The Journey Home

The Journey Home

The view of the distant horizon, a promising one, devoid of drudgery is alluring from the dock. A loud cry, a siren, perhaps, disturbs my thoughts. I can feel a kind of rocky hardness on my back and then without warning, there is a sign of dampness that slowly spreads over my body.  I force myself awake and find the woollen blankets wet along with the mattress, sheets and my clothes.  It is Kusela, my fourth born. How is it possible for a six-year-old child to not realise that he has a full bladder while asleep. This cursed being! This just adds to my chores. It is probably the cold mountain air. I should stop blaming my four children for the rugged life bestowed upon me by the hills.

The constantly recurring dream of me in a ship sailing into an elegant sunset disrupts my thoughts, like a giant stone thrown into a calm pond after a rainy day.

I kick Kusela awake and drag him to the bath area that is close to the kitchen, after mindlessly draping my saree.  I pour a pot of hot water from the furnace over him and myself and send him back to bed.  I head to the common pipe in the village a few feet away to wash the sheets and blankets.

‘Where are you going? It is not dawn as yet,’ mumbles my husband from his room, the one adjacent to where I sleep with the boys. Though my first born is almost pre-adolescent, the four of them twine together while asleep and they need me around in the same room.

‘’The house will smell of urine if I store it for later,’ I dismiss him as I walk out of the house. The bruises on my hands from two days ago are still visible though the pain has starkly reduced. I brace myself for the next bout of this man’s rage which lashes sharply like winter storms. And like the accompanying hailstones, they are abrupt and unpredictable, but always cause mayhem.

The crickets are still active as I close the door behind me. With another sleepless night,  the day at work is likely to be a nightmare.

Setting the Path

After completing my duties at home, I begin the routine ascend to the Whittman household. Like the Johnsons, Winstons and a few other English families around, the Whittmans refuse to leave to their homeland, something that annoys Ganesh Anna, my co-worker at the Whittmans.

‘This is Ms.Gandhi’s second term in office. Like the Minister, Mr Whittman and co refuse to retread to their homes,’ he would often scoff. Lakshmi  Akka’s cold stare always controls many a wagging tongue including Ganesh Anna’s.

On reaching their quaint English cottage, the one that is isolated on a hill thick with rich canopies, I rush to the servant room and leave my shawl and sweater there.  The vessels have not piled up in the kitchen. I go to Mrs Whittman’s room and softly knock as I was trained a few years ago. No reply.

Mr Whittman, back from his morning rounds to the tea estate is out in the garden, sipping his morning coffee, while a familiar tune from the gramophone fills the house.  In the last few months, Mrs Whittman has been addicted to sleeping. When not dormant, she is out in the garden starring into the wilderness. On rare instances, there are extended monologues from behind the closed wooden doors.

She has set an eye on the path I think to myself.

The Preparation and Planning

Mr Whittman is at the table for breakfast, and Arasa is ready to serve him toast and eggs. He always emphasises on appropriate etiquette. Mrs Whittman is unorthodox and sometimes joins us for lunch in the backroom, without his knowledge. She teaches us English on lazy afternoons and always fixes her cup of tea. Like her, the brew is refreshing with divergent flavours (like citrus) combining to form an exclusive blend as unique as her.

I knock at the bedroom door again and hear a ‘yes.’

I walk in to find Mrs Whittman carefully pacing the room in her nightgown oblivious to the brightness outdoors.

‘What is wrong, Madam?’ This enquiry was long due.

‘Nothing. Why do you ask?’ she forces a frigid reply.

‘Madam, you have not been yourself lately.’

‘I am fine,’ her mysterious indifference is at times alarming. ‘Just that I have this recurring dream of me on a huge ship, and there is a sunrise in the distance.’ She is lost as soon as she blurts it out.

I am taken aback, but I leave her to her thoughts which I guess is conspiring to swallow her quickly in swift motions just the way her favourite garden lizard engulfs its timid prey.

