The Nomad

And so here I am, in yet another place, after yet another move. Most people balk at moving from one house to another, let alone one state to the next. But our journey has been across vast distances, taking us to cultures differing widely and forcing our entire thought process and life style to be different. Thinking back, adaptation was the least of the worries, actually. Some days when I sit in great formal meetings arranged by some manager who has it in his action plan, teaching us how to adapt to multi and cross cultural working environments, I just smile, for I can assure you that not even one of those speakers or presenters have ever moved far from their city of birth, let alone countries, to know what it is really like for oneself, for ones family, for ones friends.

Starting from childhood, my life had been nomadic. Born in a remote estate region of North Malabar, I lived away from my parents who were in the British tea estates of Wyanad, where dad was a Doc. Lack of good schooling in those exotic estates took me to my dad’s sister’s care at the city of Calicut- the ‘adivaram’ or low lands.

Moving was in our blood I guess, for we moved soon to Koduvayoor, a bustling market town near Palakkad where my dad took up private practice after a few heart ailments and decided to rebuild family life after the children were scattered in various boarding schools or like me in a relative’s care and meeting only at mom’s maternal home (tharavad) at Pallavur or the estates for vacations. It was a short stay for we were soon to move to Trivandrum. That was a longish stint. Dad found it much to his enjoyment, so did mom. We studied there, passed out of high school but I was soon back in Calicut for my engineering college sojourn.

After I became an engineer, the natural course of action was establishing a heading to Madras, where I soon learned the language, started working and enjoyed life. A short two year stay and my extreme dissatisfaction with the job resulted in my 6.5’ tall (I am exaggerating) and massively built man with a booming voice but avuncular boss (what a fascinating character he was, I will write about him someday) deputing me to Bombay, so that I could find better avenues, possibly even a ‘gelf’ opening even. Looking back I must say that the stay in Madras was extremely enjoyable for various reasons, though short. I have not written much about it, but I think I will one day. Anyway I boarded the train to Dadar TT…

Well, Bombay life was definitely testing, and I was soon even more frustrated. So after four years there, I moved to Bangalore. I had written a couple of blogs on those days, but it can be quite voluminous if I chose it to be, for such were the days. So much happened, I was restless, though, still seeking something, but knowing not what it was.

By then moving was becoming a mere formality, lugging my steel trunk and holdall and boarding a train (See my blog about this Bangalore experience) to the next destination was all there was in terms of activity ( sometimes I would pay heed to my mom’s advice – do not travel on Tuesdays & Fridays, check the rahukalam etc, sometimes not). The trunk and holdall was all I had.

Not for long though. I got married after moving to Bangalore. Hopefully we would settle down, maybe even buy a home there in the distant future, or so we thought, as we would zip back and forth on our Ind Suzuki through Sankey road and commercial and Brigade and Jayanagar and all those places. Soon I realized how difficult that could be, with the meager salary that was paid in those days and the nomadic gene started twitching again. The iron trunk which was my faithful companion had by now rusted away and not fashionable anyway, the holdall was moth eaten and the rubber was peeling off.

A lucky break took us to Saudi Arabia and that was home for the next seven plus years. My trunk and holdall were of course not suited for ‘forigin’ travel and I had a wife and son in tow. So a trip was made to brigade road and a second hand (believe me pals – it is no bluff) suitcase was purchased. I still remember it, a blue soft shell suitcase, a rarity in those days when all the local market had to offer was the VIP line of hard-shelled suitcases. The Riyadh period was indeed the most remunerative of times, but it was nevertheless, not a home as a ‘hindi’ expat. After the 91 gulf war raged forth and after we experienced a near hit by a scud missile, and the adrenaline rush finally settled, life stabilized. But it was already becoming the longest stay of our lives and I soon got thinking about our next destination. The children were growing up, but I was not sure which direction I should take in continuing my travails.

But that was clarified soon, and settling on a north westerly route, we soon found ourselves living in glorious Istanbul. It was soon to prove to be a fascinating five plus years, for we enjoyed living in that vast metropolis, knowing the people and learning a smattering of the totally different language. I wrote quite a bit about my days there, but many of those ramblings are still lying as bits and bytes in a folder for hopeful future consumption, read by only a couple of people I know. I cannot but think back often about our friends, about our days of joyful goofing around in that vast city with so many avenues to explore and stories around each corner.

