Sometime back, I went trekking in interior Karnataka. A patch in the clearing on the forest road we saw a few huts. An old man sat near the edge of the road. While passing him , I smiled at him and he began talking in his own language at once. I asked the forest guide to interpret what he was saying. I was told that he had asked where I was from..When I told him I was from Bangalore, he nodded his head wisely and asked again if I had a house and cows there. I tried to answer this complicated question about the cows and house as well as I could..He looked at me amazed and shook his head.
Strangely I felt sorry for myself at that moment..it is in moments like these when India looks like a phantom to me and I am as much a foreigner perhaps because I don't understand this India, as much as I should. I sat down next to him and asked him if he thought I was a foreigner?
He looked at me and said, 'If you set foot on a land and start loving it, there is no foreign soil.' He explains how it is the dry month, the river bed almost dried up and when rain comes around June..it is like a happy song. I tried to explain then that I am a writer and while he looked at me quizzically, I said I would write something for him. His understanding of my foreign expressions, he reciprocated with a toothless smile. When I went back home, in the heart of a dense city, somehow I missed the hunched man..in some strange way I had discovered a bit of India in him.
There is perhaps a poem in most of us-
Somehow a bit like nature.
When I talk to old people or plants,
dry and somehow forgotten,
I see them shake up a bit-
peep out of a curiosity filled coffin,
sprout a leaf and take root again
© 2013 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury