As is evident now, I spend most of my free time browsing through blogs or surfing the web. On one such journey, I read a piece by a friend of mine that was wistful. Looking back on times in the countryside… ones she did not appreciate as much then as she does now. Reading her piece made me ache for the times gone past.
Coming from a lineage of people who historically were farmers or land owners, my only glimpses of the past were on annual vacations to my maternal and paternal grandparents’ homes. I remember cringing each time my mom would make plans for a trip to her home. It meant days on end without running water or proper electricity. It also meant no television and plenty of time with old people.
Somewhere between fifth grade and high school my attitude changed. I occasionally looked forward to these trips. The journeys themselves were very interesting. The villages that disappeared as the bus hurtled past them. Visions of riverbeds flanked by rows of trees, some marked with white and black bands. Paddy spread out on the roads so that the passing vehicles could thresh them. Villagers carrying produce and baskets on their hips or heads. Children chasing passing motorists. Cattle co-existing with people in a way that made them more human than animals. The sudden lurch of the bus to avoid a cart that was not fast enough to avoid its path. The appearance of a familiar sign board that announced my village. The eagerness to get off the bus and walk down the rickety bridge that lead to the house.
Even as we got down from the bus, someone who knew my mom would stop by to enquire about everyone at home. Others would help get our luggage down. Tired and dusty from the bus journey, the village home with its sprawling thinnai and low hanging doors would seem like a haven. The minute we reached, paati would make steaming hot coffee and we would sip them sitting on the oonjal palagai. Non stop vambu, plenty of elaneer, mangoes and endless rounds of coffee with milk right from the cows were the hallmark of these visits.
My mom’s uncle and aunt lived next door to my grand mom and uncle had a huge collection of Readers Digests that would last me all vacation. Afternoons we would curl up on the wooden cots and enjoy a nap under the heavy ceiling fans that swirled at their own pace. It would always seem like night came early. The skies were very clear and no one was out and about after 8:00 PM.
While my mom’s village did not boast of trips to the field, visits to my dad’s village would entail a trip or two to the paddy or sugarcane fields and a ride on my uncle’s tractor. On one such trip, four of us cousins were sitting on the tractor and making our way home with our uncle at the wheel. Suddenly the side I was sitting on seemed to let go and I fell with a thud to the ground. We realized with amusement that one of the tractor’s wheels decided to chart a path for itself. Because I was the heaviest in my family, I became the brunt of many such tractor jokes. 🙂
On another such visit the bullock cart that me, amma and some others were riding in went belly up. Thankfully no one was hurt but remembering it always brings a smile to my face. The architecture of the village homes themselves lent to superb cross ventilation and plenty of space to air dry grains or coconuts. Water was drawn from a well and we would bathe right by its side.
Looking back, those definitely are memories to be treasured. I wonder if my nieces and nephews will even get a chance to experience a slice of unadulterated village life in India. Another six weeks and I might get to visit my village yayy!!