Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Friday, 25 January 2013

Pilgrimage to Thalassery

Back from my annual pilgrimage to Thalassery. Feeling replenished in spirit. Even my grey cells are waking up and gearing up for action.

   I have a novel to tweak, bits to add, an ending to reinvent. So this blog can be safely called displacement activity. Slightly better than finding the kettle or the toilet.

   I am used to this journey now, the countryside getting gradually more devoid of development as we leave South Malabar behind. See what you've done to us, Pinarayi and Kodiyeri and you lot, now toothless yourselves. Even the Janashathabdi train refuses to go past Kozhikode, so we had to go on the dilapidated Eranad - squatting toilets, old seats and dirt-filled trays to cater for us.

   However - and this is a big HOWEVER- as the train draws in to Mahe, I know already that I'm almost home. I talk to all the people at the door getting off at Mahe. A muslim couple and children and a young man who invited me to his Niramala offering at the Thiruvangad temple. Talking to the people around you is de riguer here, no vacant stares past your face as I get elsewhere in Kerala,. Certainly not the cool summing up I receive in the Tube in London. Well, I've all that in front of me in another three weeks. So let me stock up on human warmth and sheer joy of belonging.

   I know now that I will never belong anywhere but in that little coastal town, which is rediscovering itself. The cosmetic surgery is unbecoming, but only bits are gone. Most of Thalassery is blessedly natural.

   I go to my old house to chat to my dead father, if we can ever quite see him off. He lingers. I normally pick up a few grains of mud from the spot where he was cremated and drop it into my purse. The money-plastic will be gritty for a few weeks and the holes-in-the-wall may find another reason to refuse me my hard-earned dosh. Ah well -

   This time I cannot reach the spot as the compound is grown over, the under growth is a few feet high and dense. There were snakes there always and I don't go close. Instead I say in my mind to my father: I don't think I'll come this way again. You are gone by now. You would not abide this desecration.

   The stadium is now complete in the fields where I roamed, where the young men played badminton after the harvest and where I gazed between turning the pages of my latest book. There is nothing to look at. The house has been 'acquired' and is slowly dwindling away before the offices of the stadium are built there.

   The gate has broken down and someone has carted it off. The concrete slabs at the entrance are breaking up.

   The house itself is dismal. Male nurses from the near-by co-operative hospital are lodging there and doing to the house what young men do when they have no resources and no style. Colourful lungis and greying underpants hang on a rope on the balcony to dry. The woodwork is rotting and the one young man walking on the terrace upstairs seems part of that dilapidation.

   I am glad to get away to my cousin's house and the touch of my family. Forget the tasteless mall, the dried up river bed and all else that we call modernisation.

   I know I'll keep going back to the place - will the remnants see me out too? Last through the fag end of my life? I hope so.

   For now, I am whole again. In my mind there is a blessed peace.

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