How important was your hometown in shaping who you are?

Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:

My hometown Tripunithura is located about 8km away from the bustling city of Ernakulam in Kerala, a state in southern India.

Though it is only 8km away, it is nothing like snazzy Ernakulam which is often touted as the fashion and commercial capital of Kerala. Tripunithura is a quiet town dotted with temples and old royal houses called kovilakoms that belong to the erstwhile ruling family of the Kingdom of Cochin. It is also known as the Temple Town of Kerala.

The peace and old-world charm of the quaint township attracts a lot of people and many people from other parts of Kerala have bought houses there and now claim to be from Tripunithura when asked about their native place. But the old families know how to differentiate the settlers from the locals.

Our family is originally from Tripunithura. Before the settlers came in, everyone knew each other in the town. And one of the easiest ways to identify a person originally from Tripunithura is to ask their family name. Once I went to a shop to get a picture framed. The owner was an old bespectacled man who crinkled his eyes at me. He didn’t recognize me and asked me, “Kutty evidutheya? (Where are you from,child?)” This question inevitably means that they want to know my family name. It does mean anything else. I told him my family name and immediately, his old face lit up in recognition. He asked me about my grandmother’s brothers and their whereabouts. They were childhood friends it seems.

So my identity is largely dependent on my roots in my hometown. Tripunithura was instrumental to a huge degree for me having a lot of pride in belonging to a particular family. Wherever I went, I was known as so-and-so’s niece, grand-daughter, daughter. There, people don’t care if I drive a fancy car or if I have stashed away millions in my bank account. The identity of the family matters a lot.

This also means that it is up to us to maintain the name of the family in society. We cannot afford to fool around. And this is not just for the girls of the family…the boys are held equally accountable. And we all take that responsibility very seriously.

Many old traditions and rituals are still very religiously followed in most of the old homes ( I don’t know and hence can’t say the same about the settlers) of Tripunithura. The annual temple festival at the Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple is held with much fanfare.

And people of Tripunithura take the festival very seriously. Many of them adjust their annual vacations in such a way that they could be there for the ulsavam. Things like this keep us firmly attached to our roots.

Even here on Quora, I have received a lot of comments and messages that express surprise at how much I know about ancient Kerala and it’s traditions and rituals. I would owe it all to the place where I was born in, to the family that raised me, to the strong roots that bind me for eternity to this place I call home. I admit. My family is very traditional, conservative and observes even the smallest of observances. Had I been born into a modern thinking family, I don’t know if I would have had the same interests.

Though I grew up abroad, my mother still tries to maintain the same kind of lifestyle that we would have led if we were living in Tripunithura…whether it is in our daily routines, our food, our prayer times…everything is exactly as it is back home. When we visit home, my sister and I never felt alienated in our surroundings. We knew what we had to do in every situation. We have been told that it doesn’t seem like we grew up outside India at all.

Until the end of time, I will eternally be thankful to God for having blessed me to have been born as a native of Tripunithura. I wouldn’t have been who I am today if it were not for this beautiful little piece of heaven on earth ^_^

How important was your hometown in shaping who you are?

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