I was excited to go for field visits this time because I was going to Kanavu, Wayanad. I had heard of Kanavu since my MSW days and hoped to be there some day. But the hectic journey from Chennai to Wayanad disheartened me. I tried packing very light but when I walked uphill I cursed myself for the contraptions I carried. The auto stopped at a house and when we asked for directions, the owner of the house told us auto would not go that route and its walkable distance, “so get down I will take you to Kanavu”, he said. As soon as the auto left the first question he asked was, did you know that Kanavu is managed by tribal children ? Yes I do, I said. Do you know their castes naykas, pulayas and parayas ?, he asked me in a demeaning tone as if these castes were all cannibals and I made a mistake coming there. I smiled and told him I am aware of what I am doing and he kindly show me the way. Its irritating when you are left at someone’s mercy in a desolate place for directions and your guide utilizes the opportunity.
There is a family staying next to Kanavu , they are from the US they will show you he said, I was already irritated with the load I was carrying and now he was sending me to another family. The word US sort of struck me because I could not believe someone from US would live here judging by how different lifestyles both the places had. He called for “ Mr Babu” from the mentioned house. A man in his seventies came out, when my guide told him I was a researcher who had come to visit Kanavu he called his wife and introduced me. He said Kanavu is two minutes walk and I could sit for a minute and talk to them. I liked the idea of resting for a minute so I bought that idea. I was curious to know what bought then here but his wife started the conversation and said we are here to meet our son who is settled here. I found that interesting, judging their US accent I tried visualizing an English speaking guy with long hair and binoculars fascinated by Wayanad roaming around doing some anthropological study.
Actually our son is here for past 7 years he left US and came here and doesn’t intend returning so we keep visiting him they said, this tore the picture I had woven a minute ago and made me curious to meet this guy. Well our son lived in a mud house, well he was into Gandhism and there we didn’t have many facilities so we shifted here to live with him for a month. This amazed me because their son could adjust to a totally different life from US and they could not, there was disgust all over their face to the surroundings they lived in.
Why don’t you meet our son ‘Roy’ they said, and I prepared to meet the long hair, bearded guy, someone like the guy from the move ‘into the wild’. From a room nearby came out a guy with grey hair, in a lungi and I was shocked because it did not match my description. After formal introduction, Roy said he did his bachelors in urban development from Stanford but now he is here doing organic farming, I could not trace his feelings was it that of a revenge to his parents, was he fed up of the US life, or just borrowing time for himself? I left them and moved to Kanavu and Roy said,will talk to you later.
Sure … I would love to I said and I meant it indeed….
I met him the next day, he was making compost. He smiled at me; there was a sense of familiarity in that smile which made it easy for me to talk. So how’s dad and mom I asked. He understood I was not asking about their health and said they don’t like it here wont be here for long. So you won’t go with them I asked? My questions were so half constructed that in normal circumstance they would look out of context but Roy knew what I was asking. I have tried it all he said, I worked for a big MNC, I went to Srilanka but this is what I like. They don’t understand they hate anything Indian; they kept us away from Indian culture I used to be embarrassed to say I have Indian friends in my gang in college. I don’t know why but, I am satisfied here now.
Roy’s father interrupted us and Roy left. His father looked pained, why don’t you stay here isn’t this a wonderful place I said to initiate a conversation. Oh no, imagine if I have a cardiac arrest. Nearest hospital is at Calicut and I have lived there for 40 years I can’t leave my friends. He had chosen his lifestyle over his son and that was a firm decision, I didn’t see the logic in he forcing his son now. Roy returned and his father went away as characters enter and exit in theatre on stage, this theatre was their life and I a guest actor.
They want me to settle down but that to an educated Christian girl, Roy said, now you look at this place and tell me how many girls would prefer this place. And my choices are not suitable to them. This part startled me, if he had chosen his life why was he bothered about what they thought about his life partner, was he moving away from them physically and still dependent emotionally, I don’t know, I don’t even know why they all chose to speak to me so openly. This was the first time I silently observed a family, listened to their stories without offering advices and getting involved.
That night Roy and I spoke a lot on organic farming, literature, movies, youth in India and US, he seemed happy and cheerful. We conveniently did not confront many issues, like I understood he didn’t like questions about future and I did not entertain personal questions but we had a lot to talk leaving all that. He was curious about my research and asked me to write about it to him. When I left Roy, he gave me his contacts and I knew I would stay in touch with him and there was more he would tell me.
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