Monday, December 22, 2008
The Food for the Path
This piece of writing is for all those youths who have left their home once, not knowing when he/she would come back to the warmth of home.
You could be a conformist or a rebel. You may be leaving home with the parents’ consent or you may be rebelling and quitting the life you had till now. Whatever be the case, your mother gives you a packet of food. She blesses you with a few drops of internal tears and a packet of food. Mother knows well that you would get your food from the food stalls out there in the unknown streets, she is sure that you would not go hungry as you are capable enough to find your food. Still she packs that one meal for you. Not necessarily a full meal, may be a few snacks; a packet of a few familiar fragrances and colors.
Journeys are mutual invasions; you think you invade a new land, tame it and make it yours. But the place of your landing invades you in turn and it invades your tongue, eyes, skin, nose and ears. The new land with its curious affinities re-inscribes you as a new person. The taste of your mother’s food become a memory; the moment you think about it, as if in a magical conjuration, it spreads a feast before you, a feast of sights and smells. A feast of deep memories, a feast of protected days that would never come back. They call it growing up. And you refuse to grow up and you want to go back to that day, the very same day, when you left your home first with a packet of food, specially prepared for you by your mother.
In Malayalam, the packet of food that you take along when you set out on a journey is called ‘padheyam’ or ‘vazhicchoru’ or ‘pothichoru’. These words have a smell; smell of a banana leaf made flexible on fire, the smell of unconditional love. When you translate these words into English, like poetry in translation, the smell goes away. All those three words mean, ‘Packed food for the Path.’
In a train compartment, within the cocoon of loneliness that you have woven around you with your fears, desires, aspirations and the wetness of the inexplicable sadness, you open this packet of food. Each grain of rice tells you a story of your growth- from a toddler to a rebellious youth. The grains have now changed their colors. The green vegetable stains them green, the red vegetable makes it red, the coconut chutney gives it a pink sheen and the pickle, the preserved spring of a mango orchard sings a cradle song for you. You drink from the pet bottle; this water still carries the fire of your home kitchen, even if it is cold by now. You may buy branded bottled water from now onwards and you remember how you refused to take this water along. This is a landscape; a landscape that you passed just now without knowing that you have crossed it.
For me, the experience of padheyam is like a full moon night seen through the windows of a moving train. The bright face of the moon follows you. It shines the tips of the trees and the edges of the iron grill of the window that holds you back from your unreasonable desire to jump out from a moving train. Journeys induce you with a sense of death chosen at will. Then you see the moon, the ethereal scenes of a ghostly landscape and you suppress the desire to die. You think about life and the happy moments you spent back in home. You look at the food and the full face of the moon. You want that packet of food remain with you forever, the same way you want the moon shine in your life forever.
I am sure, one day you will go back to the safety hands of your parents, especially those of your mother. If you are a man, your wife would say, ‘grow up you mama’s boy.’ If you are a woman, you find a confidante in her. You wonder how you have grown into her and she into you. You look at the old photographs in your family album and find yourself in the photographs of your parents taken when they were young.
It is then you realize how meaningful the rebellion is. All your life you rebelled to become your father and mother. You negated them only to become what they already been. One day you also would pack food for your son or daughter and be sure they would come back one day, after all those journeys and they would agree with you on this point: All rebellions are about going back to the roots, to become one with the roots. The fruit knows the root. Fruit is the fulfilled desires of the roots.
When you become a fruit, you become the padheyam also. You bring it back to your parents. If they are still around, you open it for them and if they are not there, you go to the sea shore and spread it out there.
They say, the dead souls come as crows and eat your offerings laid out with prayer and tears at the sea shore.