Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Same same, back in the blighted West

I haven't blogged for a while.  I've been away see and I've almost forgotten how to use this computer; my fingers blunder around making typos and no sense. 
So.  I don't need to tell you what's been happening: jobs gone, banks going, bankers hammered, money getting printed - you know all that and it's on and off the front pages so that's that, and we're getting used to it not being news anymore.  You know what's been happening, the sea level is rising and Barack is digging in, I suppose, because I haven't heard. 
I left on inauguration day and missed his swearing in doing the airport tango with a check in trolley.  Was it any good?  I expect it's been forgotten. 
The US Americans I met were bullish, Bushless at last.  'I never voted for him,' they said, 'now please like me,' they're saying. 
I haven't blogged for a while because I've been away, but what sort of excuse is that? 
I wasn't off the map, and if I had been I'd have been blogging non-stop: I'd have been paid to and my fingers would be razor sharp on any keyboard. 
I didn't go and do anything very exciting.  I went to work.  I can do that, I can take my work nigh anywhere and work providing a few basic conditions can be met.  I can't work on the move though; I need a table that's mine, power, light, not too cold not too hot, cheap if possible, beautiful if beautiful can be got, safe enough, secure within reason, and a constant noise level.  I can't work with bangs or slabcutters grinding.  Good music stops me working: I listen, bad music I have.  People stop me working, but I can't do without people and there were enough. 
I went to Kerala which is exciting, but I went to find all of the above in Kerala, and K provided satisfaction in an unexciting way that was ideal for working.  I ignored Kerala's excitements: its backwaters and beaches, yoga, massages and aruvedic medicines, ashrams, cheap teeth and cheap opticals, resorts and fish restaurants.  I missed out on the elephant parades and holy skewerings, fire walkers, nature reserves, dams and folk singing.  I saw some temples and mosques, and many, many new churches built along the tsunami wrecked shore. 
I took to a quiet terrace in the coconut forest with banana and jack fruit outside, with a swamp as a view; full of weed and duck and jewelled kingfishers, where the house cow went for its daily bath and into which everyone threw their trash.  I bagged mine, put it out and it was thrown into the swamp for me.  Learning the ropes and finding there is no alternative, I came to throw my own there. 
A din seemed to chant in my ear as I woke to the predator's whine; chanting as I worked.  A silent noise of frogs and crickets, crows affirming crow, nameless other shouting birds, dogs, palm fronds clacking in the wind, slap slap of flip-flop in the dirt, slapping laundry, temple bells, temple drums, a distant muezzin, and the wash of ocean surf. 
Laundry hung beside the red track that ran down the hill, past my terrace and around the swamp to Temple Road and dark little shops.  Auto-rickshaws gathered where two tiny, beautiful young women ran an internet cafe: fan cooled, stifling hot, connection fair, and full of mosquitos.  Incense and mosquito coil smoke billowed about their saris and sweet efficient smiles.  All men looked, and they had brothers and cousins at hand. 
The mossies were the drawback.  Too many: hungry and merciless. 
Big fat brown ants walked along the power wires making highways in the sky.  Little ants joined me for gin, liking the tonic best and everything else I ate except pepper and coffee.  Tiniest ants swarmed in the milk pan.  Not many spiders; not many cockroaches, surprisingly few flies and no snakes came indoors. 
The coconuts were ripe and nuts crashed down with lethal potential.  One morning, men came climbing the trunks, their bare feet bound together with tape, carrying curved edged axes to harvest the nuts in a bombardment.  They pruned the fronds which tumbled crashing, blocking my stairs and blocking the track.  Coconuts thumped, chipping masonary, denting the metal gates, ricochetting into the swamp and bounding, rolling together strewn everywhere. 
Fresh coconut flesh, rice and fresh fish - the food was fabulous, if an ordeal to eat with my landlord's family: with hands, served alone and scrutinised, eating alone, overawed and overfed.  Fair food in the tourist restaurants, I don't wish to be unfair, but not good for India, for Kerala not good, where food is of the best in the world. 
It grew too hot in the end, undermining my resilience and well being and forcing me home; here, where I can sit in the cool sun, wear clothes, wrap up warm, walk at a bracing pace and not get bitten. 
I went to work in Kerala, not to play, not for holiday; and work I did.  At what I know, to what effect I don't.  Work, 'same same' Kerala people said to people like me in Kerala.