Saturday, February 6, 2016

Coming home to Colombo


It's almost one week since I landed in Colombo. It's been a long time since I visited, since I stayed here. Yet, this is a familiar place--one of my cities. 

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That sea. Tranquil--no doubt deceptively so. Everywhere. In so many shades of blue, that consort with as many different shades of red at twilight. Suddenly visible from the most unprepossessing street corner on Galle Road. 

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That light, harsh and gentle, at the same time. Or maybe it is harsh all the time, but my affection for this place and its people makes it seem gentle. Gentle in recollection, that must be.

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Those trees. Old trees. I still haven't been past Reid Avenue where my most favourite trees used to stand, and I hope the flowering trees in BMICH have not given way to parking or another building. 

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The narrow lanes that wind everywhere, like secret passages
between houses, whose trees hang over the walls, to catch the word on the street--or so it seems. Especially the bougainvillaea, so curious to know who's coming, who's going, who's saying what to whom about whom. Curiosity kills the cat but leaves the bougainvillaea flourishing, it seems!

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I'd forgotten how hilly Colombo is, especially suburban Colombo. Up, down, twist around, then down you go, then twist again and look, it's an uphill climb. I arrive with every intention of walking to work, remembering a more-or-less flat Colombo 4, but these hills are daunting. How will I climb Sigiriya?

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Of course, the Sigiriya staircase will have nothing like this monstrous vehicular traffic. I used to laugh that traffic jams in Colombo were caused by everyone leaving early to avoid the rush-hour (and school-bus time). But today, there are so many cars on the road that they spring up everywhere at all times. The hills are more daunting when you sit in their narrow lines, with single-file traffic crawling. It seems as if the car is moving slowly because the hill is hard to climb, and your faint-heart says, "I can't do it." 

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And the food. Okay, let's not write about the food. Except to say that it makes me very sad to know I will never again eat karavila in the many different ways that Lorna made it, nor her cashew curry, nor her kola kenda. 

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It's the people. Colombo has always felt like home to me because of the people I know here. And too many of them are gone. With each loss, this town feels a little less like the home it used to be. I become more of an outsider than they ever let me feel. 

Still, I am happy to be here. For now, this is still a homecoming. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The call of a sharpened pencil

There is something inviting about a sharpened pencil. It calls out to me, "Write, draw, assemble words into verse... or at least,  doodle. Cover this page with my life-blood. You can do it!"
But nowadays,  the pencil is wrong! Sadly.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A jungle amid the concrete


I love Bombay for many reasons, but the one thing that catches me by surprise again and again is how green the city is. I grew up in Colaba and long assumed that is why I remember so much green, but on this last stay when I was based in a suburb that is new to me, I marveled at the pockets of green that just spring up everywhere. Most of my photos are actually photos of trees and other plants that frame buildings (or vice versa), but nothing captures Bombay as this photo does.

This is a tree I spotted from the Eastern Freeway, on one of my many trips to Colaba. I fell in love with the statement it could not be bothered to make: "A chimney? A disused chimney? Whatever! I'm just going to grow here! If you don't like it, you can lump it. Oh, you don't think I can make it from this location? Well, I don't really care what you think and I won't bother with the 'I told you so.'"

It speaks confidence, defiance, resilience, nonchalance, drive, imagination, resourcefulness, survival and individualism to me. Bombay. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mired in the dregs

I am struggling with these "blogpact" posts. Finding the time and finding the bandwidth are always challenges, but this time it seems impossible to go beyond the personal to write about anything else outside. I am mired in my own daily life, unable at this moment to even get to basic (and now urgent) office tasks.
This may be a gender thing. It is probably safe to generalise that women get stuck in family and household responsibilities far more than men, even if they try to find ways around them.
This may be a life-stage thing. It is harder at this stage to walk away from responsibility than ever, and quite frankly, sometimes it is just physically harder to fight for a balance. The energy runs out faster and candle doesn't burn too long.
Either way, this time, it is not a struggle for words, nor even for time, but it is a challenge to write enough words that they are not about me and my thoughts and my day all the time. The churning does not sustain long enough to go beyond the dregs of the daily.