Saturday, September 29, 2007

Crossings

The sun glinted on the moss-green water. The only sounds were of the oar on the water and the occasional bird caw. It was a long while since she had known this kind of serenity. Her mind emptied out, no niggling task to disturb it. No nagging ringtone, or the ping of the email. This was her time of cleansing her soul, washing out all the dark dinginess that had tainted it through the year. Her two weeks of complete ‘selfness’, where she was just with herself, her books, the water below and the sky above. And that delicious food, the unfamiliar vegetables – raw banana, yam, tapioca; the unpolished rice that was so healthy. She looked towards the shore she was passing. The coir-making looked tedious, but the lives out there seemed idyllic to her city eyes. The lush verdant green, the sloping tiled roofs, the washing hung out to dry; all spoke of a slow daily unchanging routine. She dreamt of that slowness, of savouring the moment, the words in front of her, the wind in her hair and the sunlight on her face. She wished this could be her world, somehow. That she could belong to one of those tiled roof houses, sit on the verandah and stare at the water as long as she liked.

Her eyes scanned the shore on the other side and she saw a young girl sitting under a tree. There was a vast expanse behind her and far beyond she could see another of those sloping tiled roofs. The young girl was wearing a skirt, a western style skirt. She was writing on a blue inland letter. She hadn’t seen one of those in ages. And the young girl was frowning, biting her pen, not looking too pleased.

She wasn’t too pleased. The sun beat down relentlessly. The flies were annoying. Even the sweetness of the mangoes did not pacify her. She had run away from the house after breakfast to sit near the kaayal. Soon her mother would be calling out to her to take her bath. Ammini would draw the water from the well for her. And if she wanted, though her mother would disapprove, she could get it heated up in the big brass cauldron in the bathroom. She disliked the bathroom, the hamam soap that came with it and the fact that she would have to use the water sparingly. The big house depressed her. There were dark grubby corners, the floor was rough and she had to sleep on a coir mat on the floor. The fan was a table fan and it was never enough to beat the heat. The rice she would have for lunch was not the white clean rice she was used to but the reddish one. There would be fish, always fish and all the horrid bones that came with it. She was writing all this down. To her father. Complaining. Telling him this was not how she wanted to spend her summer holiday. She had to be careful with the letter though. The last time she wrote a letter to her dad, her mother’s uncle had snatched it from her hand, proudly reading her English to his mother. Imagine, he would tell his mother, his grand-niece wrote and spoke English so well. Imagine him reading out this letter she was writing. It would break his heart.

She looked up towards the water. She saw one of those boats with a roof over it. She had never been in one of those. She always got to the house on a small boat. And she was always terrified of falling into the water in one of those. The boat with the roof seemed big and capable and completely safe. She could see a lady in there. Seemed like someone from far away, city-bred. Fair and slim. She was wearing one of those stylishly light cotton pants that came up to her calves. She looked like she was having a good time. She watched the boat slowly drift away. And wished she was her, that lady in the boat, watching the shore disappearing, moving away from this stiflingly slow world.

8 comments:

UL said...

Wonderful piece, cleverly done. Past and present of the same person comes together, She is so familiar, no - I should say I know her so well, yet I wouldnt wanna be in her shoes. There's so much longing here, for what it was and for what it could be. I couldnt live like that. As for the place, Chavara comes to mind.

small talk said...

thanks lakshmi. yes, chavara was the inspiration. i disliked going there as a child - now when i think back, it was idyllic and i was a fool not to appreciate it when i had it.

Anonymous said...

it will never be the same if u go back there.the house no longer belongs to you and all those people including the uncle you mentioned are all gone. but i can understand the feelings.i too feel the same sometimes.

Anil P said...

Reaching back to the future the past once held!

Wonderfully evocative.

small talk said...

Anon, yes. Not sure who this is, seems like someone I know:) But you are right. It will never be the same. Wistfulness though is a nice feeling.

Anil, thanks.

Laksh said...

Amazing how we all seem to yearn for the things we once had. I often imagine my native village too. The tractor rides and the bath under the motor and the paddy fields. Thing is, I enjoyed them then. No longer have any family living in the village so think of it wistfully every once in a while. Thanks for the lovely write up. I could imagine the whole environ.

small talk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
small talk said...

Thanks Laksh. At least you enjoyed it as a child. To me, the absence of all those creature comforts (a fan, running water) took away from all the good things. It's good to be wistful now, though.