I stick my face as close to the window as possible and my stomach clenches tight as the bus takes a wide blind turn and proceeds on its way to my native; Thippirajapuram. The road from the Temple city of Kumbakonam to my village is like a long undulating snake with aged trees and agricultural fields flashing past on both sides.
It’s been fifteen years.
The bus rumbles to a stop before a large board bearing the poster of one of the flashiest Tamil Actor’s action movie, released at least five years ago. The village has only one theatre, which is nothing more than a large ground with a thatched roof and where sitting on the sand meant you had the premium ticket.
Every summer, I would alight from the bus and run ahead of my parents and brother to the riverbank near the Temple, in Thippirajapuram. The sun would beat down my neck and the sand beneath me would be unbearably hot; but I would be oblivious to it all and would’ve sprinted straight to the deliciously cool water and jumped right in.
Now, the river is a long ditch for garbage and such; with dirty algae cloaking the once clean water. I stand at the gate and the stench is overpowering but I notice that the outer wall of the temple adjacent to the river has been raised high anew. Out of sight; out of mind.
The street looks almost unchanged; with Brahmin houses built wall to wall; roofed with terracotta tiles and spacious pyols adorning their fronts. Usually, evenings would see those pyols occupied by bare chested, dhoti-clad men; chewing tobacco and betel leaves and gossiping like old women.
Sadly, today, every pyol is empty and the garbled voices from the many televisions is heard clearly in the still air.
The smell of wet earth hits me and is so appeasing that I stand and close my eyes to inhale it deeply. It reminds me of all things good. The source is a woman splashing water on the mud floor before her house; apparently to pen a nice Rangoli – a rare sight for me. Another woman wearing a circle of bright saffron colored flowers on her hair, hails me by my name as she walks past briskly; her unanswered questions trailing behind her.
My ancestral home stands tall and ancient among the others; with the open terrace and its latticed walls crowning it elegantly. The thought of what I will find inside, warms me up – the cavernous hall with a magnificent wooden swing; a romantic sunken courtyard with open roofing; eight strong pillars polished to a shine; smooth pearly white walls supposedly made of crushed egg shells and limestone and a cavernous kitchen with a huge granary and a backyard, complete with a well.
As I duck my head to go inside, opening the low wooden door with shiny brass knobs; I find something else that is unchanged and heartwarming –
My love, for this village.
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