I’m sitting on the back steps of the house. It’s raining, pouring all around me. As I look out over the fields I can see the brilliant contrast of rural life and modern technology. To my right I see the field, filled with coconut trees and cows grazing, an old fashioned well, almost 60 years old, and on my left a brand new highway. So many changes over the past years, it’s hard to wrap my head around it. And as I sit on those back steps of this house, I know that this may very well be the last time I will ever live here again.
This week I had a chance to reconnect with my roots, on a trip to my state of origin, Kerala. It is a small coastal state in India, and my family still lives there today. The house? My grandmother’s. One thing I have always admired about her is her fierce independence. It doesn’t hit you in the face immediately, but it’s there. It’s been ten years that she’s been living alone in this house, that’s almost about to disintegrate, with it’s crumbly walls, broken doors and tiled roof. My grandmother always says to eat fast, because there’s all kinds of bugs inside, and they might fall into your food before you can eat it (believe me, I learned that lesson the hard way). But despite all these difficulties it’s our home. And it always will be, because it is a tribute to history, memories, and generations that have grown up here. Even mine. A simple life, with simple people, that’s what village life is to me. Easy.
My grandmother works for the temple, singing a special prayer every day, something only a member of her caste can do, according to ancient tradition. Afterwards, she sits near the ‘sharadi” or the man responsible for making the flower necklaces to adorn the idols in the temple. This is where I have sat, and learned the ancient art of necklace making, a few years ago. The Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple is extremely famous throughout Kerala, something that puts this village on the map. As we head back home after the morning’s work, my grandmother smiles and says to almost everyone passing by, “This is my granddaughter, my daughter’s daughter,” with a smile on her face. I can’t help but smile at that, because another thing about village life: everyone knows EVERYONE.
The house has become difficult to live in. It’s literally breaking down in front of our eyes. She’s tired, and so she has decided to move to a better house, one with more stability. It’s a decision I can respect, but as I sit on those steps in the rain I wonder… will I ever get this again? In this world where skyscrapers and apartment buildings appear within a blink of your eyes, it’s rare to see an old house with huge fields, greenery, and a whole lot of tradition to back it up. In this race for power, status, wealth, and prestige, we sometimes forget our roots, where we come from, and how to appreciate the smaller things in life.
So this week I reconnected with my roots. I said goodbye to technology of any kind, and embraced the rural life. And it was so worth it. This village won’t ever be the same, and development has hit it hard. This is the story of many villages. It’s helped so many people, but I can’t help but feel that we’ve lost a little tradition along the way.