We Are Back (or) The Secret Life Of The Iyers

That was a long trip that we had undertaken. Not long in terms of time maybe but certainly in terms of the goals we had set ourselves. Come to think of it, whenever R. and I set off on a journey, our itinerary tends to attract more and more places to visit just as our suitcases tend to become heavier progressively. Each time we start with one destination in view and then more places come to mind until finally it becomes a portmanteau journey with many side trips along the way. This, when we are forced to travel by trains and buses, apart from the mandatory flights. If we could travel by car I think we would be going to so many places that seemed too interesting to miss that we would never get back home. I may have to drag R. to some of those kicking and screaming though, but eventually he would agree that he had enjoyed himself.

But more of that later. Our journey culminated in C. which had been the original destination. We celebrated Sankranti there as planned, though in a slightly abbreviated way, and made sarkkarai pongal and vegetable koottu and offered them to the Sun God with R. duly performing the puja. It has been years since we celebrated the festival with any of our children around so it did not seem strange to be doing it in a new city all by ourselves. We went shopping for flowers and puja items and cleaned the house to welcome the month of Thai. Next day we skipped making any of the Kanu food as the larder was too sparse. Instead we went to the Murugan temple and worked off the calories from the pongal by climbing several flights of steps. As we stood on top of the hill and looked at the city spread out below, it struck me that we were leading a secret life. In parts, that is. No one had been told that we had bought a new flat in a distant city. There was no reason for us to take any distant relatives into confidence but it was exhilarating to have  a big secret that few, except the children, knew about. Quite often, telling people  can turn an exciting happening into something tawdry or cheap. Precisely why we do not want to tell anyone  about our impending move.

Time was when there was another big secret in our lives. This was when we had moved to L. and were awaiting the birth of S. We decided not to spread the news around and told no one except my parents about it. Primarily because no one else was very close to us or too interested in us, for that matter. But another reason for the secrecy was that we did not want any spurious good wishes from relatives that S. should turn out to be a boy after two girls. Many of them anyway would have been fervently hoping that we would have a third girl.

It was easy to keep the secret because L. was off the beaten track from most places in India then and means of communication like the telephone were practically non-existent. Letters were the only way to contact anybody and often took days to reach the recipient. So we lived there in L. in blissful distance from Chennai and told no one. A. and D. however spilled the beans to my cousin brother who was a student in those days in a nearby city, often visiting us over the  weekend. But they confused him no end by telling him that we were expecting to have a one-year old baby in our midst. That was because they could not, at the ages of four and two, comprehend the idea of zero. They believed one was the youngest age anyone could be and I was forced to agree with them and so it was decided that we were expecting a one year old baby to be added to our family.

Funnily enough, my cousin was present in all the three cities that my children were born in, and he was among the earliest visitors to see the baby each time. In fact, when S. was born, he had tried to visit us, and finding my father asleep along with the children, while my mother and R.. were at the hospital with me, he had spent the night on our doorstep in the biting cold, not wanting to disturb anyone! The next morning he rode home  from the hospital with me and S. in a brand new tempo (a passenger vehicle in L.).

A few days later R. wrote and posted several postcards to the extended family about the birth of S., stunning them all. Along with the best wishes and blessings, the common plaint was that they had no idea about the imminent arrival of S.

Coming back to the present, I have been wondering if we can still keep the secret after moving. Nowadays no one writes letters communicating instead by mail or mobile phone. We could always pretend the letters did not reach us. Electronic mail will not betray our location. As for the mobile phone, we can retain the same number wherever we are. The only precaution to take would be to always answer the phone.

The idea is feasible certainly, and appealing. I wonder.


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