The Low Entrance

3:55 PM Shanky 8 Comments


(Pic courtesy: Arul Jegadish on Flickr)
"இன்னொரு முறை மாங்காய் பறிக்ரத பார்த்தேன், ஆடிட்டு இருக்கிரத வெட்டி காக்கைக்கு போட்ருவேன், ஜாக்கிரதை" ("Once more I catch you and you will be dead! Do you hear me? The crows have been asking me for something soft and I think just yours would suit them") the angry old woman was shouting at the top of her voice, but it felt like it came from a far place. Shakthi's thighs clenched involuntarily and his lips curled into a smile and his body was shaking. Not because of the fear of losing it but he was in a potholed road that made even his sophisticated car rickety. He is returning to his native after 15 years. It amused him that the taunt from the old neighbour was the thing that was fresh in his memory or at least that was the first thing that came to his mind. He has had loads of happy memories, adventures that were exciting, activities that were exhilarating. While in school he visited his native once in a year and it was a grand event for him. 

Final exam of every annual year was the most exciting time. His mom will be busy from the afternoon preparing food for the overnight journey, sweets for the relatives and the whole affair of packing brings a whole level of chaotic festive mood. After an overnight journey in a bus from their place, they have to undergo a 5 hour arduous journey to reach their native. But none of this hardship ever bothered him rather they looked forward to 40 days of pure pristine stay peppered with love and care from the entire populace there.

As a kid, this was a trip that earned Shakthi a superstar status in school every academic year. "Shakthi, please read your excellent essay about your summer vacation to the class." sang the English teacher and it did not stop there. "Shakthi why don't you pass around the insect and plant leaf collection from summer vacation." said the Science teacher. "Shakthi will share with us the cultural festival of his village" thundered the social science teacher. Add to this the "cool" activities he did in his village and he was every kid's friend. He was the leader of his group in his school and residential locality. He enjoyed this status in the city and hence he loved his village that gave him that status. But after all, Shakthi is a kid. He had his share of complaints about the village. There was no tap in the toilet; in fact there wasn't a proper toilet. It was open bathrooms or river. He sure did love to swim in the river or be in the river but not always. The houses were crowded and cramped with low roof which made it difficult to sleep inside the house in the night due to the heat. While the starlit sky and the stories from all the elders were wonderful, the mosquitoes did bother him.

However, he never showed this to any of the people there. Everyone on the road was his grandpa, uncle, brother, sister, aunt. He showed respect and love and it fascinated them that such manners came from a town boy. He was happy and proud that he could fascinate such elders which prompted an even more careful behaviour from him. It was a vicious circle something like bribery or addiction. Every second person in the village wanted to claim him as their own and they would get started with, "Your dad was not like you, he was very naughty. You know, once he came to our house and..." Shakthi was used to such openings and he was only eager for more. These were stories about his naughty father with liberal amounts of white lies thrown in to make it more exciting. But unfortunately time has cruel twists in a man's life. Some very complicated like a broken relationship or death and some very simple and straight forward like, growing up. After his eighth grade he neither had the time nor the intention to make the arduous journey to his wonderland. In a time when the world was moving at the speed of light and information was being transmitted literally at the speed of light his wonderland has become archaic for him. It no longer evoked the same reaction or emotion in him. 

Now, fifteen years later, Shakthi is a successful business man. He owns his chain of restaurants in the metros that is spreading the goodness of a cuisine that he truly reveled in his childhood. His native has given him many things and the cuisine was just a small tangible part. This was his way of repaying. He is sponsoring this year's village festival and he was very proud of it. The entire village proclaimed him as the son of soil, the guy who was "Firmly tied to his roots." It was no more the simple no frill love but a fan fare. Crowd was gathering around his now dust covered car and his gadgets. The angry old woman who threatened him was no more and he conveyed his condolences to her son. In all this demi-god reception and frenzy there was one person who was unhappy. One person who was not pleased with what he was seeing. Shakthi's paternal uncle Pazhanivel.A man in his sixties was his adventure guru when Shakthi came to his native. Pazhani periappa (uncle) had taught him how to swim, how to fish and most importantly how to climb a tree. Shakthi's visit will not be complete without a visit to Pazhani periappa's home. After overseeing the preparation and putting up his banners and securing the flag pole he strolled towards periappa's home. 

It was still the same, with a long cemented courtyard for drying the harvest that extended into a cow shed. End of the shed was the so called toilet which has now been renovated but did not have running water, nevertheless. The low roof and the entrance gave it a look of yurt, just that this was permanent and not circular. Periappa was not to be seen in his rope cot in the courtyard by the shades of the big neem tree beside the well. "Who is that? Shakthi?" inquired a voice from inside. Even though the voice was feeble, it conveyed a loving and longing soul. "Yes periappa" said Shakthi and entered the building. May be because of his town penthouse or his eagerness to meet his periappa, Shakthi forgot that the entrance was low and bumped his forhead into it. But he is a grown star of the village and only gasped before he entered the house, rubbing his forehead vigorously with this palm. Pazhani noticed this and sniggered. He asked, "Do you know why I have not remodelled the entrance?" Shakthi was puzzled and mildly annoyed at such a question, he expected a little more concern from his periappa. He just shook his head. "As we grow in life we all forget who we are and start to live the life of others. The life others describe for us and want us to live for them. You see, like the film stars. You start to lose focus of who you are and forget humility. I have my entrance low to tell everyone to enter this place with humility. It is the place of our ancestors, this village. I think we need to show it a bit more respect." Pazhani said without any trace of spite but with all the love and tenderness he could muster. Shakthi was taken by surprise and even felt ashamed of his posters that bordered narcism. While people thought he was tied to his roots he was actually digging his roots. Deep within he did everything just to enjoy the fanfare, the praises and adulation. His periappa just pulled his mask away and he felt naked without it. He was with his periappa for a little more than an hour but only he knew he was not there.

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8 comments:

  1. Thanks :) Mission accomplished then ;)

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  2. Awesome!! unakkulla eadho irundhirukku paarean.. U also gave me a chance to remember my good old childhood days in villages during vacation :) - Arun

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  3. Simple and Touchy! Liked the way you built it, Interesting! :)

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  4. Thanks a lot Lakshmi, Arun and Aalok :)

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  5. Hey i really like the story and the title! Maybe you could slightly improve the way it's worded and the tenses used in a few places though-just my opinion :).
    Keep Writing!

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  6. Thanks for the comment Meera, will be careful with my grammar in future :)

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