OK, this morning I took a bus to Kattappana*, the nearest town big enough to have a worthwhile travel agent so I can book my travel to Sumatra next month. I’m a bit doubtful as to whether I can afford it and spend time in Assam this month. Ajeesh has said I can stay as long as I want in his family’s house but given their situation, that’s too much like free-loading for even my conscience.
*It’s about an hour from Nedumkandam by bus, along well-surfaced but horribly twisty and undulating mountain roads that had a woman in the seat in front of me review her breakfast. Thank goodness the bloke next to me noticed in time and shut the window. Uurrgghh!
On the way back from town, Ajeesh and I stopped at a small stall so he could buy some paan. His car stereo came to a fairly fast bolly-techno track and so we danced in the road, much to the amusement of the folk at the stall. (These included Ajeesh’s father and neighbour.) Ajeesh passed around my hat and we netted a whopping 50 paise!
Before this, yesterday was Shaji’s pay-day so he took Ajeesh, DS and I to a small restaurant for dosas. At the restaurant, Ajeesh picked up a newspaper, saying “aha, today’s newspaper”. Shaji quipped “naw mate: it’s tomorrow’s”. DS and I fell about laughing while Ajeesh looked faintly boggled.
In the interests of fairness, I have to report I saw a man doing some domestic work yesterday evening: Ajeesh’s father was cutting shapes out of cake-dough. I don’t know who made the dough or then cooked the cakes (they’re fried in coconut oil, rather than baked, and bloody delicious) but I do know that Jaya made breakfast and served Ajeesh and I this morning.
There was a fairly unpleasant moment this morning: the gas-bottle ran out and Ajeesh’s mum asked him to buy a new one. (This is understandable – their cooker is a gas double-burner. They have built-in wood-fired stoves but are socially not ‘allowed’ to use them because the house isn’t yet finished. [They need glass in the windows, not torn plastic sheeting and to fix the roof as a very minimum. After that, the packed-earth floor would need to be surfaced, then I think they’d want doors in the internal door-ways.])
Ajeesh screamed: today he’s due to see his bank manager about getting a loan for Jaya’s dowry. I don’t care if I’m repeating myself when I say it’s 2 lakhs (around 2500 UK pounds) and that it needs to reach Jaya’s fiance’s family by the 16th August. This will enable the family to build a house for the couple: they’re due to marry on 31st August. (Apparently this is an astrologically opportune date.) Ajeesh tells me that Rajesh, the fiance, wouldn’t mind if the dowry didn’t materialise: he loves Jaya and wants to marry her, not her bank-balance. However, Rajesh’s family does want the dowry, ostensibly for the house I’ve just mentioned.
So Ajeesh is going to try to get a loan from his bank. The interest-rate is likely to be between 6 and 11%. I’m not asking any reader to lend an unknown bloke a large lump of cash purely on my recommendation, even secured against Ajeesh’s family’s house. However if anyone can come up with any bright ideas for a lower-cost loan, please, please contact me privately or comment here.
(I should add that within moments Ajeesh, Jaya, his mother and I were back to their normal, jokey selves. One of the things I respect about the Kerala I’ve seen is the jokey, happy nature of people, even in extreme conditions.)
Also, Ajeesh’s mate DS would like to consult with someone about lightning conductors. Again, please contact me privately or comment here and I’ll forward you DS and Ajeesh’s email addresses.
OK, that’s enough for now. Time to go back to the travel-agent and see what he’s come up with.