Late afternoon as a distant woodpecker sets out to etch a home somewhere in the surrounding woods, she asks for her tea. She asks me to sit by her side on the lawn as I serve tea in her favourite bone china tea set. She watches with bewilderment in her mid-length dress, from the cane chair, as I carefully pour the thick milk from the pot stirring it into the strong decoction in the cup. The colour in the cup changes rapidly with every stroke of the silver spoon.

‘Run and fetch a glass for yourself,’ she asks.

I refuse and slip into a comfortable position by her side. She looks at me, puzzled. Her once big, brown and cheerful eyes are slowly losing its magnitude and sheen to the vagaries of advancing years. I say that out loud, and she smiles.

‘I am in my late fifties now, Venni,’ she tries to justify. ‘I am planning to go,’ she continues, carefully pausing between each word.

‘’Where to, Madam? Visiting your sister in Bombay?’

‘No. Home.’ There is an old fervour in her voice.

‘But this is your home, Madam. It has been for the last thirty years.’ I realise that there is a change in my voice, and I try hard to swallow the hasty lump in my throat.

‘Not anymore. It stopped being one when I failed to conceive after five years of my marriage. I held on.’ She has her gaze fixed at the sparse view of the distant plains in between the folds of the mountains.

‘Madam… But? Sir?’ I search for the right words.

‘He is going to be fine here. I feel like a bird trapped in a glass cage, Venni. There is no hope of fresh air. I am going to join my friends and relatives, only a little more than two decades later.’

I find that an opportune moment to confess my dream and desire.

‘But, your children? Family? Think well, Venni. This, to me, is foreign soil. Your ancestors have been here ever since these mountains came into being. You belong here.’ She pleads.

‘Madam, you know where your home is. I am still looking for mine. This cursed land has imposed upon me a life of maltreatment, the one I accepted out of respect to my ancestors. I want a home where I can shed the identities that are glued into my being here’ I confess for the first time.

She holds my hands and succumbs to soft sobs, and we both stare at the plains peeking at us from behind the mountains.

The Journey

The date was fixed. I come home late afternoon from work on the day of departure and carry my bundle of clothes in a hurry before the kids are back from school. In my bundle,  I also carry some knick-knack from their collected treasure. I run uphill to the Whittman villa. As planned, Swaminathan Anna is there with his Fiat. Mr Whittman is nowhere in the vicinity.

Mrs Whittman steps outside with a medium sized aluminium trunk box and a small suitcase. As we step into the car which is to take us to the train station 30 kilometres away, she looks back at the house one last time, devoid of emotions.


The city of Madras radiates splendour, more than what my imagination could assume. The colour, the buzz, the heat is all new to the both of us.

‘My ship is in three weeks. We will find you a home before that’ she beams from her chair on the porch, in her Cousin Mendez’s house on a secluded street. ‘Hope nobody comes looking for you before that.’ She seems to be as anxious as I am.

The vibrant evenings in this place are spent outdoors. One evening as both of us try to catch the joyful waves; there are people of all colours around us. As hoards of them, more than ten times the people in my village, wet their feet in the welcoming waves, their clothes- sarees, gowns, salwar kameez soak in the acceptance, their identities dissolving with the foam.

Darelle Whittman looks around fondly, an uncanny illumination in her eyes.

‘Are we home, Venni?’ She smiles.



Have you given your Children the Freedom of Free Thought?

Have you given your Children the Freedom of Free Thought?

Have you given your Children the Freedom of Free Thought?


Gomathi’s small-town upbringing had made her view with disgust the whole concept of western clothing. Until recently, she even detested the women who preferred them. Her notions change in a few months of her migration to a big city. However, her mother’s lewd remarks ring loud and clear every time she sees a girl in shorts or revealing outfits.

Ambika’s typical day starts with an early morning prayer, prior to which she dusts the patio in her house and decorates it with colourful rangoli. She always snarls at the neighbours who sleep late. In her school of thought, ignoring the rituals is equated to atrocity and criminality.

