As children, we would ask each other, ‘What is your native place?’. I did learn eventually that it was not appropriate usage and that the correct way to ask the question is perhaps, ‘Where do you come from?’ or ‘Where do you belong?’. In India, as I travel and meet different people, I find it quite commonplace to be asked questions regarding my religion, caste, and even my marital status, leave alone where I am from.
My paternal grandfather was born in Lalgudi and grew up in Pollachi. His wife was from Coimbatore. My own father was born and grew up in Mettupalayam. My maternal grandmother was from North Paravur, while her husband was from Alwaye, while they both lived most of their life in Coimbatore, where my mother was born. And I was myself born and raised in Pondicherry.
So where I am from? In this talk, Pico Iyer raises this interesting question about where one’s home is, and says, ‘…home means less a piece of soil and more a piece of soul…’. A lot of people have strong feelings towards places. They like some places a lot, and I have observed people vehemently talk about disliking some places too! I have never been able to relate to the latter, of disliking a place. Of all the places I have ever traveled to, I have not disliked any of them. I am able to relate to every one of them in unique ways, be it the food, the sights, the customs or the people – one or the other thing resonates in me and I take with me a piece of it wherever I go. Like my friend Rani.
Every time I am asked where I am from, I think of the following verse written by one of the greatest philosophers from this country –
माता च पार्वती देवी पिता देवो महेश्वरः ।
बान्धवाः शिवभक्ताश्च स्वदेशो भुवनत्रयम् ॥ *
For more than a decade now, I have lived in one of the oldest modern cities of this country. For those who aren’t from here, it can get annoying. The night life sucks and the booze, even more so, they say. The weather is warm & humid, and sometimes, it gets warmer. It has had a reputation of being ‘conservative’, which I have failed to understand fully well. Like any other place, I have grown to like this city. While I am still unsure about the idea of ‘home’, I am grateful to EZV for having afforded me to soak into Madras, a city that is unique like any other.
* – My Mother is Devi Parvati, and my Father is Deva Maheswara,
My Friends are the devotees of Shiva, and my Country is all the Three Worlds.