I was born on the side of a very large hill near a village that is now a town – Mallapally. It’s a beautiful land, full of green. My uncle’s house where my grandfather lives is nestled inside a forest on the side of that very large hill.
Today, we visited the school my mother attended as a child. As we walked by the classrooms, the kids were filled with smiles watching the foreigners visit. Some of the really inquisitive ones beamed “how are you?” to us as we shook their hands. My mind evoked images of my mother as a little girl studying here.
Afterwards, we visited the orphanage my mother donates to; this one special because the kids here are physically and/or mentally challenged. Coincidentally, the nun who started the orphanage is the sister of my dad’s first cousin’s husband. It was hard walking thru these halls. One kid took both Derek and my hands leading us into some of the different rooms. He was friendly with big eyes and a big smile; he didn’t want us to miss anything. We left with our hearts significantly heavier than when we came.
The nights in Mallapally are so peaceful. The power went out again; and so we carefully walked upstairs and outside onto the rooftop terrace. Under a crescent moon with lightning bugs around us, we sat.
The clouds covered the moon at times, forming various shapes until the moon came back into view. My favourite was the Scottish terrier that formed over it. Besides them, the trees formed a beautiful backdrop as well. I could make out the tall coconut and jackfruit trees, the skinny trunks of the rubber trees and the big, floppy leaves of the banana trees. I could barely make out the path leading up to our house.
For stretches, we sat in silence, eyes closed, listening to nature’s lives living at night – various animals including barking dogs, hooting owls, ribbeting frogs, screeching bats, and the loudest of them all, chirping crickets. Personally, I fell into a deep, trancelike state, emptying my mind, as I performed measured breathing exercises. I recollected all of my Pilates instructions, squeezing my stomach muscles as I breathed; and squeezing it more as I breathed out. One-by-one, my mind was clear of all thoughts. It was liberating.
I did have one image and series of memories coming back to me. I remembered when I was four years old, with my brother who was two, all of a sudden crying uncontrollably because my mother was nowhere to be found. That memory flash forwarded to another image a few days after the previous – of my mother walking back thru the forest (the very same one before me now), a massive smile adorning her face, with a new and shiny baby in her arms. My youngest brother had just joined our happy family. Years later – a few months ago – he got married.
And then I opened my eyes.
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