Gomathi’s and Ambika’s acclaimed decorum makes them powerless in atypical situations. Their reputation will be ripped if they stand-up for anything out of the ordinary; even if their minds dictate otherwise.  They will, therefore, ignore a transgender in need; flee from a suspected queer, will suppress their urge to assert even when circumstances demand. They are prisoners of dictatorial belief enforced on them in their homes.

There are in our midst men and women who find it difficult to break the shackles of the dogma that was central to their upbringing. The perceptions are woven deep and strong into the core of their thoughts, and non-adherence is often considered sacrilege.

What is the Liberty of Free Thought?

Freedom of thought is only a derivative concept, and it relies heavily on three other aspects:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of free expression
  • Freedom of religion

This is not about the constitutional rights you are accorded in a democracy. In modern societies across the world, the freedom of thought is a primary constituent of living. It is integral to the development and progression of a community.

The liberty of thought is giving an individual the power to hold a view or a fact that does not resonate with the popular ideals or belief. Have you received that power as a child? Most importantly, did you entrust your child with the same?

Orwellian Parenting?

Did you let your grown-up child choose his/her dress this morning? Do your order for them in a restaurant? Do you let them voice their opinions? Do you listen to them speak on a topic that does not appeal to you or do you cut short even before they begin? Do you constantly dictate what is ‘good’ for them and what is ‘bad’?

These are just mild forms of Orwellian conditioning, where a child is controlled by a parent’s constant surveillance. The adjective ‘Orwellian’ also connotes subjecting to misinformation and denial of truth in a political sense.

Channelising your child’s thoughts to reflect that of yours is camouflaging Orwellian disillusionment as parenting. Similar genetic makeup does not necessarily mean similar ideation and thinking.

What does your child need?

The new-age parenting adage, ‘You are only a guide’ is such an advanced thought. The more you follow the principles of dictatorship at home, the more you kill the child’s chances of holding independent thoughts.

Let your children search for their own vision of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Give them room to explore the depths of individual reasoning. Let them make the wrong decisions. They will gradually learn to weigh the outcomes.

Give your children the control over every aspect of their lives. Guide their decisions without being too overbearing. Grant them the benefit of intellectual liberty and watch them blossom into enlightened beings.

Promoting intellectual liberty will lead to the rise of an all-inclusive society, which is a dire need for the progression of our nation.

Also published here –

The Fiery Wrath of the Old Mother

The Fiery Wrath of the Old Mother

It was a beautiful evening with shades of marmalade on the horizon. She stared at the hues of the evening sky as the sun set behind the blue hills. She and her sisters eagerly awaited the arrival of their father. On days like this, when their father returned from the hunt, a feast was laid for dinner. As their mother set the vessels on the cemented floor for supper, there was a loud crash. She woke up with a startle.

She was no longer in her childhood home. What a sweet dream it has been! She was in her bed; in the house that was also hers; the place that gave her everything-her family, children, love, and riches. Except that it did not feel like that womb of a home where her parents had lived and loved.

Striding turbulent paths

   I was not an easy journey that she had been through. Married at 14 to a man who was then 26, every day of those initial years in her new home was a nightmare. Her father taught her everything; all of the life survival skills- except how to retort when she had to.

The abuse she withstood was not physical, but she kept to herself the kind of harsh profanity her aurally sensitive nerves were subjected to. All the while, the man she believed in, the respectable and untainted gentleman was but a mute spectator.

During those days, when telephones were still a mystery in her part of the world, her house was one among the few that was illuminated after dusk. She had always envied those people who did not have access to electricity, for their days started at the crack of the morning light and ended when all other living beings in the neighbouring forests retired to their dwelling place.

At the crack of dawn, she would be up rushing with the household chores. And after all the mouths were fed and the responsibilities at home fulfilled, she rushed to the field. There she toiled until it was time for the vibrant avian folk to return to their nests.

Before winter arrived with the distressing frost and steady drizzle, the harvested grains had to be dried. The ones meant for storage went right into the massive, 3 feet high teak boxes.  The other half of the grains had to milled and ground into fine flour- all manually.

