purisubzi

A collection of text and photos

Nilambur

“So, you are visting Nilambur for the third time, is it?”, asks Mr. K. The accent is hard and I can imagine his tongue rolling in his mouth for a good five seconds after he finishes talking. I cannot help letting out a giggle.

“What’s so funny?” foo-unnee

“Nothing, nothing. Yes, third time in town, but first time at your nice house.”

The power is out. We are sitting in the smallish verandah hearing the rain patter down. There’s a solitary, flickering hurricane lamp doing the honour of shining light on the proceedings. It isn’t going a good job, the glass scratched and vaguely opaque. Mr. K’s face is half lit, the neatly greased hair combed all the way back. The moustache combed and dense with a slight droop at the end. But I get the sense he may not be very proud of its current grooming.

Mrs. K brings in a steaming tumbler of jeera water. One girl professed her love for me over a similar tumbler long ago. I hate what the spice does to the water.

I ask if I can take a picture of both of them. “Maybe when the power comes back”, he grunts.

A hour later, the power hasn’t come back on. I am hearing the rain drown out all other sounds. A white noise machine on steroids.

Mrs. K walks out with a giant tray containing bowls of something liquid that vaguely looks like sambar, but I am not sure. There are also dosas that look a splat of white paint. Kerala cuisine maybe refined, beautiful and amazing, but I suspect no one gave Mrs. K the memo. Later that night, I eat a pack of Krackjack biscuits to stop my stomach from rumbling a lot.

By now, there is rum. I am not sure what brand, but it is present lots of quantities in three sombus. Mr. K, looks longingly at the copper tumbler and nails the drink. Some rum glistens on his moustache.

“Good, no?” I nod. Either this is a going to be a long night or everyone is just going to fall down and sleep where they are sitting right now.

One sombu down.

There is talk about Kerala, Tamil Nadu (“only thing worthwhile are the temples”), Bangalore (“death to beer drinkers and pubs”), Mallapuram, communists, Narendra Modi, the steam engines that once paraded around in Shoranur, the benefits of red chillies in omelets, Valayar Ravi, the export of teak, the comforts of Sandak footwear, the usefulness of hair oil for one’s armpits and the “amazing smell” of Cuticura talcum powder among other things.

At least that’s what I think was discussed.

One more sombu down.

Somewhere in between, payasam was served. I don’t remember what it was made of though or how sweet it was.

I am bored by now. There is only so much one can take from what seems like an abusive and bigoted middle aged man. I curse Pico Iyer and his ideals. Get bored, he said. Boredom makes you ask good questions, he said. Boredom doesn’t give you easy answers, he said.

Two hours later, I am alone with my boredom and the rain. The sounds amplified. Its sight illuminated by the dim incandescence of a bulb that purports to be a street light. I watch as the tip of a leaf catches a drop, bends in sublime slow motion and lets it fall. Outside Mr. K’s bedroom window, a young boy is pissing.