Visiting Penang, Malaysia, recently, I was struck by a pang of homesickness, stronger than ever.
Our first evening there was spent visiting three Hindu temples – Waterfall Hill Bala Thandayuthapanai Temple (ThaNNeer Malai Kovil), Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple and Nattukottai Chettiar Sri Muruga Temple. These three temples were quite farther away from the Georgetown City Centre and the calmness and the quietness in the locality lent an added divinity to these temples. Right below the Waterfall Hill Muruga temple, there were organizations like Hindu Mahajana Sangam, a Tamil school and Gandhi Peace Centre which were housed in small buildings. But for the Malay nameplates for these buildings, it wouldn’t have been surprising if someone had forgotten that they were not in Tamil Nadu, but were in a faraway country.
Some of the temples in Penang date back to more than a hundred years and temples like Sri Mariamman temple date back to 1833! Seeing our culture and traditions intact there, I wondered how it would have been back then.
No aeroplanes, no telephones, no WhatsApp to help you constantly stay in touch with your family back home. What made those people leave their home, board ships and migrate to a faraway island which practically didn’t have much back then? How many days did it take for them to reach this place from their home? How many times did they actually visit their home again? It obviously wouldn’t have been as easy as boarding a flight and reaching your home in just 4 hours!
As they were trying to recreate a piece of their home in an unknown place by following their culture and traditions and building temples for worshiping their deities, how did they handle the life here amidst unknown people from different countries and their longing for the life back at home? As the years passed by, did they miss their home more and more or did they learn to seek comfort in their new life and get settled there happily?
As thoughts after thoughts raced through my mind, I eventually realized that my thoughts were no longer about those people who migrated more than a century back, but it was more about only my own thoughts and feelings.
It could be visiting a place like this or it could be something as simple as listening to
en veeDu thaai Tamizh Naadu enre sollaDaa
en naamam Indian enre enrum nillaDaa
You never know when you feel that pang of homesickness triggered within you!