Friday, October 18, 2013

Migration, happiness and other anecdotes


I am not sure how to define happiness, but a definition that I love is it being a series of perfect moments. A perfect moment, when the world is alive, everything works and mind soars. We can keep looking for it, but, it flickers into our lives for an instant without warning and melts away in a hurry leaving that moment entrenched in our minds forever. I had a perfect moment a week back - That Sunday, a little late in the night, I was driving from home to pick up my family from the railway station and the radio was on. The radio had Amitabh Bachchan singing 'Rang Barsey' in his rough voice, magically there was no vehicle in sight on the road and my thoughts were on how my daughter and son would yell at  me when they see me at the railway station. I felt no care in the world at that time, I was singing Rang Barsey with Amitabh and my thoughts were with my family and I was all alone in the world. I drove steadily for a few minutes and as the song tapered down and I saw more vehicles on the road - "Phoof" that moment vanished. 

There are then these perfect moments which stretch for a longer duration and some times a perfect book. Many years back, I requested one of my friends, on his trip back to India, to buy the word-less book 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan. The moment I laid my eyes on the book, I was enchanted. Here was a book that tells the story of migrants like none other. I lay awake late that night, poring over the book page by page. The pages were filled with agony, sadness & wretchedness as a man moves from his house in search of a better place - a place where he and his family can live without fear and make this new place a home. Although the book was filled with pain, there was always a sliver of hope that was omnipresent - hope that his life and his family's life will improve, hope that he can understand the new language in the new place, hope that he can find his corner in this new wide world. While the clock ticked away, I continued going back through the pages again and again and each time discovered a nuance that I missed earlier. Here was a book that tells the story of migration - the story of hope, the story of an individual. And finally, I had a personal epiphany - migration is not about politics or about movement of people from one place to another - migration is about an individual. The reason for migration are many - some do it for the riches, some do it to escape a world that they cannot tolerate any more, some do it to live in warmer climates. In spite of it all, the migration is about an individual. It is the story of an individual and his or her hope. 

When I was staying in Trichy as a kid, we were surrounded by families who had moved from Sri Lanka. They moved with just their basic necessities, worked hard and made a living in their new place. They were originally from Tamil Nadu and had come back to Tamil Nadu due to violence in Sri Lanka.  But for them, their homes were still in Yalpanam. Every time, there was something new, they would crowd around the television sets and discuss whether it was time to go back. Every time, they talked about Yalpanam, there was a yearning in their voice - that yearning to go back to their homes. Although they appeared happy as our neighbours and did not have to stay in camps, I always felt they left a part of their life in Yalpanam and that part kept calling them back.  They seem to have left the part of life that enjoys the "perfect moment" at Yalpanam. It is long since I have met them, I heard some of them have gone back, some of them have decided to stay back.  I hope they find their "perfect moments". 

Thank you for hanging around while I meandered around with my thoughts on happiness, the perfect book and my old neighbours. All these meanderings had to do with introducing this year's CROCUS theme. The theme is Migration and Exploration. We would be presenting various books that touch upon this theme. I hope you would enjoy it as much as we love presenting them.   

I hope you find your own "perfect moment" and the "perfect book". 

8 comments:

Vibha said...

Wow Sathish, you transported me to so many migrations that I have undertaken so far.

Being a Punjabi,since childhood I have sensed that yearning in many of my dear ones as they remembered their times in the regions, now in Pakistan.

My father-in-law was a seven year old child when partition happened but the memories that are etched in his mind of days spent in the ancestral house in Sialkot are much fresher than all the time that he has spent here.

Having seen his desire to go back once more, I had written something long time back. Here want to share it with you all -

No they do not have any relatives there, they do not have any friends there but an unnamed emotion continually manages to cross the borders to reach them. The scenes that are still vividly etched in their memories, the anecdotes that are still so fresh on their minds and the incidents that happened more than six decades ago still stumble so very often from their mouths. These memories seduce them, allure them and invite them to cross a distance which is much shorter than it has made out to be by the governments on both the sides.

The mango tree under which they played uninhibitedly, the footpath which went through lush green fields on which holding strong hands of their parents or grandparents, they spent some wonderful hours, the utensils that their mothers used in the kitchens, the swings that were so fondly put up on the robust branches of banyan trees. These are the individuals who spent the carefree days of their childhood there and partition brought a big jolt to their lives which they were leading with complete abandon.
We all remember our childhood days with fondness but for them is it just the sweet remembrance of childhood or an incomplete simple life?

There is a desire to see their hometown one last time. Does it look the same as it has been treasured in their memory chests?
Does that soil which once held their footprints still remember them? Is their ancestral home standing tall with the same bricks and mortar? 

Vibha said...

Sorry for such a long comment here.

sandhya said...

"migration is not about politics or about movement of people from one place to another - migration is about an individual."

A perfect way of looking at migration from inside out. With the inner eye - sort of. You have described this so wonderfully, Sathish. Yes, also ostentiously the reasons for migration might have much to do with outside forces, after a point it becomes the journey of the person inside. Even when it is a forced one. Thank you for saying this.

Looking forward to all the books that are anticipated.

sathish said...

Vibha, Thanks for that long comment. It was a lovely write up. I saw the same yearning in my old neighbours.

Sandhya, Thank you.

utbtkids said...

Great post Satish. Totally get the moments of happiness that stream in our lives :))

Choxbox said...

Awesome Sathish. Totally heart-felt.

On a tangent - old Hindi film songs + driving alone bring on many happy moments for me too. That is a part of home I carry with me no matter which continent I am on!

sathish said...

utbt kids, Chox,

Thank you.

Sangi said...

Get what you've said from the perfect moments (the tough trick is to recognize them as they happen and enjoy it right then and there, no plans, no thinking!), the Sri Lankans in Trichy and the yearning.

Felt that in the US in the 8 some years I ended up there (by choice but still) and followed the yearning home, warts and all. The immigrant story fascinates me, whether it is an annual one like butterflies/birds/animals driven by nature or the ones fashioned out of choice/man-made reasons for humans.

I think our experience of the place at the age we're at is a huge part of the yearning.

Looking forward to the books. Between the poster and the two posts, you just drove expectations sky high! Hmm, no pressure! :-D

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