April 30, 2005

noise

…where i live

a bird cries, no two

dogs bark and fight

like the drunkards

at night.

in the orange

daylight

bursting with heat

(35 degrees c)

an auto rattles

to life.

shutters go up

clanging

metal against metal

the garage

opposite

is open for work.

engines roar

put-put and hum

and roar again

white water jets

on to machine parts

piercing, washing

the grease away.

buses

accelerate

not moving

raising dust clouds

off the road.

nearby,

a pump stutters

loud water

gushes and spurts

from the square well

coughing into

an empty metal tank

for four hours

at least.

the bullet

lot of them

in fact,

thunder up and down

the single lane.

in the kitchen

a loose lid slips

over vapours

of hot rice.

outside a crow

caws into my ear

lying

that a guest will come home.

ladies in blue

at noon

work their hands

over me

their mouths

never cease

sharing gossip

gasping, laughing

like the fan

whirring overhead.

more voices float in

just then

high pitched and violent

incomprehensible.

my neighbour

(with his right-side,

paralysed)

competing over

the ten tv boxes

on our floor.

eighty channels

ten different moods

to suit every room.

a remote control

falls from nodding hands

batteries and plastic

all over the place.

on the street

where i live

a morcha, muslims

hundreds of them

march together

for a long time

shouting slogans

wriiten on little printed chits

in their hands

i watch

from the fourth floor

ugly traffic lagging

behind them

honking, grinding

braking…

a police siren

screeches through

the cacophony

for the rest

of the day.




April 22, 2005

ahh, grandma’s tales…

fascinating.

that’s what i think about the people of kerala. the women especially are intense and have so many secrets (to share)…be it gossip about a neighbour or someone in their own family, stories are fanned over the flames in the kalladuppus (stone/mud stoves) in the kitchens, until the perfect recipe is concocted. and yet like kaangoshtee or chinese whispers, there will be no final version.

i have been to my achchamma’s house only occasionally. but everytime she has a story for me to take back. just like it is for most grandchildren whose grandparents live far away. for me, evenings in kerala meant frequent powercuts and lots of creepy and tiny fluttery insects around the oil-lamps and candles. if i was lucky it would rain; i could stretch my hand out to catch the drops sliding down from the rooftops, and somehow manage to drench myself to the bone. then she would narrate stories of children who didn’t listen to their parents and what happened to them. if it was daytime, she would warn us of gandharvas catching our souls.

don’t go out in the hot sun, once a gandharva catches you he won’t want to leave…

and then she would go on to explain how gandharvas look for innocent young girls who wander about, trapping them into falling in love and not leaving their minds for a long long time. when they did, eventually, she would go on, the girl would have no memory of what had happened. while i looked on wide-eyed, imagining fine young gandharva princes roaming around unseen, she would add threateningly…

and they can take any form, mind you!

things had not changed much when we visited achchamma this vishu. there were the powercuts all evening accompanied by thunder and heavy rainfall. i had been waiting for a phonecall from praveen and, afraid that there would be a problem with the phone line (cell phones don’t work in the region either), picked up the receiver to check.

don’t use the phone kutti she cried out suddenly. assuming she wanted to tell me there was no ISD connection, i said i would use the booth down the road then.

it’s raining and there’s thunder and lightning in the sky too, don’t use any phone now. don’t you know what happened to old rehman’s wife? most of us laughed but she went on, punctuating her story with meaningful sighs…

rehman’s wife was talking to her son in dubai…he had been gone for long and she was missing him. (sighh)
just then there was lightning and it struck her through the receiver, killing her instantly. these things cannot be trusted you know…

the rest of the family was out in the verandah now catching some words from the story…my father (who was visiting her after two years) came in last and asked who the family was and what happened.

old rehman’s wife, the poor lady had been missing her son. (sigh)
one evening he called from dubai and she was just telling him to come back, when the lighting struck…
the old rehman remarried however, as soon as he could, to a girl half his age (long sigh…)

i guess i would have believed most of the story had she not concluded with…

nature has strange ways that cannot be laughed at. do you know? the poor woman’s words just when her son called were: “when will you come to see me son? after i am dead?” and that was when she fell.