Looking back, she wondered what gave her that kind of supreme mental and physical toughness. It did not matter; the journey is in its final phase – well almost. She had no regrets, except the fury that was buried deep down in the pit of her abdomen.

The Boundless Joy of Parenting

     Two years into her marriage, she learned to ignore the taunting jeers that were a norm with the 50-year-old matriarch of the family. The spouse who left for work came home only to catch up on a few hours of rest. Though she drifted into spells of loneliness, it helped that her parents lived just an hour’s walk away.

Soon after she turned 17, he arrived, a plump mass of a bundle, with blood red roses for cheeks. The happiness within her reached a zenith. Dharma, she had named him.  In the next 12 years, she had four more cherubic children, two boys and two girls whom to her were nothing less than celestial beings that graced her life with boundless cheer.

The years that followed were grim and challenging. It was the affection that she received from the paternal home and the devotion she held for her young ones that helped her wade through the troublesome times.

The Denied Inheritance

   It was evident that the field where she toiled and the house that she lived in belong to her. It was a part of her husband’s inheritance. That was what she was told, and in concurrence with the times, the verbal announcement was to be followed by the next generation. There was no documentation process unless the property left the holds of the family.

She was a believer in promises. But her husband’s brethren failed to believe in the power of the given word. Soon they were gone- the piece of land she worshipped and her shelter.

After a few months of living with her kind sibling, she returned to the hamlet that she now called her home-this time determined to fight for her dignity.

With her savings and substantial help from her father, she bought a bit of neglected land, worked on it and saw a bountiful harvest after a year. In a few years, slowly it came up; the roof held by the intricate rafters that she now saw from her bed. Within every brick lies the rage that she had cautiously swallowed so that it would not disturb the fabric of her home.

Time moved on

   Soon the years rolled by and one by one they left the house, except for the youngest. The youngest, named Kubera, stayed with his parents. The fields that now spread across the neighbouring hills were now his responsibility. He is to share it with his brothers (employed in the city) when the time comes.

Despite the distance, the love within the family grew strong.  She visited her progeny regularly. She shifted between their homes and slowly the burden on her shoulders eased. If destiny were kind to her, that was when it should all have ended.

The troubles started when her companion of over 50 years took ill and was confined to the 6×6 feet space. The three years of his sickness was one among the biggest burdens she had ever carried. Like the occupants of her paternal home the people who flew out of her own nest, took turns in staying by her side through the tough times.

And then one morning, before the crack of dawn, he breathed his last. But before that, he had uttered ‘I am sorry, Devi. I had looked past your strife’.

‘That apology is rather too late old man; there is nothing you can do about it now. Go in peace’ was her reply.

The Curse that befell

   Upon the old man’s loss, a gloom descended on the once happy home. She spent her evenings by the fireplace, mostly weeping, sometimes in the company of a few steady friends. On one of those days when she felt immobile and lethargic, she saw a strange looking man at her doorstep. He was Kubera’s guest.

The man was tall and built well. His extensive features and dark complexion sent a spark of instant fear across her mind. He entered the house and performed strange rituals in front of their sacred altar. Once he was done with them, the odd-looking man ate from her husband’s massive bronze plate-the one that was considered sacred and was reserved for occasions.

Once he left, she felt something churn within her; deception had made its way into her happy home. When she encountered Kubera, his reply was lethargic and only gibberish. The very next day, Kubera asked her to hand over to him the entire pension amount that she now received after her husband, which she kindly denied. The pension fund was her only source of income and her saving grace.

Post this incident, peculiar rituals and the arrival of bizarre-looking men were a norm in the house. Every time she tried to sleep, visuals of disfigured men scared her. Deep within her, she knew it was the dreaded sign of a warning.

Least did he know a simple refusal would steal away her dignity. She was meted with unfair and bitter behaviour. Every morning she was greeted with boorish expressions and impolite greetings. She was served nothing but leftovers, sometimes not even that.  The faces that once helped her with utmost cheer and courtesy in the presence of her husband now shone an amalgamation of disrespect and inconsideration.

