knew you once

Even the weariest river must make its way to the sea, and I ended up in Kerala, to close this year. My brother made his way here too. So here we are now, scarcely recognizable to each other, and to our family. We go through the motions of family and home, and wonder in our own ways about where we find meaning and belonging. Even writing does not bring forth words now, as I strive to put it all together, as I try to track through the past to see where that moment of sundering was, or when it had been. Perhaps it had been long ago, on a day I can’t even remember now. Perhaps it had been gradual. I don’t know now. I am not in a mood to reflect, so I take a deep breath and mingle now, trying to find new ways of relating to all of this. It comes easier than in previous times, and I am no longer nursing old hurts and fears, and that realization in itself is an epiphany of magnitude that I am unwilling to process. Neither of us have grown up to be what my family wanted of us, and that is only too evident now. There is resistance to that conclusion here, and there is still casting us in moulds we don’t fit in any longer and perhaps never did. Perfection is still expected, along different dimensions, and we find ourselves imperfect, asymmetric, content human beings that failed. It doesn’t matter, we realize, as long as the contentment is present. It isn’t a moment’s lesson and a happily ever after. There is ever a struggle, but it is at least a struggle of which we know the ending now.

Kerala has changed too. Global warming has affected the land adversely. The mountains that I remember as huge guardians of green, cut across on the sides by the monsoon rivulets, are now standing near barren and brown. The sight is frightening. The water in the wells is lower than I’ve ever seen it before. The westerly winds bear little moisture. In a moment of childish imagination, I wonder if everything stopped growing when we left as little children running away from all that they knew. I think of the tale of the selfish giant, and I have to chide myself to rein in my musings.

Here, on red soil, underneath banyan trees, stepped in the superstitions of old gods of tribal lore, before the whitewashed crosses of my grandparents’ faith, imagination was only ever half a step from reality itself. I had shed all that, I thought, when I’d left. I’d scrubbed myself presentable, without quirks and curves and shadows, and fit in with the world of cubicles and cities, rectangular flats and English as the common tongue. What are you, they’d asked? Only a worker bee, plainly heterosexual, with standard, middle class aspirations, desiring to work a 9-to-5, dreaming little and wanting nothing more than a mortgage and a family of four to fit in a square frame, wanting to stay clear of any ambition outside career growth, wanting to put up with silly bosses and men who like a side of harassment with their tea. And I realize that too is a reason why coming here is complicated. I am forced to confront what I’d managed to cloak and carve up out of myself to be where I am now. I’d surrendered dreams and will and a great deal of myself when I crossed the ocean. It hasn’t been without its benefits, and knowing all this now I’d make the same choices still. I’d thought I’d be able to unlock and gather all of myself once I reached a place, once I found stability, once I reached an age. I am more dubious about all that now, though still clinging to hope as tightly as I used to cling to my family’s hands when crossing roads.

Aging is a harsh process. As I see family only once every year, I am frightened by the changes I see on each visit. I try to prepare myself mentally each time I come over, but I am still stricken. It is uncomfortable, harsh and difficult to process. Life goes on, they say. So much for my childish fancy where I imagined everything from the land to the trees to the skies to the people frozen and stagnant as they had been when I had first stepped out.

2017 wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It was just another year. I hope 2018 will have better events and people for me. I am looking forward to a new city and new colleagues.

I haven’t done New Year here in ages. Usually, it was Christmas and back. This time, I’d spent Christmas elsewhere. We are going to do a quiet New Year’s here, I think.

Hope you have a wonderful 2018 ahead of you!

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