Perhaps since my parents migrated away from ’their’ home as a young couple to make their lives, they are always nostalgic. They are nostalgic about their childhood, their culture, their festivals (ulsavams), even their language-malayalam. This nostalgia has been surviving 35 years though they have accepted Mumbai as a second home. The padams(fields) and the ancestral home have been left behind only physically.
The acquisition of an ‘own’ space in Mumbai was a long journey for them. Beginning with humble earnings, it took them some years before they bought their first house after living in staff quarters of the company my dad worked. Aesthetically this place never satisfied them owing to comparisons with their home in Kerala. There was no open space. We had to share space and rooms with each other. It was not even comfortable as the previous quarters which were considerably huge and in the middle of a forested area-it was much closer to their idea of a home. But now they owned this place. Mom began her process of conversion of space. (a little bit of Kerala in Mumbai)She added a balcony garden, a little fish tank, and some openable grills with flower creepers to our two BHK flat.(elaborate) Dad’s collection of wooden masks, Karnatic music cassettes and mom’s Krishna and Ganesh idols soon occupied the walls and shelves of our new house in neat organised displays. It became customary for them henceforth to carry a part of Kerela- a lamp, a brass vessel, a mask- back after our annual vacation there. That was our idea of vacation- visiting home.
We as children were to speak in Malayalam compulsorily. A habit which still continues. The language forms one of the biggest connections with their home. And this was their only bridge to their belonging, which they insisted we inherited. And perhaps of all the rules set for our childhood, this was the only one we never resisted. This extended to the dictatorship of Malayalam television and movies in our home.
The only explosion that existed in this Mumbai Keralite home was the room shared by me and my sister. School books, novels, pop-magazines, paintings, posters, some interesting discards occupied a clusterish and revolutionary existence only in our room. The room was a confusion, a mixture and exploration. Both me and my sister, had inherited the tradition of carrying back a piece of the place on a travel, thus our travels started contributing to the décor of the house-not without resistance or debate most of the time. And sometimes blantant disapproval at the nature of the souvenir.
An important character in our home is the telephone. The telephone forms the only tangible form of communication for my parents with their kith and kin. Investing in telephones has always been my dad’s obsession. Each room has a telephone connection, inspite of being a small and accessible home.
Often I have wondered while growing up, if this nostalgia was triggered by the anxiety of alienation they faced in a city with a very different culture. However their eclectic set of friends negate this idea. Also their tolerance of our multi-cultural value system. This city was definitely a new home-where they got opportunities to fulfil their dreams. Along with adapting a 800sq ft apartment into a home filled with archives of their memories of their home, the new city was accepted and loved for its own reasons. However the eternal nostalgia of what they left, lies etched in their lives and on the surfaces our home.