Bloody hell, I’m glad I’m in a cybercafe right now. Just listening to the rain makes me feel damp. I’m also attempting to upload some pix form yesterday and today that will go with this entry. They’ll probably end up in a separate entry but I’m sure you can cope!
Friday 14th continued
DS, Ajeesh and I returned to Nedumkandam. I’m not quite sure where we picked up Deepa, DS’s recently-returned-from-the-Gulf wife. (She’s a nurse and has been working there for quite some time, much to their mutual dismay, but has just found a job in a local hospital.) After calling in at DS and Deepa’s house to pick up some stuff Deepa wanted, we also called in at her mother’s sister’s house. This lady’s daughter was due to be married on Sunday and I was invited to attend – got a very fancy invitation too, so I couldn’t diplomatically refuse. However, I’ve been to enough weddings. I want to go to Jaya’s but I can’t because it’s 4 days after my visa expires and my flight home leaves. So going to others seems a slight to her and I’m not keen on matrimony anyway. I’m even less keen on being the only non-Malayalam speaker at a huge social gathering, especially an important event in someone’s life at which it would be so easy to say the wrong thing. (Although, I think most Keralans would just smile and then try to help me extract my errant pedal extremity.)
Back at the house, Ajeesh and I compared notes on Indian and UK cultures and how aspects of each others affect us. This gives me a handy opportunity to correct something I said earlier: ‘If a woman is awake and available, she’ll do all the domestic work.’ Well, I’ve seen Mr Babu (Ajeesh’s neighbour) carry a box of groceries on his head up the hill, even though he could have asked for a lift in the car. Also, I think I’ve twice seen Gopalakrishna (Ajeesh’s dad) iron his shirt and dhoti. I think it’s fair to say that women’s roles are supposed to centre on domesticity while men’s roles are supposed to centre on external and finance-related matters. I think you know how I feel about this.
After blogging, I found that yet again I’d left my camera at the house. So my plan to walk down Nedumkandam’s main drag, photographing everything was postponed yet again. I walked back to the house, getting only moderately damp.
At the house, Sandra’s parents (Ajitha and Santosh [not to be confused with the Santosh who is Ajeesh’s neighbour and helps farm Ajitha and husband-Santosh’s land!]) had arrived, bringing Kanan, their 3-year-old son. Kanan, Sandra and I played catch in the front room. I thought it was a good opportunity to reinforce Sandra’s (and maybe create Kanan’s) english counting skills. I think they both enjoyed it and the family approved.
Eventually, Jaya indicated that I, Kanan and Sandra should go out to buy a coconut. We got as far as the highest, exposed-to-the-elements part of the path before the weather, Kanan’s fear of the slope and his overlarge umbrella conspired to upset him to immobility. I though the best thing to do would be to take him back to the house, so with some difficulty I persuaded Sandra to accompany us – I didn’t want to be responsible for her wandering off without her family knowing where she was.
After this, Sandra and I resumed our provender-appropriation mission. The shop we were to go to is a building I’d previously taken to be a house (quite possibly the back room is the shop-keepers’ accommodation) just below the rocky part of the ‘final ascent’ to Ajeesh and family’s house. It’s about 10 minute’s walk closer than the next nearest shop but appears to have only a very limited range of merchandise.
Mission accomplished, Sandra and I returned to the house. Sandra got a telling-off for not staying as dry as she could and a much-needed and much-resented change of clothes. How on earth do you tell a six-year-old who doesn’t speak your language to use her umbrella? Anyway, I didn’t want to get cabin fever and I wanted space to think so, despite the drizzle, I girded my loins with my lunghi and set off up the path past the ‘final ascent’ towards the ancient temple that’s nearly the highest point above the house. My aim was to get as high as I could be legal means, no matter what the weather might throw at me.
By the way, I love the german for ‘to (go for a) walk’: spazieren. It makes me think of (to seek) space, to space out. About 2 km from the house, having slipped and inched my way over a large expanse of bare and wet rock containing enough cracks to support a large community of tiny frogs, I got to a nearly impassable brush-covered ‘tor’ that’s the top of the hill. At the very top of this pimple is another expanse of wet, bare rock over which the wind howls and the fog scuds. I crawled to the top of this, fearing that the wind would catch me, my lunghi or my umbrella* and take us flying to Tamil Nadu. I finally stood up and shouted at the elements to do their worst. Of course, they ignored me.
*yes it was furled when I did this
By now it was around 6pm and getting near dusk. I really didn’t want to be caught on a mountain* after dark, especially while my lunghi and jacket were wet through, so headed down the hill. I seem to recall singing non-rude but silly variants on the tune to Oh Sir Jasper as I went. (The ‘official’ lyrics to this and other very rude songs are here.) The only time I slipped on the muddy path was just after I’d washed my sandals and feet in a small stream. My feet and sandals, my knees and backside got covered in red mud, much to my amusement and the concern of two locals who helped me up and advised me that the reddest parts of the path were the least likely to be slippery.
*Is 2000 metres a hill or a mountain?
Near the house I met Gopalakrishna, Ajitha, Santosh-husband and Kanan. Gopalakrishna was accompanying the others part of the way to their house. The house itself was dark apart from an oil-lamp and a torch: the electricity supply had temporarily failed again, presumably upsetting the neighbours who’d arrived to watch TV. (Ajeesh’s family cook on a gas double burner and heat water on a wood fire in a lean-to at the back of the house. This is also often where their goat is tethered.)
I wrote most of the notes that are the basis of this blog entry, reading out what I was writing to an apparently fascinated Sandra. The house’s electricity supply was restored just in time for IdukkiVision’s news programme. There had been a landslide near Kattappana, blocking what (for Idukki district, at least) appeared to be a major road. There’d also been a presentation of some kind at a Nedumkandam school.
I surprised Jaya by eating a huge amount of rice and jackfruit curry – I’d not felt at all hungry during the day so had turned down offers of breakfast and lunch apart from khardum chaya. I think she likes my chai-based variant on Give me joy in my heart and I know that DS and Ajeesh have been very amused by my dad’s extra verses.
Today I’ve been at DS’s relative’s wedding. It wasn’t the trial I feared it would be and I’ve escaped back to Nedumkandam with my dhoti intact. I even survived travelling in a jeep built for 10 but carrying 18 people (5 passengers plus the driver in the front seat, 5 in the middle seat, 6 in the back and 1 hanging off the back). I volunteered to go on the room to ease the crush. It’s now about 5.15 – time to see how many photos have uploaded, put them into a post if possible and then return to the house.
See you later, space-cats! BTW, I’d appreciate people’s comments on the descriptions of tribal people here.