On a visit to Coimbatore a place where I had spent two years a few decades ago, I was overtaken by the desire to visit my old home. Nostalgia overtook logic, and I went searching for old landmarks with the eagerness of a child waiting to open a gift. Although I had seen many old landmarks disappear like portions erased from a painting around my own childhood -home now lost in the multitude of commercial establishments, I was still the eager beaver. I confidently asked my cab driver to take me to the ‘Puliyamaram’ (Tamarind tree) in K.K Pudur which was and remains a famous landmark for reasons unknown. The lane next to this tree led to my home which was on the top portion of an independent house rented out by the owner’s relatives who lived on the first floor. A flight of steep stairs from the side of the house led to our portion which had a small open terrace from where we could see the hill that housed the famous ‘Maridhamalai’  temple of Lord Murugan. It had independent houses with a mix of Tamil and Malayalam speaking people and a faint old worldly feel about it and I was waiting to catch a glimpse. Not all places would have changed I reasoned.

When the driver pointed out the ‘Puliyamaram’ my excitement knew no bounds. There it stood as majestic as ever but everything around it had changed beyond recognition. A swank new hospital building and several commercial establishments could be seen but none that I could recall from my past. I happily noted that my Tamil teachers (the name boards of shops from where I learnt to read Tamil) hadn’t changed. Some of them had names in English but there were still shops that had names only in Tamil. Except for the tree and the Tamil boards, I could not lay claim to knowing anything else even remotely. After two rounds in the narrow lane next to the tree where small eating places and apartments had sprung up, my attempts to make a past connection failed miserably. The cab driver asked me if I wanted to try the next lane, but I knew it was pointless. My past years came back to me like a flash…. the people I had known, the places we visited, the mix of Malayalam and Tamil films on Cable TV, the lovely weather and the pride the locals took in the ‘Siruvani Thanni’(water from the Siruvani river). These memories remain in a place called yesterday and can only be gleaned in old photographs and memories captured in the ‘mind’s eye’, I realised for the umpteenth time. Like the Puliyamaram only memories remain unchanged.