I haven't posted here in a long time. Somehow the memories didn't seem so important and my words not at all compelling!
There is one more memory from that childhood visit to my aunt's farm, which shocked and upset me then. That was my first instance of seeing untouchability at close quarters (or at least my first clear memory). The fields were being harvested and the rice fields were full of workers. At that time they too were fed by the house. So, at noon, I saw them all sitting down in a long line in the front yard away from the house. As I watched, each of the people sitting on the ground made a hole in the ground in front of them (this was in the Mavelikara side of Kerala, where the topsoil is almost like sea sand). Then the holes were lined with leaves and they were then served with 'kanji'--rice gruel into these holes, which they ate with spoons made from folded jackfruit leaves. I was really upset. I remember asking my aunt why they had to eat like that, why did they not have some vessel to have the 'kanji' in. She explained to me that they were from the lowest castes and could not be given food in our vessels.
I am really glad to say that that was the last time I saw anything like that. This would have been in the early '50s. After that I must say Kerala progressed rapidly. Elected Communist governments certainly improved the lot of people a great deal, bringing in education for all and really helping the lower castes feel a sense of pride in themselves and a sense of hope for the future. Now, belonging to the Backward classes is not something to be hidden because of all the benefits, chief of which is reservation of course. Now, each caste works hard to get the 'backward' tag attached! What a change!!