Summer vacations are a time awaited by many. Nowadays, many people live in places far away from their hometowns for a multitude of reasons. For many such people and my family, summer vacations are a time when we travel back to our native places, enjoy a month or two, breathing in the fresh air; tinted with the nostalgic smell of our hometowns. Vacations mean differently for different people but they surely are a time of excitement, relaxation and bliss for many.
When I think about summer vacations, vivid images and beautiful memories associated with my hometown rush back to my mind; of a tiny little girl, holding her grandmother's wrinkly yet firm hand and a shiny glass jar filled with Manjadikurus in another, walking down a dusty unpaved lane surrounded by paddy fields, swaying coconut and palm trees and lofty peaks adorning the landscape of my village in Kerala.
An unheard term for many, 'Manjadikurus' are smooth, bright red shiny seeds. 'Kurus'
literally mean seeds in Malayalam. Manjadikurus are seeds of the ornamental Manjadi trees,
found in abundance, in Kerala. They're gorgeous looking seeds but are not edible and hence, many a times, vessels filled with these shiny red seeds are used as showpieces at homes or to make play-jewellery for kids. Kids especially love playing with them. People have a great deal of childhood memories associated with these shiny red seeds.
Manjadikurus are cultural objects that have gone unnoticed and undervalued over the years, keeping in mind the countless memories associated with them for a vast number of people living away from Kerala and even the natives. Summer vacations, for me meant waking up alongside my grandmother in our ancestral house in Thrissur. The day would follow by her dressing me up, putting fragrant sandalwood paste on my forehead and then disappearing into the kitchen to make me my favourite South Indian delicacies. My favourite memory of it is not just the delectable taste of the dishes but the blissful feeling of my grandmother feeding it to me with her own hands while other members of the family watched enviously. After breakfast, I would run away to the fields that surrounded my house and look for the Manjadi seeds. There would be many of them covered in mud, lying around the soil surrounding the Manjadi trees. I would then bring them back in a box and give them to my grandmother who would wash them carefully, sun-dry them and fill them in a tiny glass jar that would make it easy for me to carry around in my tiny little hands.
In the evenings, she would take me for walks on the quiet lanes of our village with towering coconut trees swaying to and fro, in harmony with the flow of the wind. I would carry that glass jar filled with the bright shiny seeds along with me. On the way, we would meet uncles who would talk to my grandmother about the happenings in the village. They would then turn to me, ruffle my hair and mockingly ask me how much I would trade for my glass jar. I would tell them I wouldn't trade it for anything, not even chocolates. They would laugh at my innocent ramble, ruffle my hair some more and then take our leave. These walks with my grandmother meant the most to me; I would eagerly await them whenever I'd long for summer vacations.
Back then, I would make trips to Kerala almost every year with my grandma. Now the trips have lessened in numbers due to various work commitments but we still manage to visit Kerala every two to three years. Not much has changed. As I grew up, I found a new meaning to my glass jar of Manjadikurus, I now regard it as a glass jar filled with memories. Every seed for me is a metaphorical representation of a memory that I have made with my family or friends. It reminds me of all the good old summer vacation days that I have spent with my grandmother. And like the six year old girl I was back then, I still wouldn't trade my glass jar for anything.
I have travelled to many places in the course of the vacations that I have managed to get over the years, but the kind of peace that I found in those walks with my grandma, I haven't found elsewhere. Travel teaches you a lot about the tangible and the intangible aspects of the places you visit, the cultures prevailing in those places, the people and also provides you with the simple yet ineffable joys of waking up in a new place, interacting with people who speak in a language different from yours or trying a new cuisine. But one of the most important lessons that I have learned is that,
‘One should travel a lot, but once in a while one should travel back to their roots’
Travelling back to your roots, once in a while, is capable of reminding us of our truest selves that we sometimes tend to forget about or lose while making our ways through life. It also helps find the peace that we keep looking for, in the rest of the world.
The tiny glass jar filled with Manjadikurus lies quietly on the corner of my work table and on days when I wistfully gaze at it, it reminds me of the carefree six year old girl, frolicking around the streets of Thrissur with her Grandma always by her side and the seeds which now I equate with memories, give me a similar sense of calmness and imperturbable tranquillity that I would experience when I would hold my grandmother's hands and walk down those dusty yet picturesque lanes of Kerala.