Thangachi’s Corner: Back Home

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Written By: Keerthana Raveendran

Earlier this month, after a gap of almost twelve years, I went “back home”. It was the first time that my husband and I were headed back since our wedding last year, which meant immediately that our entire visit was going to be spent visiting family.

We saw that one coming.

The trouble was, I was a child the last time I’d visited, and was very much oblivious of who we’d left behind on the mango-shaped island. I was three by the time my feet hit Canadian soil, and had only been back once as a child, when meeting relatives instead of climbing trees was more painful than taking out a splinter. I had kept from twelve years ago mere wisps of faded memory, but was finally ready to solidify it now. Grown and more mature, family meant more to me than it ever had.

So this time, I flew to Ceylon prepared with my sources—a list of names, contact phone numbers and family trees, outlining exactly how each of my parents were related to each individual.

I arrived in Colombo and immediately started visiting family. And then I remember sitting in the train on the way to Puloly. I remember taking in the scenic view outside the window as I browsed through pictures I’d already taken to show back home. My photographs were all of people who were somehow inexplicably linked to me. And upon scanning them, I was immediately struck by the significance of my journey—not one of sight-seeing or relaxation, but one devoted to the meeting of people. And it occurred to me one thing: sometimes, all we want in the world is to feel connected to others.

I spent a total of six days in my parents’ childhood villages, and almost every waking moment was spent moving from one house visit to another, performing the ritual of homecoming and feeling welcome in each one as though I’d lived there all my life. There existed a feeling that everyone was connected to everyone else in some manner, and this encouraged close relationships among communities. And I, who visited the village for a total of six days, left feeling as though I was leaving behind a piece of myself in the walls of the house that was gifted to my mother decades ago.


With Ponnappa and Ponnamma—Appamma’s brother and his wife

The area is emptying out now. Conflict has made it scarce, and more and more Tamil people are fleeing the country to find better lives elsewhere. Unfortunately, this creates a sense of loneliness and abandonment in those left behind. To the older generation living humble lives in small villages, it isn’t money or fame or life accomplishments that have value. These people have lived without them for years. It is rather human company for which they yearn. They lived in a simpler time, when family and friends were all you had, and they wish only for the happiness of loved ones and to be remembered kindly by them when they’re gone.

And how could we fail to give them that? To go home, even if it isn’t really home anymore, and to see Appamma’s brothers and to have Amma’s sithy identify us immediately because we look JUST like Amma did when she was our age? How could we not grant them this, when that short twenty-minute visit makes them feel such delight in knowing that even years later, they are being visited by descendants of children they had happily raised together as a village?

For me, it’s a place I only remember visiting for five weeks in my life. For you, it might be a place you grew up in all your life. Or maybe it’s just a place you heard about in your parents’ anecdotes. It’s pretty fascinating though, walking the same paths as your mother did as she headed to temple every morning as a teenager. It’s fascinating to hear your grandfather’s niece tell stories about your father when he was a child. And it’s fascinating to meet a mysterious part of your family tree, as far as those branches might be, after only hearing stories all your life.

As it turns out, there’s a lot more to back home than we thought.


Keerthana Raveendran, known by her flock as Thangachi, is an aspiring author whose motivation to write usually kicks in when she’s supposed to be occupied elsewhere. She is an avid procrastinator who sees potential novel ideas as movies in her head. Maybe one of these days, they’ll make it onto the page. Thangachi is currently a teacher with the Toronto District School Board and a student with York University, studying English for her Master’s degree.




Read More by Keerthana!

“What is Your Background?”
“Dance Culture”
“Vanakkam: More than Just a Word”
“Tamil Titles: Yes or No?”
“Celebrating our Holidays”

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