The furrows of the mind retain the sights and scents of yesterdays gone by and within these grooves; the heart of self palpitates in constant search for anchor, belonging and acceptance. Karaithivu, Mullaitivu, Nallur Kovil, Karthirgamam… soothing echoes of intimate worlds cradled within the hearts of every Yalpanan sojourning distant lands. Names of distant lands that chime in the recesses of my mind as I traverse the landscape of the inner soul in search of past realities and illusions with which to navigate a bewildering universe peopled by prancing egos, slithering greed and traipsing amorality. But when that seeker of the past grasps at the flowers of yore, they shrivel and crumble in his palms of despair and self realisation dawns as the whispering springs of faith quietly gurgle that those pasts are nothing more than finite illusions, long shattered by the elapse of time and the fading of eras….that beneath the illusion lies the eternal Truth and Guide : Allah SWT
It is a journey traversed by every individual metaphorically dislocated from his native land and forever wandering in an existential ennui in alien landscapes. Born away from the hearth of home and destined to sojourn in unfamiliar surrounds, the weary self of the sojourner yearns in Naipaulian angusih for the familiar, the concrete not the evanescent and the ethereal. The Elagupillais, Mailvaganams, Ponnambalans, Kandaswamis of yore who have in one way or another shaded this life have long receded into the vaults of memory, to be visited momentarily in moments of silent reflection or when aromas of atharassam, varuval, sambar, thairu, tosai, kool. puttu, idiappam, nethili sambal and a thousand one dishes of mouth-watering allure drift ephemerally across like clouds in the mindscape of the famished self. But in some minds, they cling on as cobwebs of a grandiose past constantly surfacing to validate the reality of the present. The dint of belonging varnished by bygone glories.
Growing up in a household reverberating with the mellifluous strains of mum’s thevarams and resonant with dad’s daily mantras in his private poojas left a lasting imprimatur of the eternal, the spiritual and it would have been easy to retreat into the comfort of isolation excluding the Other. But despite their piety, they were worldly too and dad’s teacher self and mum’s housewifely ways ensured that we were fed the realities of life and the possibilities of future via books and experiential learning. And despite their tenous foothold on the alien soil, they strived to establish a permanent beachhead that would withstand the onslaught of the sea of prejudice with its waves of discrimination and within this sheltered cove raised seven children who attained success in their chosen fields.
We mixed and played, learned and gambolled, discussed and frolicked with the inscrutable Others and in the process grew unconsciously into ourselves the Ceyloneseness that underpinned the Malaysianess, just as the Other nurtured their own seedlings of Malayness, Chineseness etcetera within the sheltered groves of their innocuous hearts. So, now, when I lift the diaphanous curtains of the present that veil the childhood of my past and bring into focus of what being a Malaysian meant way back then, I realise that it meant nothing more than mutual respect for others, the obeisance to a piece of paper called the constitution, the performance of civic duty, the tolerance and understanding of the Other, the devotion to the flag, the loyalty to symbols but never once the congealing of thoughts and the loss of the racial Self– the hallmarks of modern tribalism…… (to be continued)