Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Back to Roots

In my earlier post, I had mentioned our road trip across parts of Karnataka. The most important part was the initial six days. We were journeying through "our native place". Native place is a very Indian concept (or shall I enlarge it to say Oriental concept) and a very fascinating one at that. Inspite of being away from the land of our forefathers for two generations, there is still that "something" that identifies and connects you with that place. Our social etiquette permits us to stray into personal space and ask people where they hail from. I am rightfully a Mumbaikar and culturally identified more with Maharashtra than Karnataka.  Yet, people insist on knowing "where I really/originally hail from?".

This always struck me that there is a  strong link to our land of origin. It may appear that we try and slot people as Kannadigas, Konkanis, Goans, Malvanis....but is that our true identity? It is not threatening in any way and just our habit or culture, if you will.

I wanted to know more about this identity of mine. This identity that no UID card will be able to capture, this identity that goes beyond my place of residence, this identity that makes people welcome me so spontaneously despite having "migrated" generations ago. 

This journey, though short, was through North Kanara district, now officially known as Uttara Kannada district. People from my community - Chitrapur Saraswats - adopted names of villages as their surnames. Suddenly, all those hamlets, villages, towns small and big seemed very familiar. They were surnames of many many relatives, friends and acquaintances. I knew nothing about those places but suddenly and inexplicably felt at home. The icicng on the cake was finding  and visiting "Mavinkurve". A small island on the river Sharavati was where it all began a few of centuries ago. 

In the limited time I had, I managed to visit many places around. 

Doors were thrown open and strangers would talk as if "the prodigal son had returned". Remember, we had no contacts, property or a house back there. In this short stay a bond started developing almost unnoticed by any of us. On our return, we realised that bond seems to have strengthened. We are already talking in terms of the next trip. An adventurous thought does not rule out having our family home there...........

It seems that I have now donned a dual identity. Further and strangely, I seem comfortable with it. A city slicker living in relative anonymity in a megapolis and, as a native, in a script that is still being written.


BK Chowla, said...

It really is a pity that e stand divide by state boundaries.
But, to your friends,to your well wishers-does it really matter where do you belong?

Anonymous said...

Nice to read about your journey 'back to your roots'.

It's just a coincidence that your 'two worlds' are in different states. It's a similar story if both places are in the same state.

My own as well as my husband's families came to Mumbai from the Konkan region in this same state, two generations ago. We, too, do not have an 'ancestral home' there any more. But we still feel at home in that region- funny, isn't it?

Mavin said...

Hello Chowlaji,

Our roots are very strong and I meant this in a positive sense. Our basic identity stems from where we belong.

Even though Mumbai is our native place for all practical reasons, we do have this origin identity.

I have a friend...a UP "Kayastha" to be specific but has stayed in Pune and Bangalore.

He is not called a Puneri nor a Kannadiga. His identity is that of a UPite....

Though we may not bother abt this, there are many people who will...so accept it as a reality...

Mavin said...

Hi Manju,

The strange part is my native district - Uttara Kannada was part of the undivided Bombay Presidency before states were formed.

Prior to independence, this state extended to Karachi. After 1947, this incl Gujarat, Western Maharashtra, Belgaum and surrounding areas and North Kanara. Goa was under POrtuguese.

We were part of Bombay State and then suddenly it became Karnataka.

Vinod_Sharma said...

These dual identities can sometimes be overwhelming, sometimes one can't relate to them.

My father once got the family tree stretching back many generations from the pandits of Haridwar who have been maintaining records of our forefathers who went there for a dip. In olden days everyone went,and would be directed to a panda assigned to a particular clan/area (I don't exactly know how it works) who would record date of visit, names of children etc.

That is where we came to know that our family had migrated twice in the last 300 years and that till my great grandfather, the names all ended with "Mal". My grandfather's brother's name was Pandit Ram Rakha Mal. It was from my dad's generation that we started using Sharma as surname while their cousins took on the family name Chandan. Fascinating stuff. But, to be frank, I could not relate to the place from where our ancestors moved many generations back.

I understand that the records with the pandas go back many hundred years but they normally don't put in the effort to dig out more than a couple of generations.