KERALA DIARIES- FAREWELL
By Neel Anil Panicker
I have a confession to make. I hate farewells.
Farewells are meant for those whom you would never meet, ever again.
At least that’s what I make of it.
I have a morbid fear of farewells.
I guess it dates back to my childhood.
As a child we were visited (which, I believe would be the case with all others) by a horde of relatives and people close enough to make our hearts glow.
Coming from a large diaspora, our family links extended far and wide, across the length and breadth of the country. A few from even abroad.
Once I remember back when I was barely ten or twelve, we had gone to our hometown in far off Kerala. It was the annual summer one and half month regimen we religiously undertook to our ancestral home.
I always looked forward to these trips as it meant not only a welcome break from studies but also brought in the exciting prospect of bonding with a teeming multitude of cousins__first, second and even thrice removed.
Within ten minutes of our train halting at Kollam station and thereafter within five minutes of arriving at our tharavadu, I was deluged by the soothing presence of young ones who made sure I was never alone and I practically lived, breathed, bathed, ate, and even slept alongside them.
Off we would go at the crack of dawn, a merry bunch of pre-teens, our feet traversing past lush green paddy fields, running past old men who lay half drunk beside languid backwaters smoking weed and throwing distant aimless stares upwards, their cataract spoiled world weary eyes piercing through the leafy partitions of sky high coconut trees that dotted every single inch of the limpid blue horizon.
Unmindful of and unshackled from the worries and tribulations that beset the inhabitants of the adult world, we children would make merry, spending endless hours in the sun, kicking up dust and playing hide and seek around the innumerable creeks and corners that are pretty much the topographical norm in the coastal regions that we hail from, even at times playing street football, the latter usually being an improvised coconut that lies all around aplenty, most often in the fields and vast backyards around the small hatched houses that dot the beautiful green-lit landscape.
And sometimes, just to break the monotony of it all we would end up chasing the diaphanous patterns of fluorescent sun rays as they caressed our eager eyes after sneaking past the narrow slits of ubiquitous palm leaves.
And when the sun would go down we would amble back home but not before taking the customary dive into the ancestral pond, the mere touch of whose cold waters was suffice to send spasmodic shivers of delight down our parched spines.
Thus rejuvenated, we would then gather around the community kitchen where our mothers and aunts and assorted other women folk would fill our bellies to the brim with hot plates of piping tapioca that we exhausted in conjunction with the tastiest of fish delicacies lifted straight off the sea.
Our stomachs satiated, we would again regroup, this time in the cool comforts under the shade of gigantic trees and play queer and funny games till such time sleep embraced us in her arms.
Of such beautiful days and nights were built the everlasting memories that I have carried all through to this day.
But alas! just as all good things come to an end so would my vacations.
There I would be surrounded by my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and all assortments of near and dear ones, all teary eyed and some of them crying inconsolably.
Finally, would come the deep hugs and umpteen kisses as emotions would turn fragile and eyes watery as never ending rounds of bear hugs, soft kisses and well intentioned promises would be exchanged.
It’s been years now and all of us have grown up and some even moved on in life but even today the mere recall of those beautiful memories rings my ears with sheer nostalgia.
Some words still refuse to fade away.
“Hope you don’t forget us, I am getting old. I don’t know if I will see you next time.”
This last one particularly reverberates in my ears as no image, at least to a ten year old, could be as torturous as the sight of my grandmother, in her eighties and half blind, clutching me in her bosom just before the car speeds us away to the railway station.
As ill luck would have it, less than six months later we received a one line terse telegram that simply stated : Grandmother no more.
Since then I have hated this last part of family get-togethers and avoid it like the plague at all costs.
I know farewells are an inevitable part of human life.
But, still, I try to offset it by either avoiding them, or at least, lessening their impact.
And one way I have discovered is to say more hellos.
#TRAVELLER’S TALES#KERALA DIARIES#02