How I Forged a Rewarding Friendship with Squirrels in Paramakudi

Published: 11th September 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th September 2015 12:20 AM   |  A+A-

It is difficult to get acquaintances in new surroundings with a different culture and language. I am in Paramakudi, Ramanathapuram, hundreds of kilometres away from my home town in Kerala. It is a familiar scenario in households in Kerala these days as more and more parents eschew their belongings in villages and towns and opt for the company of their offsprings for a variety of reasons. Sociologists have already started research into this phenomenon of ‘parental migration’. Our son was much accommodative as he was alone during the commencement of his career as Sub Collector in a region like Paramakudi. It is on the southern banks of river Vaigai, a small town lying along the Madurai-Rameswaram National Highway.

In the Tamil Classical literature, land is classified into five categories and the last one is palai (desert land), separation and agony being the emotional features associated with it. Palai is the ideal nomenclature for geography of this area. It is a dry barren land, full of kattu karuvel (Prosopys Cineraria) trees; even though agriculture is still practised with the aid of huge water tanks. It being a dry and unproductive land, migration is a phenomenon here. This barren topography has literally influenced the behaviour of people living here, making them predisposed towards violence and emotionally charged reciprocation.

There is an undercurrent of turbulence and caste-related violence in the genes of the land. Recent history of Paramakudi is a sad commentary of caste conflicts, resulting in deadly attacks and reprisals. Only a slight provocation is required to ignite a major flare-up. During the last century, more than a dozen tragedies had occurred. The latest flare-up was on September 9, 2011.

During my initial days of inertia here, I tried to engage with those in the Camp office. As an ordinary Malayali, I was eagerly waiting for loose talk. But they were always busy and dedicated to their work. The daffadar had seen at least a dozen IAS Officers in his over four-decades-old career and is privy to every movement in the corridors of power. The guard-in-arms has a rare distinction of being a practising martial artist. The driver is an ex-serviceman who is either driving or cleaning the vehicle whenever he is on duty. The Camp Assistant is a Sourashtra Brahmin whose ancestors had moved into the banks of Vaigai during the 12th century and established their weaver community and those products are much in demand even today.

The Camp office is surrounded by a number of neem trees. Most often I would wander around the vegetation. It is an enchanting world of squirrels whose playfulness is an ever-refreshing sight. They are disturbed by your presence and the frail creatures would throw a silly look and vanish. The tender bodies and bushy tails always in motion, they would open their eyes, giving you an idea of their sense of vision. The neem seeds are their favourite food. Gradually, a sense of understanding and mutual trust has been developed between us. Their calm temperament and easy-going ways have helped me overcome my homesickness. This social animal has the finest sound modulations and that is music to my ears when I am alone. No wonder that Lord Rama had caressed them as a reward of their service in his hours of peril. That their ancestors had achieved something that was humanly impossible is written large on their looks. Of course, Dhanushkody is not far away.

Descending the neem trees head-first in top gear, they would slip over my legs rubbing my feet with their soft and silky fur, energising my fallen spirits. They are my most valuable acquaintances now. These peace-loving creatures lead a meaningful life of co-existence with human beings all around. I hope they are the real the harbingers of peace and tranquility in this place.

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