This is the third post from the archives of Smitha Vishwanath who shares poetry, wonderful travel posts and life experiences on her blog. This week I am sharing one of Smitha’s favourite posts about family and returning to her roots.
Nostalgia -Going Back to the Roots (2016)…Smitha Vishwanath
A 1978 file photo of my grandmother and me
Mangalore is a coastal city in the southwest of India. Coconut trees, paddy fields, buffalo races, temples, beaches, a life that moves at it’s own pace is what makes this place so different from the other cities in India. It was the only place I visited year after year, every summer holiday because it was where grandma lived. I don’t remember being bored or wanting anything else. I would look forward to these holidays with enthusiasm every year.
Grandma’s home had many, many rooms that could house the entire family at any point in time- uncles, aunts, cousins, their children.A home which had paddy fields at the back, the village school in the front and neighbors on both sides, who knew each other for generations.
Writing this post today, makes me nostalgic. I vividly remember loving every moment of my time there- right from the minute the flight hovered over the little airport built on a mountain top, to reaching home 16 kms away (though it always felt like a never-ending distance with the number of turns, bumpy roads and slow moving traffic). Stepping out of the airport, the tall coconut trees, the fresh country air, the smell of the earth after the rains, seemed to say that nothing had changed . The warm, humid air, the sound of “Kannada”, “Tulu”, “konkani” (languages spoken in Mangalore) were as welcoming as everything else (when one is away in a foreign land, the joy of hearing one’s language is unfathomable). I was home! Getting in to the car at the window seat, I would roll down the window, to take in the smell of salt and fish in the air, to feel the wind in my hair and the drops of rain that kissed my cheeks. Rickshaws, cycles, buses spilling with people, grazing cows, fishermen selling fish on the roadsides, fleeting sights that my little heart pined for. When the car approached ‘Pumpwell roundabout‘ my heart would beat faster. That meant grandma’s home was near. Another few kilometers on the road, passing by a temple built on a lowland , then two little hills on either side of the road and the final turn into the village in which Amma (that’s what I called my grandmother, that’s what my mother called her and it actually meant mother) lived. As the house came closer, I felt my heart would burst. It’s funny how I felt the very same feelings every holiday , every single time I went to granny’s house and though years have passed, that feeling remains the same; not dimmed by age or dulled by the experience of travelling far and wide. The car would screech to a halt at the gate and at the door would be Amma, eyes filled with love and the kindest of smiles.
Holidays were spent following Amma like a lamb… watching her grind the masalas for the day’s meal on a grinding stone (everybody in the village said Amma had magic in her hands; she could make the simplest of dishes special (she would close the windows and doors while the food cooked as the aroma could tempt the neighbors, she would tell me wisely).
Amma’s cooked food- Fish fry, crab masala, okra coconut curry, red rice and mangoes- complete Mangalorean cuisine
There was a novelty about everything she did- bringing ‘life’ to normal daily chores. In complete amazement, I would watch her as she drew water from the well, cleaned the fish sitting humped on a small wooden seat to which was attached a sickle; see the crows dive down to get the insides’ of the fish that she would throw at the foot of the coconut tree, watch the cat scare away the crows, see her ‘shoo’ away the neighbors’ hens from the compound as they would destroy her well-tended plants or chase the street dog away , that had made the unpardonable mistake of wandering in through the iron gates; with a volley of words and a swinging baton. Grandma was like a soldier- alert on all fronts and at all times. Even the unpredictable Mangalore rains couldn’t get her family’s clothes wet as she would swoop down to pick the clothes on the line before the drops touched the ground.
If all this was not enough, at night she would tell me stories from the great Indian epics –Ramayana and Mahabharata. I knew the stories verbatim but I loved listening to her soft, mellodious voice against the quiet of night; only to be broken by the sound of crickets. With one hand on my head patting me to sleep, she would tirelessly fan me with a newspaper as power-cuts were a norm in those days…and still are, though much lesser.
During the day-time, on days she was not troubled by the rains or a wandering animal or the little kids of the village who threw stones at the mango tree in our compoun hoping to get some of the sweet, juicy, ripe mangoes, she would tell me stories of grandfather and show me treasures of the past- a “Turkey towel” that grand-dad got for her in 1945 when he was posted as part of the Indian army, in Chandigarh- white and soft- as fresh as the love with which she spoke about him , her wedding sari – orange brocade, wrapped in a white, muslin cloth. The zari (gold thread-work) on the sari had dulled over the years but her eyes were still as bright as they may have been on her wedding day as she touched it – the work so intricate and rich. I had heard these stories a hundred times but I could never tire of listening to them again. It was our special time together , when I felt like a responsible adult discussing important things with her.
Grandmother was far ahead of her times- she had completed her grade 10 which was a significant achievement in the 1930s, wore heels on ‘katcha’ (unpaved) roads during her young days, kept abreast of the news and loved discussing politics. It was from her that I learnt to fight for my beliefs and to stand strong in the face of troubles. Grandma was my first hero and will always be…
Twenty years later, the house has been renovated but it still has albums of our childhood in an old wooden cupboard which is not opened regularly (the cobwebs between the cupboard doors tell the story), books that I had read as a child, line the shelves on the walls- Malory Towers, Famous Fives, Nancy Drews, Ramayana, Mahabharata , Tell Me Whys and many more; the pages have yellowed with time but the memories they bring back are fresh. I remember the hours that I would spend on the terrace under the shade of the guava tree, lost in another world until I heard Amma calling me down for lunch. My coin collection which found it’s way to my grandmother’s house from my parents house lies on a mantle untouched (but dusted); bringing back memories of my dad’s many travels and the coins he brought back.