But life is life, the children grew up and schooling in Istanbul was becoming a problem, so we decided to cross the oceans again, this time the Atlantic and found ourselves in sunny Florida. But by now, moving was a daunting task, for it meant packers, movers, hotel stays, apartment stops and closing and opening of accounts and many other obligations. But as all this was happening I realized one thing. The friends that we started with, the friends we collected over the way, the friends we made and the friends we knew from childhood were all drifting away. Communication was still over letters and phone calls and the internet was only starting to take root. As we became older, we realized that making new ‘real’ friends, especially in America was proving to be a very difficult task, and something that you really had to go about as a task, to reach a conclusion. But thanks to one bright lady, we met by chance; we ended up in a very nice circle in Florida.

As they say, you never know, but a twist of fate soon got us traveling again, eastwards this time, fortuitously across the Atlantic, to the ‘Blighty’, to England. It was a quick two years in England, but very illuminating. This was about the time that history took a hold of me. But well, the green pastures, the prim and proper people, the gloomy weather and other reasons got mey feet twitching again, though the cricket ball and bat tried its best to hold us back. This spurt of low voltage current across the left and right parts of the brain through the various neurons helped me decide that the next port of call was to be California. Soon enough, we were in warm, dry and fiery California.

As I started blogging, I finally found a way of making new friends, friends like you readers, and many others who chose to communicate directly with me, though taking me to a virtual world. It took a while to adjust, but well, we were in California and there it was, during the last three years that I continued writing, studying history in spare time and discussing various issues with many of you I have never met or even knowing if I ever will. As I said many of the friends over the years had drifted out of contact, some had their own new circles, but new ones were acquired over time. But it was all very important to me, for they keep you company, they keep you going, especially the steadfast ones.

The forest fires, the smoke, the heat, the tequilas, the tacos, the fast roads and numbing traffic jams, the maze of highways and the Spanish lifestyle of California could not hold me long though. The packers and movers were in business again, coz Maddy was again on the move. Last week, we moved again, right across the US to North Carolina… As the movers and packers arrived and saw the various stickers and boxes they had to repack, they asked where I was previously. As I told them of the various destinations, I could see fascination, disbelief and surprise in many of those faces. They must have been thinking, what a crazy ‘loco’ this chap is… Oh! As you can see I am getting mixed up. You never say chap in USA, it is too British a usage. Only in Indian military circles, private schools and Britain (and old British colonies) would you come across this usage

It is colder here in North Carolina, and everything is hidden behind glorious trees. The place is quite pretty, though we do not know if the people match up. Autumn has set in and the trees have taken beautiful shades of orange and red, dropping leaves to lay soft mats of vegetation on the ground. The days are sometimes sunny, but chilly and the people speak with a distinctive southern twang. I am back to regular office work after a horrible few months working from home (I simply hated it). The place is definitely less remote compared to California (in terms of people and their aloofness) and there are plenty of Desi’s and related activities. Here I guess, there is less likelihood that I will be taken for a Hispanic. This is the first time we are alone, with the children doing their stuff in different parts of America. Until now they were all patiently traversing the world with me, thankfully so. One might ask, what were the reasons for each move, why did you choose to spend periods living out of suitcases? It was ambition in part, it was the desire to see the unseen, the desire to explore, but at times, it was not my choice and once it was even heartwrenching and traumatic.

Maybe now we will buy a home, maybe we will end up liking life here and maybe we will settle down this time, finally.So many maybe's, but then who knows what life has in store? Hopefully we will make new friends and hopefully many of you will remain steadfast. Until then thank you all for keeping me company, and for being my world….

Reporting from Raleigh North Carolina, Nov 2009…….

Pics - Off the web - Thanks uploaders, especially L Henry for the Autumn in N Carolina...


mangad said…
Welcome to the South, Maddy.
gauri said…
As always, a wonderful account. It's nice to have lived in so many different places, isn't it? We've moved quite a bit ourselves (7 different places in 9 years). I've always looked forward to the new places, but the thought of unpacking and boxes still gives me nightmares. Enjoyed reading this :)


PS: And maddy, congratulations on being a Desipundit contributor! Took me completely by surprise - not because you're a contributor now, but because you weren't one all this time. To me, for some reason it was a given that this blog just had to be a part of DP!
Urs....Jina said…
Cool.Now I might sound crazy.But thats the kind of life I want to live. Not just travel and see places, but actually live there and experience the culture and view the world through a different lens.I think very few people get chances like that.So I guess ur lucky in that way!!
Pass me some of the charm..;)
Happy Kitten said…
nd because of your "itching' feet we now get to read all those experiences and insights... nd in such a wonderful manner even this piece has been written...

