If your identity is taken away, are you left with nothing?
If a people’s history is not written down, it’s as if it never happened. They are redefined to suit someone else’s whims.
I’ve always described India as a different planet. Every corner might as well be it’s own nation, with the mishmash of customs and dialects. You can’t look at someone of Indian descent and know their story.
India is snow-capped mountains, steamy nights, tropical paradise, scarcely bearable oppression, freedom of the highest kind, democracy, caste, religious oppression, religious amity.
India is diaspora.
Everyone is looking to go somewhere else. Or they have no idea a world exists outside their few kilometres.
Kerala is a radically different place today than from my first visit in the early 80’s. Bullock carts and transport trucks ruled the streets. Then motorcycles started butting in. Cars were few and far between. It was no surprise to see the occasional elephant hauling lumber.
We awoke to roosters crowing in the morning and headed outside to brush our teeth on the front porch and spit into the gravelly earth. We relieved ourselves in a hole on the bathroom floor with with the pop-a-squat method. Forget about toilet paper. My mom said Indians thought it was gross how we used toilet paper anyway. A good splash of water gives a deeper clean. But once you go toilet paper, you never go back.
Just outside the house was the cow. I always wished I could hug it and tug at its horns but was never allowed to get too close. They said the cow might gore me. I couldn’t understand why our helper lady could lead it around on a rope, while I couldn’t even give it a little pat.
Chickens owned the yard. My cousins could catch them with no qualms. I was too scared of their beaks, claws and screams.
I loved prancing among the rubber trees when the ground wasn’t too muddy from the rains.