Archives for posts with tag: home

My grandfather Motiram settled in Chiang Mai, working first at a watermelon farm and saving his earnings to purchase the beginnings of his small business in textiles. He started very small, and took his bolts of fabric to communities that were not used to commerce and opportunity coming to them. The people of the hill tribes around Chiang Mai became his loyal customers and also his friends. I believe they — Motiram and the hill tribe people — must have shared an understanding of what it meant to be outsiders, immigrants, people in search of community and home.

 

His idea came in a flash,

the momentary blindness that

comes from looking at the sun,

even just for seconds.  When

the spots of light floated away,

he saw what he could do.

His investment:  three bolts

of cloth, one under each arm,

one tied to his back, and a

shiny pair of scissors, hung

by a string from his waist,

catching the sunlight as they

swung back and forth.

 

When they saw him coming,

leaning into the hill, arms

full, something shiny

dangling along, they

were curious.  And when they

understood that he had

brought this cloth to sell,

they were surprised.  He was

not asking for anything –

no food, no shelter for sleep,

no favors at all.  He was

bringing something.  No

one did this.

 

The villagers ran for

their money.  Hidden

away, buried in the dirt,

rarely used.  They gathered

around the man.  As he cut

the fabric with a zip of his

scissors, the women’s eyes

sparkled with the vision of

children darting about, bright

clothes swirling, of husbands

in fresh shirts, even of themselves

draped in flowing color.

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My grandfather Motiram left far northern India when he was a very young man. He came from a poor family and was seeking a better life. He was a Hindu, and the part of India where his family lived later became Pakistan. Many in my family have told the story of his travels to Thailand, looking for a new home. It sounds like an epic journey, one that defined who my grandfather would be for the rest of his life. What he did not know was that the journey also defined his children and grandchildren and how we see ourselves in the world — as people who came from somewhere, even if we are still seeking a place to call home.

Motiram had travelled far,

and he was tired.

He had carried his pack –

everything that was his –

over mountains, across

salty ocean, farther and

farther away with each step

from what he knew.  Would

he see India or his family

again?  He met whole

worlds of people along

the way.  They had their own

language and food and

laughter.  They were kind.

But in the black night, he

listened to the rustle

of bats and the hum

of mosquitoes, and felt

the empty pit of loneliness.

What Motiram did not know

was that the next morning

the sun would rise and he

would set out again.  That just

over the next mountain

was a place he would someday

call home, people he

would call his community.

Looking back, he would not

be able to point to a day

when this happened. It did

happen.  And though he

could remember the lonely

night before, it was the many

happy days at home that

slipped so quickly by.