Once, during the annual summer vacations, from Sengottai we went to Trivandrum, where the highlight for this young kid of then, was the visit to the aerodrome, as it was called. I am sure I had no idea then that I would one day step into a jumbo jet for the first time, and that from then on flying would become a part of life.
In place of the annual summer vacations of a life past to visit the grandparents, I seem to have developed an annual winter vacation routine visiting the folks in the old country. I am now older than my parents' age when I went to the aerodrome, and my parents are older than my grandmothers were.
Years and decades have gone by, as if in a nanosecond.
The old country is less and less like the country that I once knew. Understandable. If I could have changed from a kid who was impressed by the aerodrome to a grey and balding old man, so can the peoples and the natural and built environment in India.
I saw five women walking along the crowded Usman Road. All of them wearing niqabs. Only their eyes were visible. I had never seen women in niqabs when I was a kid.
A woman was ironing clothes on a cart by the roadside. In the past, it was a man's job. Now, it is a woman. Even more interesting was that she was not clad in a sari, but was wearing the churidar combo. As a kid, I would not have imagined a Tamil woman wearing a churidar ironing clothes on a cart by the roadside.
I am always impressed with the rows of Hindi-speaking guys waiting for customers--always women--to offer the henna services. As a kid, all I knew was the simple applying the home-ground henna on fingers and the palms, without any intricate patterns--and that too by Hindi-speaking guys from somewhere.
Seemingly everybody is eating and drinking on the sidewalks, in the tea-stalls, in the cafes, in the "hotels" (as restaurants are referred to here.) As a kid, it was always a special deal to get even a candy from the store--for which we had to beg and annoy the parents.
The three places--Neyveli, Sengottai, Pattamadai--that provided the backdrop for my childhood were all small enough that it seemed like I could not go anywhere without people knowing me. The places were all quiet and peaceful. The kid from those days would never have imagined the noisy, noisy, noisy, life in anonymity in this city that has been home to the folks now for more than the years that I have been away in my adopted land.
The niqab-wearing women, the ironing woman, the henna-workers, all of them would have reasons to be happy and would have their own reasons to be unhappy. I wish them all happiness as this annual vacation comes to an end and as I prepare to leave on a jet plane from an airport.
Happy new year, dear reader!