I think you may wind up your journey in India... maybe the exotic Wayanad or Calicut or Palghat :)
Maddy the nomad - sounds good. Nice one, Maddy.
Bea Walker said…
An account of living in Istanbul please - sounds fascinating....
Indrani said…
Truly a nomad!
Wishing you the best!
Vijay said…
You're back in the south Maddy- different country, different continent, but South nevertheless. Welcome!

Once you learn that "Ya'll" is singular and "All ya'll" is plural, people who have finished their careers have "retard", you fix a "flat tar" if your car runs over a nail, the trees you see around you are "pan" especially "Joejia pan", and you develop a taste for "fraad chikin" and grits, you're home!
JK said…
Wow! Looks like you have not lived in South America and Australia. So maybe some more travel..
Srivalli said…
Enjoyed your accounts of so many travels!..I guess it must really be so exciting to have traveled so many places!
Bindhu Unny said…
Maddy, you have captured your nomadic life very well. A true global citizen!
harimohan said…
dear maddy ,
an intresting trajectory ,you have made your presence felt from east to the west
( but did you miss Abudhabi ? )
now all you need to do is to the west east sojourn through japan
( not your business trips )
Maddy said…
Thanks VG, Raji & Indrani..
Amidst home hunting and settling in, I find little time to do anything else so please forgive me for the somewhat tardy responses..After we settle down I will get back to normal speed..
Maddy said…
Thanks gauri - My articles did appear on desi pundit previously but I was never a formal contributor.
Maddy said…
Urs Jina - ah! in that respect I count myself lucky, I did spend a decent amount of time in all those places. if you are destined for travel, you will, that is how it is..
Maddy said…
Thanks HK - You think so? i think so too. But when is the moot point ..soon or much later.. let's see..
Maddy said…
Thanks Bea - there are a few articles on Turkey posted, Pls check under category - Turkey. i will post a few more soon.
Maddy said…
Vijay - I am getting the hand of the twang now...yup am in the south now..

Thanks Bindu, Srivalli, many more stories yet to come - keep reading

Thanks JK - South America, Japan, Russia and Australia...who knows..
Maddy said…
Hari - I have not lived in the gelf though I have visited many times and spent many days with friends. Including Abu Dhabi, Sharjah & Al Ain. Know the place well, but not the new dubai..with all the high rises.
narendra shenoy said…
Superbly written as usual! I always start my comment thinking "let me make some critical observation now" and find that I haven't a single one. Loved this
Siddharth said…
Very nice and gentle post. Nice pics too. How did you manage to adjust to new place so quickly? You are truly a world traveller...something like the sindbad of new age :)
Dear Maddy, A fascinating account of your life's journey through different places! Though you hold your inimitable and witty style in writing this, I can understand the travails you have had ovr the years. It made me think of mine about which I intend to write sometime. I may soon be returning to India.

Wish you a great time in Carolina.

warm greetings for the approaching winter!

kind regards,
Kamini said…
What a lovely read this was! There is nothing like traveling around and living in different places to open up one's mind, to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the world and its cultures, and also to see how similar they are in many ways. Good luck in your latest move!
Anil Nair said…
Maddy - an interesting note.

Particulary when you think about the history repeating as a dad thinks about the education of the kids. Your dad sent you to relatives - you decided to move..

Maddy said…
Thanks narendra...And Murali..
today we have half a foot of snow, as I reply this..but Carolina seems to be an engaging place..where the roots are slowly taking hold
Maddy said…
Thanks kamini and Anil..

Today there are vast opportunities, In my dad's time, it was a daunting task i suppose, to move beyond borders

Popular Posts

Head facing north

Tipu, Unniyarcha and Wodeyar – truth or fiction?

The Monsoons of Kerala

Kuriyedathu Thathriyude SmartaVicharam

The Kohinoor Diamond