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Grade 6 English Reading for Enrichment

A visit to India

Leela was feeling rather excited. She had never visited her relatives in India before and here. She was in her mother’s hometown of Trivandrum. She was alone in this foreign country as none of her family members in Singapore were able to make the trip with her. Feeling adventurous, she had decided to make a solitary trip here. She felt that she could experience the culture of this small Indian fishing village more fully without the constraints that her family’s presence would place on her.

Leela’s flight from Singapore to Kerala had been uneventful, as had been her bus ride from the airport to Trivandrum. However, as she stood at the edge of this Trivandrum Lodge, Leela was filled with a thrill of expectancy. She was finally at the treasure-cove of her culture and origin.

Leela was greeted by her aunts and cousins as she entered the spacious hut that used to be her mother’s home. She immediately felt at ease among them. Although her relatives here in Trivandrum were simple fishing-folk, the gracious welcome they extended to her was most gratifying. Her aunts offered her traditional Indian sweetmeats as they sat with her and made heartfelt inquiries about her family’s well-being. Although struggling with the Malayalam dialect spoken here, Leela answered them warmly. Her relatives were, however, delighted with her sincere attempts at the language and proceeded to show her around the village.

It was not a very large village but it had a pleasant, cosy feel to it. There were about twenty huts, all located around a central well. Leela, who had never seen a well except on television, was amazed at its size: she had never seen anything quite so deep before! It was at this well that the villagers gathered to bathe, do their laundry and collect water for their cooking needs. Leela was initially apprehensive about bathing in public view, but she was sure that her month’s stay would make her accustomed to it as the villagers were. She could not, however, reconcile herself to having to use the village toilets. Although these were equipped with modern flush systems, they were situated in separate shelters which were not so well-built. Leela tried to curb her discomfort by reminding herself that this was all part of learning to adapt to a new environment.

By the time she got back to her relatives’ home in the late evening, her grandfather and uncles had returned from work. Although well into his seventies, her grandfather was a hardy man, conditioned by years of rowing fishing-boats in the open sea. The men’ schedules were pretty much the same every day. They took their fishing vessels out to sea in the wee hours of the morning and worked till midday. They would then return to the shore and sell their catch to the neighbouring village-dwellers and wholesalers alike. This would continue well into the evening, with the women helping to gut and clean the fishes.

Leela spent her first week at the village in contentment. She became a favourite among her relative and even joined them on the beach every day, heling to see the freshly caught fish which were their livelihood. Although she missed her family in Singapore, she knew that she would be most reluctant to leave the easy-going life of the village after month here.

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