Learning the ropes

I’ve been laying low from the blogging world for a bit! Wait. I’ve been laying low in general from the world wide web! Reason—hard pressed for time! Facebook hasn’t known my presence for the longest time! It feels good to not live through a social networking site for a bit. I have a smug expression on my face as I type this post. Seriously, time is all I had a few months ago, but coming here has changed that for me. I am literally thrown into the rapids, and if I don’t navigate right away, then I am sure to lose course. The first few days were in paradise. The weather in Bangalore was supremely delicious; the showers in the nights would lead to rather chilly mornings and pleasant days. Neil was thriving amid all that love and attention. I was rested and relaxed. Then we had our grand vaca. to Kerala. The first few days were fantastic, and then things began rolling down hill.

We got “mala pani,” meaning hill fever while in Kerala. Nasty thing it is. Such horrible flu Neil and I had that there was no recovering from it for the longest time. Sunny girl’s system is being slapped around after what seems like ages. The poor firangi body is unable to handle the ragda, thagda viruses here. Neways, we high-tailed to Bangalore in the hope of getting some good medical treatment and  bouncing back on our feet. Mother hen, in her state of delirium had forgotten that viruses are contagious. After we got here, we began to recover with the medications, but managed to hand the disease  on a platter over to our parents. So the entire household, minus the dogs and birds were blanketed with this shit.

It was only after about 20 days that everyone began to limp back to normalcy. Oof! What craziness I tell you. Coming back home is easy! I mean, what’s there to it? This is where I grew up, studied, made friends, and pretty much lived my life before heading to the land of opportunities! This is my backyard, right?. Totally wrong! This place has become so freaking different. I mean, I love it! But it isn’t my backyard anymore. It is advanced, sophisticated, and going places I never imagined it would.

If Uncle Sam next door from the U.S. has money to throw, then Reddy garu living 10 ft. from him has twice the money to throw. It is all bling, bling here! But what Uncle Sam and Reddy garu both don’t have are bare necessities-water and electricity. You can drive your Audi and BMWs, but if you don’t have water to wash your ass, what’s all that money worth? It  is a cat fight out here for the very basic things in life. I suppose Maslow was no dim-wit when he made that pyramid. Everyday was a state of self-actualization in Plano. But here, I’m not even going past the state of esteem, I’m still stuck at the state of physiology.

My parents have been left high and dry literally by the BWSSB guys. The Metro chaps conked out some water pipe line, and the lane they live on doesn’t have water supply. So a tanker is sent every alternate day to fill up the water sumps.  The assistant engineer is an awesome person. He diligently sends his chellas to do their jobs, but the chellas think it their birth right to siphon off money from old, lonesome retirees.  Every story has two sides. If the chella thinks it his birth right with the bribe, then there is an equally educated class of people who think entitlement is theirs. Our neighbor next door is a retired hot-shot (i’ll leave names and designations out of this) and the hot shots sister happens to be the collector. So the chella goes religiously to their house, opens the gate, lifts the sump shutters, pumps water in and leaves. While the rest of us have to beg and plead.

So the activist that I am, called the assistant engineer and asked him if I should go out become a hot-shot civil servant since my dad or mom are too old to become one. Also, if it is his coffers that I need to fill, then  he needs to tell me that, too. But Anna Hazare has most public officials shitting in their pants, so the very talk of offering money these days falls on deaf ears. But the AE promised that he would take care of sending us water and that there won’t be anymore trouble from these guys. So the chella arrives with his tanker, and looks me straight in the eye and says, “I won’t give you water. What the heck will you do?” Go tell the AE that I did so.” All I did was tell him about the power of the press and the consequences that he and his partners in crime will undergo if they messed around too much. Voila! Chella fills the tank and goes on his way.

Moi thought moi had lost the street smarts after being away for so long. Not so. This is one among the many incidents that I’ve had to go through since I’ve come back. I take it in my stride, give it back as good as I get, and then just move on. Since “we are like this only,” there isn’t too much scope to change things up.

City slick becomes country bumpkin

We are in Kerala! In the land of green and all things clean! The air is fresh; the vegetation is lush; the people classy! This is such a contrast to where we just came from-Bangalore. The streets are lined with shops, muck, dust, and chaos. On the contrary, the streets here are lined with gold shops, vegetable vendors, and men clad in white mundu! Sound like a foreigners description of the India paved with streets of gold? Well, exaggerated though it sounds, it truly is like that.