i think my father got the clever message that evening. but now my mother does not allow me to use the phone when she hears a noisy sky! :-))




April 19, 2005

one day at a time

it’s difficult to put in words how i feel right now. with my email inbox full of updates by ex-colleagues — where they are and how well they’re doing — everybody busy, doing what they love to do…

i’m so very happy for them; today though, i’ll hold back my reply to them.

meanwhile, i’m learning to stick to a diet of fruits, vegetables and bitter medicines. i’m reading (ray bradbury), sleeping because i get tired very often (and it’s too hot!), waiting for the drawing books and learn-malayalam-series that my father has couriered from bombay, and another from praveen. it was humbling to request for a tv in the room because it sometimes gets too boring when i cannot get out; it was funny to learn we were on a long waiting list. i’m learning to use a cybercafe.

i’m learning to spend one day at a time, and not get frustrated over this forced-rest. and when i see the many other patients in my ward, some coming to terms with a recent accident and some learning to walk again, i am learning to count my blessings.




April 16, 2005

i’m back!

…online, that is, at least for now :-)

have missed out on a lot of reading, writing, email, and yes, praveen…but all that is for a good reason. i’m finally in india (right now, at kottakal) to sort out my back.

coming home was rather eventful, or should i say the homecoming was…with my sister and i having planned a surprise landing in front of our house in thane, you can imagine my parents were far from surprised. they were shocked. we were too, initially, when we saw the huge lock on the door and had to wait for another three hours, tired and weary from our over-24-hour-long journeys–one travelling on the train from chennai and the other flying from london. (thanks sanjeev, for the taxi-ride from the airport at four in the morning, and the cutting chais that followed soon after ;-)

first impressions of being back in mumbai were good, though weather-wise it was sweltering in comparison to the pleasant, budding spring i left behind in london. the roads have improved (however, not all of them are safe for my back condition), tall new buildings seem to have sprouted everywhere and the cost of living seems to be shooting up with every new shopping mall or multiplex (cinema) … not only are mumbaiites willing to pay; they are embracing the new lifestyle even before it’s here.

i’m no authority on countries and their ways of living, but having left mumbai four years ago, surviving the london winters and culture-contrasts, and looking at mumbai now, me thinks it’s a good sign. there is a lot to learn though, in terms of the little things that get left out when everyone is looking at the big picture. but i’m sure that will change too.

what i was glad didn’t change, was the medical system here. unlike in the uk, i wasn’t given six-/nine-month waiting times or handed a list of ugly side-effect-inducing-medicines. rs 10,000 and a week later, i came down to the south of kerala, armed with my medical reports.

for anyone who plans to visit this part of india, there cannot be a better time.
rains wash the hot earth every evening, birds fill the air and fly all over the place if a storm is approaching, brown and green fields are dotted with young banana plantations, their new leaves pointing to the clear blue sky…i spent vishu with my achchamma and cousins, waking up to the sound of firecrackers at five (and a snake that got into the compound), wearing new clothes and visiting age-old temples that seemed to be alive with tradition, drenching myself in the evening rain in spite of amused aunts and uncles asking me to get back in the house, listened to the *vishu-pakshi

*according to achamma, the bird has never been spotted by anyone but heard on the new year day (april 14); it flies over the countryside, asking people to sow seeds and work hard. it was eerie as i observed…other birds had fallen silent too, as if paying respect to its majestic cry.

i just realised i must be getting back to my room, so i’m cutting short on my entry for now. i also wanted to thank everyone for their kind wishes and words of encouragement over the past few days. now coming back to what i was saying…it’s my second day here at the kottakal arya vaidyasala. for the next 28 days, i have a diet to follow, yoga classes i can enrol in (after consulting with my doctors tomorrow), lot of books to read (more on this soon), restrictions -not to sit for long or move out of the hospital premises; not to forget the bitter-tasting medicines- one for every time of the day, and my mother for company.

i also, finally, have a high-speed internet connection ;-)