Monday, May 25, 2009


It has been raining since Friday. With nothing much to do, I decided to catch up with my reading. Just finished reading ‘ Roots’ by Alex Haley. Haley has traced the history of his seven generations and how his forefather was kidnapped and shipped from Gambia in 1776 and sold as a slave in Maryland, USA. Great reading indeed.

Now nothing so dramatic happened to my past generations. But suddenly an exciting thought struck my mind. Since dad was in Air force and we were always on the move, I too have complained all my young days of a feeling of being rootless. I am always horrified when some one asks me where I belong to. I am not sure if I qualify as a Goan by descent, or a Maharashtrian as we speak marathi, or from MP for being in that state for over two decades or Andhra since I have an apartment there or USA since this is my home for so many years now. I used to joke that I feel like a mongrel!!

Yes why not trace my roots too. But before that I had one small business of sending my picture to a school mate who suddenly came back in my life after over 30 years and wanted to see how I look now.

Seeing old pictures is very fascinating. They bring back long forgotten memories.
I started clicking old ones which I hadn’t seen for quite a while.

Suddenly I saw the picture of little Andy and I was transported to that day in UK in 2003 in train next to this sick Scottish boy and how I read a complete story book to him with as much imagination I could and how he listened with rapt attention. I remembered how he shyly asked his mother if he could kiss me as I bent to hug him at the Glasgow station. How when I asked him when do we meet again, he shocked me by simply saying, “ I am dying.” I feel sad as I remember how I cancelled all my morning appointments and we three went about gorging ourselves with ice-creams and doughnuts, laughing till we cried and sat on the bench soaking the afternoon sun and admiring the pigeons and how he later slept in his mother’s arms. When it was time to leave how his mother hugged me and said, “ I am glad Andy met you.” And I tonelessly replied, “ I wish I hadn’t.”

I look at Edward’s mother in Lome in West Africa smiling toothily and remember the sumptuous meals she cooked for her Indian friend. It was fit for an African Prince.

A smile crosses me as I watch my apartment’s house warming ceremony. I remember how my friend’s wife introduced me simply as her husband’s younger brother to the nosey telugu priest. And how he looked suspiciously at me and said he doesn’t look like us or speak like us. And her aunt piped in saying because he lives in usa. And how everyone including the priest broke into laughter as I enquired in chaste telugu , “ Manchi?” and how I fell down twice from the tiny pulpit and had a hard time handling my dhoti. My friend KC remarked to another ripple, “ this isn’t a ceremony. Looks like a four hour comedy show.” But I had insisted that I wanted the local customs to be followed as my apartment was in hyderabad. And how all the lovely hyderabadi guests had applauded. I truly felt that they were family.

I click some more pics.
Of trips to Thailand, Haridwar, Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam and other places with friends.

Friends who accepted me simply for what I was and not because where I came from.

Then I saw the pictures of Miami, my home for the last so many years. Thought of the nice and friendly neighbors. Of their kindness during the hurricane.

Epiphany struck me then.

Alex had a reason. His forefathers were slaves. But what about me?
mine weren’t. or maybe they were. Who cares.
But wasn’t I trying to be a slave of my past. The past that hardly meant anything?

Alex’s family was grateful for his work. They thanked him for giving them an identity.
But what about me? did I need an identity? My identity came from these people.
Will all these wonderful people, who brought happiness and sunshine in my life, be able to thank my freaky, narrow minded bigotry. Is this how I was going to repay all of them. They didn’t belong to one state. They didn’t belong to one nation. Not even one continent. They just had one thing common

They all had offered love without any premises.

My mind is made up. Thanks Alex. Your book made compulsive reading.
But I would rather be a faceless rootless human being.

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