anyone's feelings and maintains a decorum.

you guys have a good blogspot. and
to reciprocate, please take a bow and pat yourself on the back :)

quote shankari "To the innocent, every thing is truly the bestest! "

so true shankari. it is only with age that we come to question and as we age further, we have more questions than answers. to me, there are very few things in black and white. most things are grey, only different shades of it.

re 'india is the bestest country' - it is more a cry of the heart. in any fight between the heart and the head, the heart always wins. if we use our heads to evaluate india, maybe we will come to some different conclusions :( or again, we might not :)

see, what i told you about everything being grey :):)

Shankari : Nanha munna raahi hoon : )

Phantom : Whee ... to mangle a quote, I am not Patrix, nor was meant to be : )

The post was about missing homes. As for India being the best, I would argue that what is best for people is maintaining their identity, whether born Indian or otherwise. To transplant oneself into an alien identity because of a shift in geography would be as disturbing as refusing at all to adjust to it.

Thanks for the compliments : )

extremely sorry ?!

i am new to this world of metroblogging. i came upon your blogs through chennai metroblogging (c.m.). i am not sure how the comments here relate to c.m. (doesn't appear to be).

cheers and sweet dreams :)

.. my 'extremely sorry' was for confusing the identities of the various posts... as we grow older, we lose our moptop, exposing the cuticles above to the vagaries of nature. i happen to live in a cold country which freezes my brain. :)

I couldn't have said it better than Me. Since Me has already said it all and I have no felicity with words, shall restrict myself to - BRAVO!!! So proud of you pal.

Phantom : More n more confusing. Am *not* a "metroblogger" ... even though I have no idea what that means :)

Main kahin Cavi na ban jaaon... : Eeesh. We have *already* rebuked Me. Now you wanna join list ?

What a beautifully written bit of nostalgia... got me aching for places I have loved in the years I have spent wandering around India. And got me wishing I hadn't needed to spend my childhood being a nomad.

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