KANA as the surname deceives you with the regionality and uncommonality of it, the KANA family of my ancestral home of maternal lineage at Elambachi, kasargod dist, kerala has so many tales to tell that are capricious and uncommon. The KANAs find it difficult to explain why they have a strange surname neither seen in Kerala nor in any other parts of the country. Some say it stands for KANHA (KANHAIYAA, Krishna)!! Yet we have passed this surname down the years without logic.
The KANAs are a family of artists and dreamers and seekers who to a great extent, to put it a little pessimistically, have failed to excel in their artistic field of interest. They are like the untrained, born rural bards who entertain those around but are left with emptiness by the twilight.
Not much informed about the earliest ancestors, to start from my childhood, I have seen my grandma, my mother, her brothers, sisters and uncles etc. displaying a vast variety of talents and life philosophy that I consider myself blessed to be born into a pan-Indian atmosphere in 1970s!! We have the eldest sister of my mother, who makes you laugh your heart out for the infinite variety of expressions she brings on her face. She has something to say about why the KANAs don’t succeed in anything. I don’t know how far it is true, according to her, it’s the result of a curse of someone whose expressions were mimicked for entertainment by one of the KANAs at a gathering. Though crushed by the ordeals of life, she has kept the unique smile of KANAs that steer them through. My mother, with her passion for music and her melodious voice, has kept her sense of humour high even though she has seen it all in life. Walking from the home at Elambachi crossing the river by ferry and reaching the school where she worked as teacher, it’s not been an easy journey for her. She has so many humorous anecdotes to share that she has heard from her father, the unsung musician of our home whose harmonium stopped at one of the many stormy moments he was used to. One of the cashew branches of the immense grove we had, bore the weight of his inclement fate on a strip of rope. His eldest son, my uncle, my mother’s brother had to start his career early in air force for the sake of the family and till his physical absence last month, he had kept a song on his lips that belittled every hardship he had been through. He had always brought me the pan Indian exposure by his humming of Bollywood numbers of those days. His frequent journeys on train brought him the nickname, Vandimaman!! Or to say, There is no KANA who hasn’t been familiar with the swinging distant sound of the train.

His brothers, one of whom a seeker of something or the other, a lover of music, once an organizer, then a theatrist, then a meditator, he is a confused seeker but quite talented. The third brother with his vast reading and uncompromising ideologies displayed at every stage the longings and frustrations of the then young generation. Once a cricket lover, then a gandhian, then an angry young man!! The two sisters, the elder one with her pure affection and deftness in grooming children can still bring a tear to your eyes when she welcomes you with a smile. I am blessed that I was looked after by her to a great extent in my childhood. She loves to narrate the tales of my mischiefs and bond with her. Her sister the youngest one in our family, with her flair for music and skill at mimicking makes our gatherings lively. She has a sharp sense of humour that light up our evening gatherings. May be we KANAs led a different life, or life on a different realm from the people of our locality and times.
We have strange nicknames too, you search for the meaning and you will never find any!! One got it from trains, another from vegetables, and someone from a special dish made of rice and cereals!!! We broke the grammar of addressing elders, uncles were addressed as brothers and aunties as sisters!! Life and times have drifted us apart and these days losses bring us together to ponder upon why is that blessing we badly seek lurks at some unknown corners. We are not people who are unshakeably optimistic. We always carry a percentage of emptiness even when we celebrate an achievement. We have our delirium tremens, our trance like ecstasy, our unbelievably untamable mood swings. Fear squeezes our bowels at crucial moments and we feel orphaned by our fate very often.

Those who have departed wait at the six feet brick crematorium under the May flower trees where the owl sits with a question on its face, the place where the river and its backwaters give you a strange vision of a late night get together of all of them. Whenever I bid goodbye to my dear ones there and walk back home, I feel like looking back. Whenever I do that I find all of them, grandma with tears rolling down, the boy who gasped for breath on a brutal afternoon of a north kerala monsoon in a quarry among the cashew groves, the sweet recluse who was opening up slowly and exited with a medical joke like cardiac arrest, the uncle with the songs on his lips, our Vandimaman…
I find them there, standing on the verandah of the one room godown, that stores coconut shells and dry wood, waving their arms with the KANA smile that time can’t wipe off. You see in their smile and compassionate eyes the loving message, “Take Care”. I look at them and feel the pain welling up within me…………… I feel HOME SICK!!!
—- By Santhosh Kumar Kana