Friday, April 22, 2011

What if....

Tucked away in a sleepy cranny of Kerala is this pretty little hamlet called Ayroor, and this is the stage for some of the most significant events and occurrences of my life. This is where my forefathers lived and died. This is where my great grandfather built a sturdy stone house and bequeathed it to my grandfather, the wise and mighty farmer and school principal. This is where he brought home his Ceylon born and Singapore raised doctor wife at a time when running water was scarce and electricity was unheard of. This is where she started the hospital that served the rank and file of the village at their darkest hours and their deepest needs. Ayroor is what made my father the man he is today - a devotee of trees and birds and all things wild and free, a connoisseur of a kind of languid living where time and tidings are no matter to the biddings of one's whims and fancies, someone whose decisions and choices are based on an innate wisdom and on the precepts of an unspoken code of moral living rather than the demands of a fleeting circumstance - a simple soul with method in his madness, madness being his method.

It is the place that gave my father his wife; the place where they possibly had their first fight, a seminal one as it gave way to many more fights, and these fights are probably what defined a lot of us in a lot of ways. (But everything happens for a reason and life really is too short for lamentations in any case.) This is where my mother possibly spent many a day missing her husband and my father possibly spent many a night missing his wife. This is where I allowed my fear of the snakes that are clothed in the folds of darkness to heighten to a dread that dictated even my desire to come to this wild and wanton place. This is where my brother was christened and that day was when I first fed him alone from a bottle.

Twenty two years have passed and these years have been rife with defining moments that have made us and broken us in a multitude of ways. These are the moments that bring out the edges of people that are otherwise dulled by disuse. I now know that my mother is the strongest person I know, at least from where I stand, and that my father in my eyes is so wise that he can do little wrong. I now know that I love my brother so very greatly that I will probably save his soul over anyone else's if I could. I also know that everything contributes to who you are today - I could hope for an unsullied childhood and an enviable adolescence, but I wouldn't be me if that was the case, I know.

Of late, my trips to Ayroor have been wrought with nostalgia: for a time past with dear and near ones for my father, and for a more mindful, conscious and conscientious life for me. Ayroor first took my breath away not too long ago. Having grown up in a near paradise, it is easy to imagine the same to be true of the world as well. But a few months of city living stirred in me a sentience of the fact that there was something extraordinary about these little villages in Kerala, hidden in space and forgotten in time. And amazingly enough, one of these places is actually my stone and wood house resting on a hushful river bank.

Each visit hence has been a slow but sure journey into lessons of wistfulness and melancholia and the feeling that I hold in my hands something so transient and ephemeral that it could slip away with the slight absence of consciousness - something displaced and in place and time and hence abandoned, but fast catching up with a world that has surged on without an afterthought.

Now each time I visit the place, the house looks more forlorn and sad, aging in a way that a grandparent seems to, each time you visit - as if years have passed in a matter of months; as if ebullience has given way to despondence and fortitude to frailty. Each time my father hears a creaking stair or a sees wood on the floor whittled away by a beetle, I know that his heart breaks a little. In his eyes are a myriad 'what if's. 'What if I had stayed back instead of going away to seek a fortune?' 'What if I had stayed here and had my family with me?' But as much as there are whimsies made of dreams and hopes, there are those that are made of disquietude and trepidation. 'What if no one enjoys the fruits of this plenitude?' 'What if this fortune whittles away like the wood on these walls?' Of course, once you start indulging your imagination, it does run wild.

But the rain has its way of distilling and intensifying emotions and experiences of any sort and the rains are what defined my last visit there. The foliage was more verdant and the lilies glowed in the light of a burnished sun that made its advent when the rain busied itself at another forgotten spot before returning and indulging itself with a wild abandon hitherto unknown. The mangoes were a plenty and they beckoned temptingly to be bitten into. The nutmeg trees had flowered and nutmegs hung from the boughs like ornaments on a Christmas tree. The only thing that remained unchanged was the river, steadfast and sure, as it surged nonthreateningly and unobtrusively on its chosen course. The rains in Ayroor have its way with everything else other than the river these days. And the rains have its way with melancholia too and lure you to construct a world of your own liking, pregnant with 'what if's and 'if only's and 'maybe it will come to be's. And in Kerala, the rains never stop. That's the beauty and the folly of it. That's the glory and the story of it.

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