Thursday, February 23, 2012

"He is from America, and wanted a photo of my dog"

Somehow, it feels like it was my last hurrah at Sengottai. 

I am so convinced about it that mentally I said goodbye to the town as I walked around earlier this morning.  It was, therefore, quite fitting that I even swung by what was once home where "V's" grandparents lived.

Though "V" and I were not best friends at school in Neyveli, we were more than casual classmates because we also knew well our Sengottai origins.  Our parents interacted as well because of those same geographic affinities and also because the generation even older to them were great pals in the town.

So much so that as a kid visiting grandma for the summer holidays, I have been to V's grandfather's home whenever dad or my great-uncle asked me to accompany them.

This time around, when it was about the time last evening for me to step out for a walk, dad came along.  As we crossed the street, dad said, "shall we go to MS Moopanar's home?"

I was, of course, delighted with the idea, though the old man himself is no more.  I have clear memories of a narrow alley and a passageway, which then opens up into a courtyard and a huge house.

V's uncle was home and recognized us without us introducing ourselves.  "There is nothing like the old friendships" he commented and added, "that kind of love and affection for people doesn't seem to come by anymore.  Times have changed."  They have, indeed.

After tea and a few minutes of chat, we continued our walk.  As is customary in this part of the world, women and girls were cleaning up the homes and the street in front of their respective homes.  Two women were chatting and cleaning and behind one, sitting on the front steps, was a dog.

Well groomed and happy, he looked.

I was blown away, with a second successive sighting of a pet dog in such traditional settings.  And both in two different towns.

I told dad that I wanted to take a photo of the dog, but first wanted to ask for the owner's permission.

Dad being all excited, jumped ahead of me in asking that question and prefaced it with an introduction of sorts about our Sengottai origins, walking from MS Moopanar's home, and that I am from America.  I am not sure which of these three segments of the introduction excited him the most :)

After all that, he asked her, "my son wants to take a photo of your dog.  Will it be ok?"

She seemed to be confused.  Understandable. Strangers we were.  On top of that, there I am with my shorts and camera, looking Indian and yet not looking Indian. And wanting to take a photo of the dog.

She was ok with it, and clarified it was her dog. 

After thanking her, I took a couple of photos of the canine who was enjoying it all, and thanked her again as we started walking.

I heard her in the background telling the other couple of women, "he is from America, and wanted a photo of my dog."

Not only dog ownership in such a traditional setting, but also a pride in that pooch being hers.  I tell ya, India has changed a lot.

I told dad that it was not the photo of the dog itself that I was interested in, as much as it being yet another symbol of changes in social norms in India.

Later in the evening, I heard dad narrate the entire incident to the aunt and uncle, and underscored how this was a symbol of social changes.

I suppose he agreed with my interpretation then.

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