This is a very emotional and controversial subject I have touched, and some of my friends may not agree with most of what I have written. But I have just tried to understand the conflict in the minds of the people, that are tough to handle.
Most of my life has been spent in the cities of Pune and Mumbai with small breaks in between when I was very young. So, I do not have the concept of “going to a native place or गांव or मुलुख!” These two places have been my gaon! Pune is the native place for me. I have many friends who have their native places, which are much smaller towns or maybe tiny villages. So, I do not have the experience of going to the native place, like these people have. I am sure it must be nostalgic, lovely feeling. I hear many stories of these places, in some cases 50 years old and in others 30 years old. I was trying to imagine how wonderful it must be to have such memories.
But the pragmatic guy in me poked me and said, “Hey, Pramod you also have a native place. But the only difference between those who “actually” have a native place to go and you, is that you have lived almost all your life in your native place! Probably this is the reason you do not become nostalgic when talking about your native place!” Remembering olden days, enjoying the memories of old times is the best thing that a human has, which nobody can take away, ever! It’s must be fun and emotional to go down the memory lane and enjoy oneself. I was talking to my friend Ram, who has his native place, a small town. He recently travelled to his native place. He shared with me the same thoughts as I visualised. He was nostalgic, he remembered many old things right from his grandfather’s time.
The difference in the “native place” of others and my native place is that many of my friends from olden times are still in my native place, in fact, some of them are still living in the same dwellings. I have seen my native place change in front of my eyes! Whereas in the “native places” that come up in discussion have changed from villages to much bigger villages or towns. Towns have become much bigger towns. When I think about this, I always felt how people feel when they go to native places that have lost many things to Time! How many of the old friends live there? If they have lived there all their lives, then have they changed with time? Do you have things common with them after 50 years? Are these things relevant today?
I came across a poem by Kedarnath Singh, a Gyanpeeth award winner. The Poem is “Gaon Ane Par”! (“On arriving at my native place”) First few lines of the poem are
अब आ तो गया हूँ
पर क्या करुँ मैं?
एक बुढे पक्षी की तरह लौट-लौटकर
मैं क्यों यहां चला आता हूँ बार -बार?
Below lines are my humble attempt to translate in English, the crux of what Kedarnathji has said.
” I have come back to my native place
to do what?
I keep on traversing here like an old bird,
why do I keep coming here, again and again”?
He is confused, and it is obvious that he is not sure why he keeps on doing this. Are these the same people for whom I come here? He muses further. But when I see them, I need to go back to the old time-frame. These are the same people who are mine or are they mine? I don’t know where they live, but why am I insistent that this is my home?
The confusion in the poet’s mind is what happened in my mind too, about my friends who go to their “native place”. Their old homes where ever they lived, in most cases, do not exist. These have been replaced by new structures and maybe have new ownership. None of their close relatives live there. None of their old friends live there. Except for nature, the sea, the river, the hills everything else has changed. The people whom they see are unknown to them like what you have in big Metros, the anonymous. The school building has changed completely or, a business centre is built in its place. Landmarks of olden times have simply vanished. So, what do my friends go there for? For the name of that place? The place which has become foreign to what is in their minds!
I am sure that there will be some nostalgic memories of some particular things, which still exist. In my case, where I lived in my childhood in Mumbai, the same building still exists and is bit renovated. Families don’t live there anymore, and a charitable trust runs an institution in that building. This institution provides low-cost stay for people from outside Mumbai who are required to come and stay for medical treatment, a noble cause. But its presence kicks me in the butt and tells me how time has flown. There is zero chance that someone will even vaguely know me. Will I become nostalgic by just entering those rooms where I lived in my childhood? To me, nostalgia is something with a human touch. At least in my case, luckily, the building exists as it was in 1965!
The poet further meanders with lines, what should I do to make people in the native place feel that I am one of them? They are mine, or are they? For whom I am writing this poem, will they ever read my poem…. should I touch someone, can I hug someone? He has a small fear in his mind. He has become a Dilliwala, a person from Delhi! He is not sure if his “Delhi” version will come in the way of their hug! These and other lines of the poem have beautifully brought out the conflicting thoughts of this community of people going to their “native place”. Ram felt that a tiny percentage of people going back to native place feel really connected. Is it the pilgrimage taken out of some compulsion?
There is a new “going to native place” phenomena due to migration to different countries. These people and people receiving them in the country of birth, naturally have different viewpoints. But it is painful and slightly embarrassing to know what some people have said about their native place. The well-known actor Priyanka Chopda said the other day, ” What I miss about India, is that I cannot reach the film sets late for work in the USA”, where she works currently! A young 30 something CA, a finance professional in Sydney, Australia said when asked what he misses about his native country India? He said, ” Next week, I am going to Delhi for a holiday and break these damn traffic signals 30 to 40 times in first two days; I am fed up of straight-jacketed life in Sydney”. If these persons were saying these things jokingly, then they have a dark sense of humour!
I can understand nostalgia, old memories and lovely times spent in the native place. But I think one should be more pragmatic about basics. When a lot of time has passed, maybe humans tend to become too dogged in thinking that nothing has changed in the native place. When you were young, your family, your culture of that time (cultures do change with time), your friends of that time, also change from the way you remember them. It is your mother or aunt or elder sister who were giving you the love and the lovely food of those times! So maybe the “going to native place” is the journey like jumping from a plane, using parachute! The thud you hear when you reach the ground is what brings us back to reality!