The Ancestor

Time will alter you with its deft brush, adding strokes that you will never want to admit to. Age and maturity are a deep, deep precipice – you may twinkle toe around these boundaries but words will fail to convey the platitude of something so dynamic. A part of growing up is growing away. But no one will ever tell you that.

Growing pains, struggling to build an identity and flirting with the hazy land beyond known boundaries are travel-mates. Do you remember how you listened to music that you barely understood, when you were on the cusp of growing up? How eating a cuisine you didn’t grow up with was far more fulfilling? How far away vistas were better than the neighbourhood?

The journey starts when you look upwards and outwards out of your window and notice that sliver of a blue sky. It was there all along, it must have been – but one day it beckons like a leprechaun and you wear your travelling shoes and follow the trails into a land you have not set foot in, ever before. None of us would ever travel if it was only a home that we were seeking. When you are seduced by the call of time like this, a home is always a starting point. A home is what you leave behind because familiarity breeds boundaries. And you do not want them now, not when the world is your oyster. Or your pearl.

New lands will not let you down – ever. There is much that will dazzle, much that will take your fancy. And so you open yourself to newer senses – you change and your morph and you shed your old robes and you embrace newer roles. It is deep – this chasm of age, like we said before.

There is another thing that no one will ever tell you. At every milestone, at every signpost, the road breaks into two. One path points you forwards, the other asks you if you are ready to go back home.

Like the sliver of the sky that beckoned a while ago and whisked you away on new adventures, a day comes soon enough when every bend in the road reminds you of home. I find myself reaching for the music I heard as a child, old sentimental favourites that my mother and I hummed on cold, wintry mornings. When I hear a song that I heard on the radio with her, I feel transported to a better place. I see her washing her hands in a hurry even as she rushed to crank up the volume on our old Phillips radio. I need the music that comes from inside -and somewhere along the way I have learnt that the music that comes from within often mingles with the sounds of home.  Comfort redefines itself as you age.

I find myself calling her up more often to ask for the recipes that she whisked up for me when I was a child. A plethora of new cookbooks lies on my kitchen top – perhaps I no longer need to define myself by the predictions of far-away cuisines. I have travelled enough and nostalgia is the sweetest taste there is. Steaming hot rice, with a mound of perfectly cooked yellow dal, a dash of lemon, a drip of ghee and a pinch of salt is my idea of manna. Old memories, time tested recipes, music that recreates another era – going back is much easier than you can imagine. Perhaps it is homesickness. Perhaps it is being weary of travels. Perhaps they are the same things. Perhaps the day you realize that you need to stop being someone else, home will let you back in.

In another time and another place, I would have laughed at anyone that tried to tell me this – we all believe that our calling is always more important than our roots, that our dreams are better than our beginnings. But time will add deft strokes to your portrait  like I said-  strokes that you never thought you would recognise. “Every single one of us carries our ancestors in our hearts – we just take a long time to accept this!”, my father once told me.

I would like to believe that the ancestor stays hidden till you tell him you are ready to make the homeward trip. He waits while you conquer new lands and take in new sensations – he is wise, this elder, and he stands silent and biding his time. One day you tell him that you are done with your wanderings and that you miss your roots –  and he smiles because he had known this all along. He has already packed for the return journey. He knows the signposts that you have forgotten to read, he navigates the roads for you and he leaves you on your doorstep.

The choice to travel or to find a home is always yours. And the road not taken will never desert you, believe in this. Life comes full circle. So will your journeys. So will the choices you once made, or didn’t make. All you  have to do is ask that ancestor in your heart.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bilbo
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 14:56:31

    how do you do it Scary. you described your idea of manna and I could see the plate served out. Stainless steel isn’t it?

    A good read once again. Tell me you are not going to stop after the month is over. Pretty please.


  2. Captain Nemo
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 16:04:32

    Amazing. This was what was going through my mind when I made that ham-handed effort at poetry yesterday. Of travels, learnings, growing up and yet not grown up enough to forget where we came from.
    Loved it. Second Bilbo’s plea that you will not stop at the end of the month (in other words – You’ve pushed us on this drug, you have an obligation to keep the supply coming 😛 )


  3. Vidya
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 18:13:16

    Scarlett, was surprised to see these many posts after my last visit a few weeks back!! A ‘collective’ comment: Enjoyed every post:)


  4. Rajavel
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 19:33:29

    Wow ! That is a emotional roller coaster. How do you write it VJ ! How do you write these thoughts that usually come flooding and rushing into beautiful neat sentences ! Amazing talent ! Loved it !


  5. Altoid
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 20:57:19

    I couldn’t have described my state of mind better! I’m glad to have people like you around, you pull out what’s on my mind and express them in a way so beautiful and haunting I can’t believe that was what came out of my mind. I always shy of saying this is your best piece EVER, cos you always come up with something else to trump it. For now, yes I declare this is your bestest!

    Love you loads V


  6. scarlettletters
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 21:15:19

    Bilbo, the plate is stainless steel. Thanks.

    Captain, you are too kind. Yes, the plan is to continue after the month is up. Not everyday but every two or three days, perhaps?

    Vidya, welcome back. Glad to hear you liked it.

    Rajavel, I am flattered. Thanks 🙂

    Alty, I want you to know this – somewhere after the second para I knew I was writing for you. I cannot explain it – but yes, go home 🙂 The wise elder will do the rest. And love you loads too.


  7. enig
    Aug 21, 2010 @ 13:12:39

    totally nostalgic 😦


  8. Aria
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 22:19:22

    that’s precisely my question, “how do you it?”
    what an evocative piece.. kudos..
    “One path points you forwards, the other asks you if you are ready to go back home.”
    so very true.. sigh

    I can read all posts in one go but am relishing em leisurely..taking these breaks coz I want these beauteous words to sink in ..


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