Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Kodaikanal: PT Road, 3:30 pm, 19th July 2009

I thought I'd try something a little different for the next little while. I'm going to be out of Kodai doing new things and going new places, and maybe I should tell my stories in a new way. For as long as I can keep it up, I'll give you little snap-shots of my life. Glimpses of the places I've been and the things I saw that have in some way moved me. It also gives me a chance to write in a way that "Today I did this and this and this ..." doesn't quite do. Bare with me. I've been writing this blog for two years and I need to try new ways of expressing myself.

Anyway. Here goes:

I can't remember the last time I've been in town on a Sunday. It's not for lack of opportunities but that's just how it goes. Life falls into a rhythm, we get into our comfortable grooves, and interesting things stop happening.

I'm waiting and watching the world go by. From my vantage point I can see up and down the street and, except for an occasional pair of eyes that strays up to look back at me, I remain unnoticed. It's about to rain but the people milling around below me seem oblivious.

A man has arranged the school bags he's selling in a circle. In the middle of the circle is a stick of incense burning slowly down to its base. He's sitting next to the bags occasionally getting up to dust one or adjust another - but like me, he mostly watches.

A man and his wife are selling grapes. When the last bunch has been exchanged for payment, he beings to clear away his things. He sits down and counts the money he has earned that day. Soon an old man appears at his side - I presume it's his father. The family continues to pack away their make-shift stall: they fold the tarp, clean up the boxes and packing paper, and carry away the cot they were using to display the fruit on. In a few minutes' time, they have left nothing but bare ground behind them.

People come to his stall in a steady stream. He digs among the piles of jeans and trousers he has and pulls out just the right item to show his customer. He seems to know where everything is and he never hesitates. But no one buys anything. I wonder what he's thinking.

Occasionally a car drives through the surging mass of people. There's a feeling that the cars are unwelcome and the people move reluctatntly aside as the horns urge them out of the way. They part like water before the prow of a ship and then they slip back into place, showing no sign of the disturbance that had moved them seconds before.

A man is sweeping the ground in front of his stall. When he's finished he walks over to the neighbouring stall and tosses the broom onto a pile of others. The woman selling them shows no indication that she is bothered by him using her broom. She ignores him and continues her conversation with a passer-by.

A man and his wife walk past with their three daughters. There doesn't seem to be more than two years separating each child; the youngest is no older than two. Does the father feel sorry that he has no sons? Does the mother feel guilt?

Across the street a vegetable vendor answers her cell phone. Her display of produce is modest, but neatly arranged. I smile at the apparent irony of India: cell phones in the hands of those who didn't go to school and whose children may never go to school either.

The noise dominates. It is the sound of many voices speaking at once: people chatting with friends, old women haggling over a few rupees, fruit sellers calling attention to their yellow mangoes and foam-packed apples. Soon the noise seems to form more of a background to the sights and smells, colours and movements that make up this moment of pure, unadulterated life.

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