The plate with leftover food was sometimes flung at her feet, and she was denied entry into the kitchen. The very same place from where she once fed several hungry mouths- both family and strangers was now out of her reach.

The Flee

   As she lay down looking at the ceiling, drifting in and out of afternoon slumber, dreaming about her childhood and her father’s bountiful hunt, she heard a growl from the interior layers of her abdomen. Like that vicious storm that she had learned to suppress over the years, she doused the flames of starvation and made up her mind that she has had enough of it.

The house was empty, as it usually is at this hour of the noon when a blanket of silence descended on the village. She made her way through the valley to the nearest bus stop.

When she landed at her daughter’s house, much to the bewilderment of her child and the exhilaration of her grandchildren, she swallowed her lament and all the anguish and soaked in all the love.  She failed to realize all those years of subdued outrage was bubbling inside her.

The Despicable Return

  With weakness consuming her, she had no energy for hate. As the clock ticked, rather peacefully in this new place, she made herself useful by assisting in the household chores. Then one frosty morning, she puked the remains in her stomach and saw traces of the vital red fluid in it. Strangely at that instant, she knew her time was up.

Days passed, people visited her often, and the bitter taste of the medicines lingered in her mouth all the time. She was grateful for the friendship she had built over the years and the rapport she shared with the people of the village.

Then one fateful morning, as much as she tried to open her eyes, she couldn’t. She heard voices buzzing around her. She could only partly move her lips. She heard her daughter and grand-daughter call out. She opened her eyes to look at their faces- but couldn’t keep them open for more than a few seconds. They were forced shut soon.

She sensed movement. Was she floating? It felt like someone had just scooped her. Then, there were noises of vehicles passing on a busy road, and people crying around her. She slowly drifted back to a sweet dream.

The Vengeful Flame

   She opened her eyes because the dingy smell was suffocating her. Least did she expect that her end would happen here, the very same place she ran away from.  Through her half-opened eyes, she saw faces all around her, the ones that mattered the most- her sisters, daughters, and grand-daughters. She saw their moist eyes. ‘Your duty has been done, dear ones. Send me away with smiles; the curves that raised my spirits all my life’, she wanted to say. But, her tongue wouldn’t function.

She spent the next 48 hours spitting all kinds of liquid that were forced into her mouth and occasionally throwing spiteful remarks at the people whose sight sent a chill down her spine. It was increasingly difficult to believe that the one she protected in her womb, a human that came to life from within her was capable of such atrocities.

She wanted to yell, to scream at her son, his wife, her other sons who were spectators and curse them with all her might. But now she lacked the vigour to fight, for she had spent every unit of her strength in making their lives better. She ingested her fury one last time.

There it lay the dark tunnel, the final path of her journey. All of her memories are now history. As she floated past the threshold, she could not look back. For the last breath from within the realms of the bronchi imported with a mighty force all of the doused flames that were now draconian. The blaze would soon turn into ashes everything she called her own and everything she took pride in. The fire would stand testimony to the wrath that was buried within her. She floated away with no regrets and no desire.

What is Truth?

What is Truth?

For any coastal town, the monsoon rains are manna from heaven. The first whiff of the moist wind brings in the life to our precious crops. It is not just the crops; those winds heal our bruised selves, both inside and out after the brutal summer heat.

Monsoon is also the time my wife rejoices the most with every spell of rainfall. In her view, her kitchen garden in the balcony of our apartment is more ‘alive.’  It is amazing what this woman could do with a 400sq.ft balcony space and a set of books on gardening. Monsoons are special to me because of the extensive kappa(tapioca) meals after the yield. And I must say, the magic of her hands are beyond narration.

Monsoon mornings are the time for prolonged reading and unlimited Kattan kappi (black coffee) in glass tumblers that my wife serves with much fuss. To get to that phase of my life, I have decades of drudgery left. If I could get over with these two decades, or maybe three; depends on my capability perhaps.

The world of words

 My life as a journalist came with a fair share of rewards, the biggest one being my life-partner.  It also gave me a sense of empowerment and social responsibility. The life that I have today is the one that I had dreamt of a decade ago.