A recent picture with the old Godrej cupboard in the background which houses a million treasures…with amma and my daughter
he steel Godrej cupboard shrieks (it obviously needs oiling) as you jerk it open. In it, lie my oil paintings- the ones I had done in Grade 9-safely kept like they belong to Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci. There is an old diary, a letter pad, some other papers, each with a story of it’s own, even some college notes and a cassette player, just as I left it. This room was mine during my college days and though it’s been years that I moved out, it still feels the same. For a moment it seems like time has stood still and these paraphernalia lie there awaiting my arrival; each visit they bring back a new memory of the past – some sweet, others not so sweet, yet memories that I would not erase for anything in the world. Each little belonging, a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes ‘ME’ – a stark reminder of my roots …admonishing me, no matter where I go or what I do, this place is my history, as true and real as the blood that flows in my veins, my harbor to which I need to return to and anchor myself just once in a while…to be able take the journey forward.
No matter how far one travels and wherever one goes, one needs to return to the harbor and anchor oneself just a little, just once in a while and just take a moment to remember how far one has come…Smitha Vishwanath
My kids, my younger sister with their great grandmother at the revamped portion of the house…
Not everyone may be as fortunate to have the luxury of having a room full of memories to return to…because of time, distance or no reason at all.
Memories then need to be engraved in the heart, etched in the mind or utmost carried in a backpack. Roots need to be hard-coded to have an innate sense of belonging and identity and a soul that is nourished -not shallow, blurred and lost in the noise and chaos around the world for that is what makes us…our roots!
©Smitha Vishwanath 2016
Roads: A Journey With Verses – Vandana Bhasin and Smitha Vishwanath
“Roads” is a poetic rendezvous that takes the reader on a panoramic journey, making one pause, ponder and celebrate life.
The book is a light, alluring read that instantly strikes a chord and elevates one’s spirits. A trove of 60 poems, it is quilled with beads of nine virtues: Courage, Wisdom, Serenity, Love, Hope, Strength, Joy, Compassion and Gratitude. The verses encapsulate life’s ebbs and flows while prompting the reader to enjoy its simple pleasures.
“Roads” is a book that you would want to keep on your bedside, for a quiet read before retiring for the night or for the morning wisdom to seize the day. With poems revolving around emotions that each of us experiences, “Roads” very easily develops a personal connect with the reader that is defiantly refreshing.
“Roads” is a journey with verses. Take it on yours.
An early review for the collection
Roads: A Journey With Verses is a beautiful book of mainly freestyle poetry written by Smitha Vishwanath and Vandana Bhasin. I have read and enjoyed a lot of poetry on Smitha’s blog in the past, but this was my first introduction to Vandana’s poetry.
I thought this was a wonderful combination of work by two talented poets and I enjoyed the different styles of writing by the two contributors. Smitha writes delicately beautiful poems in which her messages are subtly shrouded as if within a loving cocoon of words. Vandana’s writing is more strident and forthright, but I enjoyed her style equally and her strong messages for women’s rights moved me greatly.
This book is divided into sections as follows: Courage, Wisdom, Serenity; Love, Strength, Compassion and Joy, Hope, Gratitude. Each section is divided into subsections setting out an arrange of delightful poems in each subcategory. Each subsection is introduced with a short introductory verse which conveys its meaning for the poets and each poem is introduced with a paragraph setting out the the meaning and purpose of the specific poem to the writer. I really enjoyed reading about the inspiration and meaning behind each poem.
Head over and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TW5WT23
And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07TW5WT23
About Vandana Bhasin
Writer, blogger and an avid reader, I like to quill verses and share my views on life and its varied facets. I believe in creating an identity for self and working towards turning my dreams into reality.
A banker turned writer, I discovered my passion towards writing whilst on the journey to know myself. Writing transformed me in a way that I had never imagined.
My works have been published in more than two dozen anthologies.
Connect to Vandana via her blog: My Feelings My Freedom
About Smitha Vishwanath
A little about me for whoever found their way here deliberately or stumbled upon this page. It wouldn’t be wrong to call me “The Bored Banker”. With 20 years of banking behind me, it’s safe to say that I am good at what I do. The door to banking was open when I finished university and I walked straight through it. Banking chose me and I accepted.
It took me some years, 14 to be precise, to realize that the profession that had consumed a large part of my adult life was simply a job. While I devoted a lot of time and energy to it, there was something missing. That’s when it dawned that banking was just one aspect of my life; it was not “My Life”!
This realization was the beginning of a new journey and this blog, created in 2012, was the product of that journey!
Connect to Smitha
My thanks to Smitha for allowing me to share posts from her archives and I do recommend that you head over to explore for yourselves.. thanks Sally.