The “I am going to Udupi for ganapati” experience begins the moment I board the aircraft. I am settling in, when I hear a snatch of conversation in the mother tongue. And for a moment I am startled. It is not everyday that I hear the language being spoken outside of my home. It takes a couple of seconds to recover and realize that it is that time of the year….folks are going home for the festival . Just as we are. Going home for Chauti.
Native place... the place where one belongs to. My native place was Kuthpady. A village close to a bigger village called Udyavara, and a couple of kms away from the town of Udupi. The place where my father and his siblings were born and brought up
Udupi is where the husband resided. The place we now call our hometown.
As soon as we land in Mangalore and drive towards Udupi, a strange feeling comes over me. The bonding over the mother tongue – in the temples, at the stores…. meeting family, the familiar surroundings, ….the memories of the earlier visits. The feeling that this is mine, that I fit here and nowhere else …the feeling seems to be all encompassing. Overwhelming.
Just 3 hrs ago I was in Mumbai, in a different milieu , a place I called my home, and now when I am here in the hometown , I seem to belong here. It seems just right.
The heart strings are tugged. Where is my home really ! and for a moment the mind goes into a confused state. A vacant state. I would like to tell myself that the home is where the heart is. Or that there are the concepts of janmabhoomi and the karmabhoomi. And that they both could be apart from each other and yet remain an integral part of me. But dil hai ke manta nahin. A sadness reigns.
When I was a newlywed and we used to drive into Udupi …, as soon as we entered the town,,,the husband would lower his side of the window,. All throughout the next 20 minutes it would take to reach our home, he would be calling out to somebody or the other - a “namaskara swaamy”, a hand raised in greeting, … or he would be called out to.. “ehhh vittla.”.. and he would raise his hand – in acknowledgement. a wide grin plastered on his face, for all of those 20 mins.
The next few days would pass off similarly. Each time we stepped out of the house we would bump into a familiar face.
It been nearly 25 years that he has been away from Udupi. And nearly 10 yrs since his parents have passed away.
Each time we enter the town now, we find some of the old landmarks levelled. New ones taking their place. The people seem to have vanished too. Some have moved to other parts of the town, some out of the town and city , state or country and then there are the others who have moved on to another realm .
The journey to our home is usually a silent one now. I see his eyes searching for the familiar face. And I hate myself for having been envious of him then. I thank my stars now that he is a practical kind of a guy and accepts and adapts very well to change. The sentimental fool that I am, I have a lump in my throat.. this time for him.
We do meet some of them over the couple of days that we are there. In the market place, at the shops. .His classmates, his teachers, , an acquantaince, parents of his friends, friends of his parents….. they talk fondly… very fondly.. of the times they shared together. They share anecdotes with me and the kids. It feels good to hear the stories. His stories.
Then there are times when we meet folks who knew my father , my grandparents, my uncles….I usually do not remember them by face, but the names sometime ring a bell. The tell me to convey their regards to my father. They enquire about him, his well being. They recount the times they spent with dad, his brothers.,. They talk very affectionately with me.. just for being my father’s daughter. They bless us - ‘amgelo ashirwaad assa, dev barey koro”. Loosely translated from Konkani, it means – u have our blessings, may the almighty shower you with His grace”
This feeling of belonging… I understand it better now. The bond, the bond of belonging to the same time period, the same place, similar circumstances, It is indeed a warm one.
It is an awesome feeling when people place you, accept you and pull you closer into their space..
This is when it strikes me that these people here know our stories… the husband’s stories, my fathers stories.
And I also understand my confusion. The people who knew my stories… where are they? moving residence has its woes. Uprooting has its woes
Who will fondly tell my children my stories? Will they feel similar pangs ?