As the only man in the midst of women in the family (mother, wife and two daughters), I have become more sensitive to their thoughts and needs. Now, all it takes is a change in their eyebrow pattern to understand what goes on in their minds. Each of them has inspired my way with the words, for which I am truly grateful.

My professional life is not as complicated as you think. Correction, my job was not complicated. I had a pleasant journey reporting from the fields- a satisfying one until the world decided to embrace the concept of post-truth. Ever since the growing sense of exasperation within my professional circle has become stronger.

At times I wish I could live in the world of my 6-year old where everything is either black or white. With the emergence of different hues of grey, I do not know what kind of grey portrayal my words disclose. As the lines blur, I find my steady oars slipping from my hands into the water darkened with disinformation and misrepresentation.

I wish facts were as bare as the monsoon winds, as reliable as the assailing showers those winds bring, its impact visible even to the visionless, like the mornings after a heavy tropical thunderstorm.

The Assignment

  On one monsoon morning, when the very kind south-west winds enthralled our town with their gracious dance, I set out to complete my assignment. I was to meet Reshmi at a baker joint; who would later take me to the victim my story was about.

I first met Reshmi through a mutual friend. Reshmi always had a divine aura about her, the kind that made every passer-by look at her in awe. For the type of tribulations she had undergone, I always wonder how she maintained her spirits high, all day, every day.

Within her mesmerizing smile, there hid a hint of sadness that glimmered in her eyes, and only those close to her could read it. As we exchange pleasantries and settle down for coffee, she enquires about my work, and I tell her about the frustration in my mind.

‘Well it bothers me too,’ she trails with her radiant smile brightening up the entire room. ‘It is annoying when you spend hours immersed in your morning paper and when you close, you do not know if you have read the right content.’

I prod her to share more of her thoughts, and she begins her sermon, something that I enjoy and yet like to mock.

‘The other day, T, (She always addressed me with the first letter of my last name) we were driving and my 12-year-old despite repeated warnings flung an empty carton onto to the road. This behaviour in spite of me slowing down close to the bin and asking her to get out of the car to discard it.’

I was curious to know where she was arriving.

‘It was not a big crime by Indian standards,’ she continued. ‘But if someone were to question her, she would blame the wind.’

‘Sorry,’ I say.

‘It is a scenario in which she could say that she had taken care to dispose the carton with care and yet it landed on the road with a strong wind.’

‘So?’ I ask, a little perplexed.

‘We are a society of, well as my 12-year-old puts it, losers. We have failed at multiple levels and hence the blame game. Well, in my opinion, the truth is not a prism. You cannot have multitude angels and myriad hues.’

I couldn’t say I agreed with her, but let her continue.

‘Well, in yesterday’s incident, I failed as a parent to correct my daughter, and my daughter failed as a citizen to keep her streets clean. Yet, we both complain time and again about our inefficient municipal workers and curse them to hell when they go on a strike’.

‘It is a similar scenario everywhere, don’t you think,’ she continues without waiting for my response. ‘From the sweeper who does a shabby work to the ward representative who is immune to erroneous work, we have all failed.’

I couldn’t help but agree with what she was saying.

She continues between sips of her coffee. ‘From the employee who manipulates his medical bills to the corporate bigwigs who abuse natural water bodies to build structures that smear our beautiful skyline, we have all failed.’

‘From the greedy vendor who uses Feviryl as a substitute for milk and sells the chemical- laden tea to children,  to the governments that sells perennial rivers to the Cola companies, we are a society of collective failure headed towards collapse.’

‘Do you get me, T? The more complex our lies get, the more variation there is to reality and for that matter, even validity. To put it in your style, the more the vicious roots of dishonesty spreads, the more alternatives there are to the hues of grey.’

While I let that thought sink in, she wipes her mouth with a tissue. ‘Brace yourself, brother, the victim you are about to meet is in bad shape.’

As we step out, the storm clouds darken overhead, and the dense winds strangulate our respiratory tract. Praying for quick relief, we run to our cars.