Recently I had made a two week trip to my gaon. ‘Gaon’ usually refers to the place you “come from”.
In Bombay, the city of migrants, ‘gaon’ is anyplace that is out side the city limits.
“tera gaon kaun sa hai?”
Is it a Maharashtrian influence…I wonder. Because, if conversing with a Maharashtrian, s/he would invariably ask, ‘tumhi kutley ho?” K tells me that Malayalees used to ask “which rajiyam are you from?” A throwback to the days of the state of Travancore, and Madras Presidency, perhaps.
Recently, at one of the weddings I was attending, a man asked me, “ Ningal evidena?” (Where are you from?) For a second, Ambernath, Bombay, Tellicherry, Calicut, Farook, and even Vaani flashed in front of my eyes. Stumped, I called out Accha!! and my identity fell in place. (We Indians as a whole are obsessed with finding out the antecedents of anyone we come in contact with. . )
Beherhaal. Back to our gaon. I had always referred to Tellicherry in Kerala as ‘mera gaon’. But I had never really thought about its connotations till Aj and Pr came back from a visit to Kerala, and asked, “why do you keep calling Tellicherry a gaon? Its a proper town.”
Another term in use is ‘native place’. We may go to the best universities, live in the most cosmopolitan cities, and yet be a ‘native’ belonging to some place.
I think technically I am a native of Ambernath, having spent a extraordinarily large part of my life there. But I was born in Ulhasnagar. All my forms mention ‘Kerala’ as my native place, which is actually a state. My native place could be Tellicherry, but it finds no mention anywhere. There is the confusion of “belonging to Maharashtra”, and “being a Maharashtrian”….are they the same or are they different? Historically my ‘community’ people actually came from Sri Lanka ages ago…..But if I go to a foreign country, I end up being a native of India….so there!
“Home town” is another reference. Which place is really your home town? The town where your home is, where your parent’s home is, the place you married into, or the place where your ancestral house is, and where now your cousin’s grandchildren stay?
My Calcutta cousins refer to our gaon as “desh”. “Hum iss saal desh jayenge.”
But I think when it comes to referring “the place you come from” the urdu/ hindustani word ‘mulk’ stands out. Mulk is far more encompassing, gathers a lot more space, and even a bit of sky. 🙂 The Malayalam word “nadu” carries the same connotation, but with my usage, it invariably reminds me of…once again, gaon!
‘Mulk’ is btw, best expressed in bambaiyaa:
“Tumhara muluk kidhar hai?”