Okay, I know it has been a while since I wrote. What with constant traveling and CAI issues keeping me kicking and alive, I really have had very little time to do much writing. A bad habit for aspiring writers like myself, I know, but whattodo yaar? This is an expression I have picked up from my daughter Maaha Zainab, now that she is an expert in Hinglish.
It is appalling the way her American English has gone down the drain; one day she spoke excellent English (albeit American) and now it is all Hinglish, with new acquired expressions and the bobbing of her head added in for good measure. It infuriated me in the beginning, but I am resigned to the fact that children will pick up whatever they are exposed to and that Indians generally will try to speak English exactly the way they speak Hindi. Its okay, no?
Life in India, rural India, the real India, is awfully poor but generally clean, wholesome, tame and tranquil; a delight actually. You can hop on a train and ride to nowhere and everywhere and experience life; the effect will mature and mellow you in no time. Urban India, however, like Mumbai or New Delhi or Channai can be a challenge and an overwhelming attack on your senses. Dirt poor and filthy rich, cattle carts and Mercides Benz, miserable hovels and grand mansions, miserable curs, driven almost crazy with hunger and lice and weekly saloon groomed, obese dogs, rag packers and Vimal designed suits garb wallahs all vie for space in this teeming metropolis called Mumbai.
It is the start of summer here and gets uncomfortably hot and humid by 8AM. Although this has its many side effects, like only 2% of India’s population use deodorants or anti prespirants, the benefits of summer fruits are many. Like:
– I got really excited when I got to eat the fruit of the cashew nut; you know, the ones we ate with relish when we were in Africa. Ukwaju is what we used to call it in Kiswahili, me thinks. My God, I thought I was going to die without eating it once more!
– Jack fruit; plump, delicious and aromatic. Many say this fruit is a cousin of the stinky durian, I am not convinced.
– Mangoes, mangoes and more mangoes, everywhere. The Hafoos is the most sought after and sell for about USD1.50 each! This is US Dollars, not Indian Rupees I am talking about. It is safe to assume that only the top 2% – 3% of urban Indian eat this delight. The poor villagers where these grow simply pluck a ripe one and enjoy.
– There are other exotic fruits that I remember from Africa and do not know the English names: zambarau, khungu, mabibu are some from Kiswahili that I remember.
There are lighter moments in daily life here that can be tragic but intensely humorous; for example:
– I saw a guy squirt a mouthful of pan or gudka juice just below a sign that read: Stop TB, do NOT spit.
– A huge sign that took up an entire outer corner wall reads: XXX Tutorials, we teach you to speak flaunt Flench and English.
– I saw at least 20 people taking a crap together in an empty field one early morning on my way to Govendhi. It was an incredible sight, this assembly call of nature. I wanted to take a photo that I am sure would have won me the photo of the year award or a Kodak moment at least. Sarfaraz, the driver, could not find a place to park and it would have taken us an hour to turn around, more than enough time for the session to end. Perhaps a second group would then take over and squat, I suggested hopefully; Sarfaraz laughed me off. I wonder what kind of nut he thinks I am…
And thus life goes on in Mumbai as I inch towards my destined place six feet underground, hopefully here within the tranquil Khoja Araambagh of Mumbai. You never can tell however, with the Talibaan bent on killing all of us, especially in Afghanistan where I am headed next week. It would be a lonely death, I think, in Afghanistan.
Well, anyway, my blogs are going to take a back seat for a while; CAI is a priority, obviously and then I am hard at working on my second novel, whenever I get that precious free period. So talk at you when I will next time.