Saturday, August 06, 2011

Last things crammed in

Last night, I spent a long time dividing my now vastly expanded luggage into two equal piles. 15 shirts in the left pile, 15 in the right, 2 saucepans in the left pile, 2 in the right and 2 in the hand luggage pile. 1, 1 beaded salwar kameeez, 10, 10 packs of spices, 2, 2 novels, 2, w2 tiffin tins etc etc. At the end of the process there were 2 bulging piles, looking not unlike the checkout counter at Shoppers Stop in Bangalore. Bearing in mind that I came over with 16kg, it was difficult to gauge now how much more luggage I had acquired. It looked enormously more. My allowance was an astonishing 46kg excluding hand baggage. I have never had so much, note to self - fly Air India again if needing to do some new wardrobe shopping. Of course, I saved up my mental shopping credits for this trip, bearing in mind that none of the clothes I had before fit me at all, having lost almost as much as my baggage allowance. Looking at the two stuffed suitcases, I imagined them attached to me and realised quite how much smaller I must be now. It’s always difficult to feel different because always you feel like you and the change is gradual, but when faced with almost the amount of kilos of lard lost repackaged as shirts, saucepans and chilli powder, the reality hits home. It was with astonishment and not some little dismay, therefore that I discovered that my total kiloage was only 31kg - not only far short of my allowance, but also actually less than I have lost. I would have to imagine an extra couple of tawa pans strapped to my bum. Of course, the fat was distributed everywhere , having more or less run out of places to go, and my sister has since mourned the demise of my Poggibonsi (fathead). The good news is that there was a Shoppers Stop at Bangalore airport, but I didn’t get 15kg of extra presents just because I could.
This trip has been a fine one, but there have been moments of great sadness. Not because of what has happened here, because everything has been immensely positive and proactive, but because I have so often thought of Dad. One of the reasons I love India so much is because of her exceptional spirit of possibility and the very high amusement index. Although India is also oppressive, very oppressive, to many, there is, underlying everything, such an astonishing sense of potential. Despite how difficult life can be for so many of the population, there is amazing hope. It seems strange that a culture which seems so fatalistic, can so palpably take its destiny into it’s own hands. Wherever you go there is evidence of this. Someone reminded me of the man sitting on the side of the road selling shoes. But he only had 2 pairs. His belief that a customer who happened to want a size 7 black moccasin should walk past his “shoe stall” keeps him going there every day. And, judging by the things that people buy on the trains and at traffic jams, sold by members of apparent consortia, usually of blind people, perhaps blinded in order to gain entry to the employment program and evidence of India’s cruelty to her people, it may be that he gets daily customers who know where to get a fine, and cheap, pair of size 7 black moccasins. This spirit of India is identical to that possessed by Dad and so much in evidence during his last few months. Despite the cruelty of the cancer and the disintegration of his physical health, his suppleness of spirit (beautifully described by my cousin), courage, hope and positivity was manifest for all to experience and wonder at. He was selling his own two pairs of shoes and it is a cruelty that in the end, despite his hope, it was not enough. India, for this reason, and also for her history in which he was so fascinated, her abundant humour - so many stories I could have told him on my return - and the changes in all the work I have been doing - he would have been so interested to hear how the projects have progressed - all these embody Dad. It feels as if I have been on a pilgrimage to his soul and it has been sad, but beautiful.

Here are some photos from the whole experience.

The beautiful countryside around RUHSA. Cycling up the hill to the Temple offers a stunning view of the plains. Coconut plantations and fields as far as the eye can see.

The elderly centre run at Ramapuram. This is owned by the local village,established and run by two SHGs for twice as many people as the ones that RUHSA runs. They even managed to persuade the local politicians to spruce up their building, shich they did an excellent job of!

A little girl at the Pachaikilli Play Centre and Elderly welfare centre run by Bishopston, in Bristol, who started the Play centre and were moved to combine it with an elderly centre when they saw the one at Keelalathur.

A chameleon trying to be a stick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations losing your poggibonsi and other
assorted bits of kitchenware n t-shirts!
Love your vitality and vibrancy of spirit and v impressive ability
to keep on keeping on and so actively engaging with
the world this year.
I think often of you and your dad, (and rest of your family, partic your mother).
and your shared pragmatic, humourous take on the world.
Love Nickie x