Jeya & the hills
by Aarthi G.
Vinay, who never fails to light my way
Jeya loved going to Madurai. Why she loved it, she didn’t know. In fact she didn’t know that the warm feeling that engulfed her, as the train crossed the Vaigai river and the station sign reading “Madurai” in three different languages came slowly into view, was love. There were always cousins awaiting her family’s arrival at the railway station. She didn’t know how blessed she was to have people come and receive until many years later.
Jeya lived with her Amma, Appa and her brother babu in Bombay and every summer she looked forward to their visit to Madurai. Although she missed her Bombay friends and the aimless frolicking, Madurai was always like a treasure box and it thrilled her to open it every single time. The Madurai visit normally meant visiting every relative for a day or for a longer stay of about a week. But the base was always with Bamba and Baba, her appa's elder brother and wife, the two people she loved most after her parents. One of the must-dos during her stay was a week-long visit to Mama’s house on the outskirts of Madurai. Thirunagar bus stop no.5, that’s how she remembered it and everyone got down with glee at stop no.5.
Mama’s sons and their only daughter were all grown up so it was not them that made the visit so much fun but it was the joy of all cousins visiting mama’s house together. The elders would cook together and later settle down for a nap or ready themselves for a game of Ludo. Oh yes money was always involved! Meanwhile Jeya and her cousins would ready themselves for another visit to the “hills”.
Just beyond the last house on the street was the start of the gentle slopes of the hills. Every visit to the hills was a happy run among the huge rocks that made up the hills, a pit stop at a small ancient temple and finally reaching the top from where you could see the tiny villages on the other side. It was like discovering something wonderful every time. Jeya and gang would make two bottles of cold sugar sweet orange Trinka, a few pouches of oily potato chips to go along and a few other knick knacks bought at the corner shop at the bus stop which all added to the excitement. Thus went the summer holidays.
A few years went by and cousins started thinning out. A few got married, others moved to far off places for jobs and their visits didn’t often coincide with Jeya’s visit. This lessened Jeya’s visit to the hills too; alone, the hills were not as green and she started to sense the villages on the other side crouching up the hill.
Now Jeya is married and lives in a distant country. Somehow living in another country made her realize how much she belonged to the tiny town of Madurai, to Thirunagar bus stop no. 5 and to the hills. She promised herself the next time she traveled to India, she would visit the hills again.
This time Mama and Mami were alone, son’s and daughter in their respective homes and no cousins to tag along, Jeya was all set to make it alone this time. The walk to the hill was paved with concrete road and not the dirt road which had always been inviting. This somehow did not bode very well. That road cut right across the hill; the hills were gone. Civilization had taken over. Homes, grocery stores, slaughter houses were built and people of the new village walked about.
It broke her heart to see that; "Oh well", she thought “that’s what human’s do isn’t it? We take new land, build on it, live on it and then some more...”. She returned with sadness,she now only had the happy memories of it in her heart. The Hills had flattened.