The couple then posed for photographs inside the house whose verandah was the eating-place. However, again Suriya hurried us away back to the house near the church where we’d slept. (She later told me that she and Raju had seriously argued that morning or the night before. While other people have corroborated some of the things she said about Raju, I haven’t seen them myself and so it’s unfair on Raju to repeat them, especially in a public diary.)
I think it was now that I asked Leema, (Suriya’s ‘best friend’) how she got two 10p-coin-sized scars on her arm. She told me that someone had burned her with a cigar but Suriya later told me that this was untrue and that the person Leema named was a decent person who would never do such a thing. (She didn’t say who had, in her opinion, caused the scars.*) So it seems best not to give Leema’s actual answer here.
*Suriya also made other unpleasant allegations about Leema – and others involved in Leema’s life, despite saying that Leema was her best friend and otherwise acting as this were true all the time. She basically said that she and Leema are best friends but had come to an accommodation: Leema’s life was her own and Suriya’s life was her own.)
She then disappeared while we watched two buses go by. (This might have been the time she and Raju argued.) There was a long wait…
Also, during this trip, Sakya-Raj kept touching my arm. I asked him several times, via Suriya and Priya, not to do so. I know it’s common in India for same-sex friends to have their arms about each other. (Also, Sakya-Raj and Lilly don’t speak any English so we had to communicate by gestures, body-language and proxies.) However,unwarranted touching by anyone makes me very uncomfortable. Later that evening, when he was still touching me, this time on my leg, I calmly but firmly removed his hands and then made a praying/greeting gesture to show “I mean no harm or emnity but JUST DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!“.
IT GETS WORSE
Most folk returned to Thermal Quarters but Suriya and Rajesh waited with me while I got my photos burnt to CD at a camera shop and bought some antiseptic cream and plasters. (Earlier I’d trodden on and cut Suriya’s foot.) I think it was when we got back that Suriya took me to the block’s roof to hang up or collect some laundry and then burst into tears, telling me about the argument she’d had with Raju. (I know it was after dark when this discussion occurred and that the next day it was raining far too much for anyone to venture up there.
Not much later, Rajesh, Leonie, Lizzie, Lilly, and Priya* were (presumably) asleep in the bedroom** (Rajesh was on the only bed), leaving only me, Sakya-Raj and Suriya awake. It was then that I was put in the first difficult position. I’m not best pleased with my reaction: I probably should have grabbed my kit and bugged out of the house altogether. I didn’t, partly from morbid fascination and shell-shock, partly from a hope that I could rescue some of the friendships I’d started to form and partly because I wanted to show that them (and myself) that I wasn’t going to be swayed by what was happening.
*Leema and her daughter Selma may also have been there
The tension from this, coupled with my ongoing constipation and the effects of the rotten smells from earlier, made it easy for me to go to the bathroom and feign retching. (It was hardly feigning at all!) This seemed the easiest way to extricate myself from the lounge and the difficult situation – which I hoped would be over in the morning. I then went to the bedroom to try to sleep – there was a space beside Rajesh that had been left for me. This was in no way anything other than them offering me the best sleeping arrangement they could.
As I was trying to settle, I was told that I’d been made a horrible offer*. I replied that I wasn’t interested – I probably should have told all involved to go to hell but was too shell-shocked to think straight. Later I was told that the offerer had been drunk and that, as soon as sobriety had set in, the offer was withdrawn and apologised for many times over. I can’t say that alcohol provides any excuse and I don’t know whether the person who would have suffered most if I’d accepted the offer received an apology.
*Again, no details here apart the knowledge that only adults would have been involved
Eventually I fell into an interrupted sleep, hoping that Suriya had been mistaken or that I’d wake up and find that the offer and the interruptions were just dreams.
After all this and some things I was told later, there’s no way I want to meet any of the Mettur Dam folk again, apart from Lizzie (with whom I was well smitten) and Leonie: they’re two cute kids who, if what I’ve been told is true, are probably very unhappy just now. Even if it’s not true, while Sakya-Raj and Lilly were brilliant day-time hosts, I don’t think I could feel comfortable in their flat. I’m curious whether any of the things I’ve been told are about to happen will occur but there’s no way of finding out without returning.