"Wading neck deep in a swamp, your revolver is neither use nor ornament until you have had time to clean it" Mary H. Kingsley (1897)

outside

Waiting To Be Seen

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He’s told to wait
Outside.
Someone will let him know.

Locked gates are hardly opened.
Prospects are narrow,
Hopes are slim.

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Picture of a young man in conservative Muslim dress, taken during Ramadan, the Islāmic festival of charity and fasting.


Different Doorsteps

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“The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.”

Paul Strand

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As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate lovingly, our own”

Margaret Mead

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“To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell”

Thomas Merton

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“Leave your worry on the doorstep Just direct your feet, To the sunny side of the street.”

Dorothy Fields

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Road Works

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“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero..”   Raymond Chandler

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In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.”     Daniel J Boorstin.

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The Aftermath

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The morning calm is deceptive.

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Last night’s storm was ferocious.

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Heavy branches have fallen.

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Power lines are down.

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Outside, driving is hazardous.

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Inside, candles still splutter.

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Monsoon Surgery

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In my small yard, stands an out-house and a few trees.

Monsoon rains have damaged a large branch next to the pomegranate tree.

My man Shaji makes the initial diagnosis. Urgent tree surgery is required.

Sebastian, the carpenter, is called.

He does not bring a saw: Sebastian prefers hammer and chisel.

His surgical assistant is in attendance;

As is Shaji;

And Shaji’s wife, Dalila.

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Soon the damaged branch has been neatly excised.

A post-operative audit is undertaken:

Pomegranates inspected;

The check-up completed;

Circulation to the out-house has been successfully restored.

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The Season Of Umbrellas

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Now is the season of umbrellas.

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The monsoon may still be somewhere over the Andaman Islands  but along the Kerala coastline we see its harbinger.

Looking out from my door

the trailing edge of cyclone Laila

has brought more rain.

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Enjoying their Bounty

The word Kerala means “Land of the Coconut”

Coconut palms grow along our coast

 

The backwaters

 

And even cast their shadows in the city.

 

In the cooler climes of Europe, coconut palms have always appeared exotic:

“The Taste of Paradise”

Here in India, advertisements for coconut are instead for grooming products.

Coconuts require regular harvesting if you are to avoid head injuries.

 

A coconut palm grows in my front yard.

It is remarkably fecund, producing well over two hundred coconuts a year.

Through the rumblings of our May-time thunder storms, I often hear loud resonating thumps:

The sound of coconuts tumbling to the ground.

On opening the front doors yesterday Sumant, my houseboy, found several newly fallen coconuts.

A little later Dalila, the cook, arrived.

She took the coconuts through to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.

Then promptly returned to announce:

“Sir, We have produced twins!”

 

 

 

 

 


Looking for a Sign?

India is a land of few road-maps

But many signs.

The signs point out countless opportunities, pathways and destinations.

Knowledge

Literature

Nourishment

Together with experiments in a foreign language.

New signs

And forgotten signs

The very same road may be signed as masculine when you join it

But, just a few yards further,  shows gender confusion.

A colonial sign, from the Dutch East India Company,

VOC

Stands opposite a sign for sport events.

A busy entanglement of signs

For the tourist

The traveller

The Divine

And the deceased.

Perhaps the trick is to know where you’re going…


The Four Horsemen and Me

The previous two postings were an attempt to beguilingly dangle my size 44 chappaled feet out from the restriction of electronic purdah.

“For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones burned as an hearth.
My heart is smitten and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.
By reason of the sound of my groaning, my bones cleave to my skin.
I am like a pelican on the wilderness,
I am like an owl of the desert. I watch and as am a sparrow, alone upon the roof.”

Well, maybe not exactly.

Whilst I travelled in the States, four horsemen of the apocalypse briefly visited my home and body.

They left business cards.

In their wake, strong tropical storms had brought down trees, cables and my defences.

Shaji. Dalila & Sumant, my trusty staff, have overseen the slow reopening of communication channels between myself and my public.

The internet cable is now intact; the wi-fi router again controls local airspace; the mobile phone is accepting at least some of my text messages.

Although the digital camera may still languish in a technician’s workshop; its screen perpetually frozen on New Mexican vistas; my chest now produces only moderate volumes of green sputum – the club class freebie offered to frequent fliers with sufficient air-miles.

Shaji, Dalila and Sumant  respond to my indisposition with well rehearsed efficiency. My agent was consulted for advice on how to interpret the ka-ka entrails; physicians’ opinions, western, ayurvedic and “homoepathic”, were offered but declined.

I start myself on anti-pyretics and the antibiotics that happen to be at hand – more suitable for Dengue or diarrhoea than a chest infection – but broad-spectrum and surprisingly efficacious.

Following some days of semi-hibernation, a diminishingly productive cough, and indifferent appetites, I arise, sleek and slim-lined, renewed and reinvigorated. Not, perhaps, a butterfly of tropical exotica, but firing on three cylinders and in the mood for a malabar fish curry.


From Shadow To Light

For the south Indian tropics, there is no Spring.

The seasons are marked instead by the arrival and departure of monsoon storms.

In the more temperate climes of New Mexico, winter has reduced the trees

To stark architectural forms.

The transition from short days

Long shadows

And meshed skies

To lengthening light

And nature’s gentle reawakening

Brings relief and delight.

Returning to New York

I find it transformed to a City of Blossoms

Scents and Shadows

White blossom and caged shadow.

But despite the beauty of Spring and sweet melancholy of Autumn, just a few days of winter is enough to remind me why I choose to live in the lush and sultry sunlight of Malabar.


Flight confirmed

Enough reflection on roads not taken, it is time to pack my bags and take flight.

Hope to return in a few weeks…


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear:
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
somewhere ages and ages hence:
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, 1916

And why not?!


Walled communities

“…And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go…”


Good walls are said to make for good neighbours.

But a little paint can draw attention from their function.

They may be neglected

Or apparently abandoned.

Seasonal

Or overhung.

Shadowed

Immaculate

Down on their luck

Or possibly a crime scene?

Broken

Or under construction.

Vibrant with colour

Or protected by Saints


“…Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense…”

“Good fences make good neighbours.”

All quotations from: Mending Wall, Robert Frost, 1914


Living with Piles

This morning’s walk was an opportunity to focus on the problem of piles.

Alongside the road were piles of gravel.

As well as piles of rubbish,

There was an abandoned pile of terracotta roof tiles

And piles of bags –  stuffed full of something.

Piles of pallets were waiting to be used.

So too, were precarious piles of concrete blocks.

Even my barber appeared to suffer from small piles outside his house.

But fortunately, as yet, there is no need to refresh myself with this particular brew.


Crossed Lines

On a trip to collect tickets there are lines to be crossed.

Railway Lines

Lines of Ambassadors

And Lines of Autos.

Untidy Lines

Gas Lines

And Lines of Music


Outside observer

As an outsider

 

You observe from a different perspective.

 

The differences in ages.

The difference in size, and in gender.

Differences in posture:

 

As some sit

 

Some stand

 

And some stand whilst others sit.

 

Some Nike. Some kneel.

 

Some dress traditionally, some prefer modern wear.

 

I observe what insiders have left behind them.

 

And wonder about the words