Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Other

I was dining with four learned men only the other day.

And learned indeed they were, truly men of the world.

A little afar, sat huddled, almost afraid

The expatriate family.

Who they were, we knew not.

But this we knew, and knew above all else,

who they were not: Us.

They were The Other.

Thus spoke the first learned man:

Look there, if you will

Those people, over there

I've seen cleaner cattle, you know.

Said, the second learned man:

(And he was keen with numbers, as good as they come.)

They drain off what little we have,

And give but little in return.

The third learned man,

He was a man for order, apparently

for he pointed to their crying child,

and said something about lack of discipline.

And the fourth learned man,

he was a man of Religion.

He spoke with intensity,

of their corruption and ineptitude.

Thus they spoke, those wise men

Men of the world, who knew many a thing

But hadn't yet learned, in their long years

to see the man at the other side of the wall.

The expatriate child, noisy and unruly,

Running around our table, oblivious to contempt, as yet.

She plucks a flower from a potted Rose,

And smiling like an angel, she gives it to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

That City

My time here is coming to an end.

Tomorrow, I'll be back to the city.

That city: with its polluted air, noise, the filth, and its total lack of kindness.

That city: with its beaches I love, civic amenities I value, theaters I frequent, libraries I visit.

That city, with its people: The confident, the suave, the hapless, the lost.

That city of endless demonstrations and the consequent break-down of order, while the law chooses to look the other way.

That city, with its dark obsession with people's private lives.

That city, with its palpable lack of enthusiasm and enterprise: where corner-shops remain closed on Sundays.

That city, with its pathetically repressed sexuality, where women are groped in broad daylight.

That city, where pedestrians fall into potholes, and die.

That city, which has my sweat and tears flowing through its sewers.

That city, where I once met a woman, and knew love.

That city, which I refer to as mine, but in truth belongs to no one.

Nobody's city.

That city, which I didn't think I'd ever come to miss.

Friday, July 3, 2009

How to save money at Aryanadu

I think its time now for some light-hearted stuff, after all that somber death-talk of the past week:

Something happened last week, that left me suddenly without the cash surplus I maintain at Aryanad. This being a place without ATMs, and I having left my bank pass-books back at the city, I had to push the week off with just whatever money I had on my person: One 500 rupee note I keep folded under the driving license, precisely for times like these, and loose change in 10s and 20s not amounting to more than 100.

I plan to change my 500 into smaller denominations, and then squeeze every penny until it cried for mercy.

I begin with the lone internet cafe in town, that doubled as a cultural center and recreation club for the youth. It has two not-too-new computers with a not-too-fast net connection that keeps on getting disconnected at least once every 30 min.

But that doesn't seem to deter the (predominantly) late adolescent crowd that has made this place their hang-out.

I can see the impressive boys and the impressionable pretty young ladies exchanging glances, and sometimes I see a notebook left casually by a girl, only to be picked up minutes later by some bright-eyed boy smiling ear to ear. I love this crowd.

I think they look at me as someone who has absolutely no interest whatsoever in their life, that I, being the dr, would never have run after a girl or been simply starstruck when after months of chasing around I received that most important smile of my life.

They give me a wide berth, never making me having to wait for net access, and cutting down on the profanity-ridden 'manly' talk with me around. But that apart, they think I am part of the furniture. So they seem to have no problem with freely interacting, exchanging glances and letters right under my nose.

I have read that in ancient Egypt the women royals had no qualms about undressing in front of their male slaves. De-humanisation can happen in both directions I guess.

I wish I could come out of this shell they wish to see me in, and share their laughter.

But I believe its a sin to kill a mockingbird, and I let them be.

So, at the 'Aryanad cultural centre', I use the net for a half-our, and offer the 500. The cashier respectfully hands me back the money, apologizing for not having change, and asking me to pay next time I go there, whenever that is.

Now I did have a 10 rupee note with me, but until I could change my 500, I was not going to part with it if I could help it.

Next I go to the small hotel where I have my lunch on most days. Have the usual, that costs around 25, and offer the 500.

Same: They handle the money back, THEY apologize for not having change, and so will I please pay next time I go, whenever that is.

I start to get the hang of things.

I needed some balm for my aching arm. Same there.

The bike needed a little tinkering from the mechanic. Same.

I love this crowd.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird

"I'd rather you shot at tin cans, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit them, but remember its a sin to kill a mockingbird"..