EARLY MEMORIES:Lacking an ancestral background

When I was about 5 years old, my sister and I were taken to Ceylon by my parents. Apparently we travelled as deck passengers on a Japanese freighter. I have no memories of that journey. Obviously, it was the cheapest way to travel. Since, as children, we were customarily denied the right to ask our parents about matters beyond our own activities, I never enquired about the facilities for sleep, and daily functions such as excretion and washing/bathing.

A female relative of my vintage, however, told me about a decade ago that she, as an adult, had been a deck passenger; and that necessary facilities had been available. What a way to travel!

A sad aspect of the culture into which I was born is that I know nothing about my parents’ formative lives, and how our ancestral family lived. With no feeling about our historical past, the persistent focus on the present, with an eye on a wanted (or hoped for) future, I sought to understand our historical religio-cultural heritage; ie. the Dravidian Hinduism of India.

What I remember of that journey to Jaffna was tripping, and nearly falling into Colombo Harbour in the dark. In our family-home terrain, I remember only a courtyard in my maternal grandfather’s home, and dusty roads; but no people. I must have been a dopey kid.

But I distinctly remember my sister coming onto the verandah adjacent to the courtyard with a piece of thosai in her hand; and her loud indignant complaint when a crow (raven?) swooped down and stole her food.

I also recall a trip to a pool said to have healing powers. Although I was not told, it was my father who sought healing. Back in Malaya, my father was subsequently operated on by a visiting British surgeon. The 3 other patients who had been operated on the same day, died. My father survived (apparently with some difficulty) until age 47.

So, at age 18, I lost the rudder I needed for my future. With no knowledge or feeling about my ancestral heritage, I was ready to be cast, relatively culture-free, onto a totally foreign culture, which was strangely unwelcoming.

Since a yogi had foretold my ‘exile’ (but somewhat obliquely) there had to be a veiled agenda, if not meaning, in this sudden and most painful turn in my life-path on Earth.

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