Friday, April 25, 2008

The rock

I sat on the rock, perched right on top of a hill, staring at my grandfather's house. It was the house where I had spent several happy vacations with my parents, cousins, grandparents, uncles and aunts as a child. It was also the house where I had not gone for years, but still was unable to forget _ there were many a happy memory associated with it. The view from the rock was not a new experience for me. For the past few years, a trip to the rock had almost become a part of my itinerary whenever I was in Kerala on vacation.

The rock has always been a special place for me. It was the favourite haunt of us 28 cousins _ my grandfather had nine children _ when we were all one big happy family. Though the hill was a few kilometres from my grandfather's house and the climb to the elephant-shaped rock a steep one, I had been to the rock several times as a child. The view from the rock was fascinating. Down below, the road looked like an ageing creeper with a grey stalk _ it would have done a Mussorie proud. We could see buses and other vehicles winding up the road leading to the Idukki dam. We could also have a panoramic view of the thick forests and waterfalls far away. We had fun comparing the silhouettes of our parents and the farm workers going about their chores in my grandfather's house through the lines of fresh rubber sheets hung in the courtyard for drying.

Evenings used to be fun too. After the long evening prayer my grandfather used to take out his harmonium and all of us used to sing together even as our mothers laid out the dinner and fathers had a 'session' at the backyard. That time, it had looked as if those days were for ever. I had thought that I would be going there year after year to see my cousins who would also be coming from their places.

But how wrong I was. For the first time I knew how fickle relationships where in front of money when my grandfather decided to divide the property. Relationships soured, and everyone seemed unhappy with their own share. My grandfather no longer looked the strong man he once was. My uncle who inherited the ancestral house no longer seemed eager to have all of us for the vacations. Though as a child my only concern was the decrease in the number of days spent at my grandfather's house, as I grew older I developed bitterness that my father had been shortchanged in the property division. My visits became fewer and came to a standstill after the death of my grandfather.

Now, as I sat on the rock, I strained my eyes to detect any movement at my grandfather's place. The house looked the same as ever. The lines of fresh rubber sheets hung out for drying looked golden yellow in the evening light. I could see someone moving about on the verandah. May be it's my uncle. May be my aunt. No one else lived there. My cousins all were married and settled at various other places and came only for vacations.

As I continued sitting on the rock, staring at my grandfather's house, suddenly it dawned on me that all I wanted was the restoration of the good old times. What is the point harbouring resentment over something, which definitely cannot be undone, to feel bitter about not having a few more acres of my grandfather's estate, which in any case, my brothers or I don't need desperately? As I walked down the hill to the waiting car, I wondered whether I would be welcome in my grandfather's house.

May be I needn't have worried. The warmth, which I thought would be missing, was very much in evidence. Nothing had changed in the house. Even the reclining chair my grandfather used to occupy when he was alive was still where it used to be. Only, my uncle has taken the place of my grandfather in the reclining chair. It was as if I was never away. I was home at last.

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