Our drive from the Nedumbacherry airport to Vazhoor was more than eventful I can say. Grandparents have waited for so long that they were literally at his bidding.  He wanted to see an elephant! Duh! Yes! He hits mallu land and he doesn’t ask for a toy, no! He wanted to see the mammoth itself. So they looked around and found the forest departments elephant rescue center in Kodanad! Luck wasn’t quite in our favor since they were closed for their weekly holiday on Monday. Neil was inconsolable of course. But they promised to show it to him sooner than later.

When one drives in Kerala, the driver and the passengers need some special sort of mind-set to brave it. It is not like driving anywhere else in the world. Hugging curves and almost smooching the on coming traffic, it is both hair-splitting and nerve-wracking. Sabu, our driver, took these crazy bends at some 80 freaking km/hr. It goes without saying that I had my heart in my mouth. There is no comparison between driving in Texas (straight stretch of concrete with  lane discipline) and driving in Ende Keralam!.

That night, when we got home, the rain Gods decided to let loose. It has been incessant since then. It rains then stops. Rains some more and then stops. So what does one do when the weather gets like this? One gets poetic. Why else will I be writing? This kind of weather inspires one to write. Number one reason why such great literature springs out from here. It is romantic to watch. There is some comparison somewhere in Malayalam literature for this down pour to that of a woman bathing in a stream I’m sure. It covers the vegetation droplet by droplet from top to bottom. The land is drenched with a certain wetness that is indescribable. The mud, mingled with rain becomes the lick-able kind. The green vegetation is dribbling itself so wet that I want to stand under it and get wet. Climbers hug to trees; shrubs droop with the wetness and kiss the ground; streams of water gurgle down streets; and buildings get so soaked that they blend into everything around them. This place, outside our home, with all these pepper, coffee, cocoa and rubber trees is truly a place of rest and contemplation. The crickets compete with the sound of the rain during the day, and in the night add to this the croaking of a hundred frogs. Your mind goes into a lull and travels to a distant place altogether. You will sit, switch off from the everyday, and simply travel into space.

My mornings are quiet and peaceful. My companions through the day are a toddler, the toddlers grandparents a.k.a my in-laws, Neil’s great-grandmother, and some hundreds of species of insects. Neil would not sit without his television shows or his toys in Bangalore. But here he doesn’t even have the time to think of them. The rain is the number one contender for attention right now. He watches it drip, drop and patter on the ground. He runs off into it sometimes to get himself wet. Then there are these visitors from the wild who make their presence felt in the night. Centipedes are a dime a dozen here. Fearless Freddy knows no bounds and drags his grandfather and goes after it every time he sees one.  These things are called “atta” here. Neil and his grandfather have currently become atta exterminators. With stick and dustpan in hand, they both set out to catch them, and then, of course let them out into the night. He has become a master atta spotter.

Then there is the cocoa harvesting. His grandfather collects all the fallen cocoa fruit and brings them home from the estate. Together they sit and crack it open to get the seeds out. Then they hand them over to our relative up the street, who takes it to the cocoa collector. The street we live on houses three generations of brothers from the family. Vinod’s grandfather along with his two brothers bought property here many years ago. It has now passed on to their sons, who now watch over the plantations. So over 15 acres of land on both sides to the little man’s disposal; to run, frolic, and explore to this heart’s content.

For the longest time I was worried about the move back to India. How will we fare? Are we being unfair to Neil? Are we depriving him of opportunities that might come his way if he were to grow up in the U.S. vs. here in India. Well, all those doubts have been put to rest. Neil has seen, learnt, and understood so much in the last two weeks, than he ever did these two years of his life. Yes, going to school and establishing your academic foundations are essential, but at the same time, it is also important to learn how this planet has evolved. He has to learn that there is no replacement for family; he has to know that the earth is not just another place to live. Most importantly, he has to learn that life has to be cherished with the ones you love.

So for now, bare necessities it is, and we are loving every minute of it.

“I mean the, Bear Necessities
Oh, Mother Nature’s recipes that bring the Bear Necessities to life.

Where-ever I wander, where-ever I roam,
I couldn’t be fonder, of my big home.
The bees are buzzin in the trees
To make some honey just for me.
When you look under the rocks and plants,
Take a glance at the fancy ants
And maybe try a few!
The Bear Necessities of life will come to you!”