Friday, November 05, 2010

Dissolution and Unrest in God's Own

The drive from Mallapally to Oonnukal is around 10 kilometres and
takes about one hour. The reason is all the roads plunge into gorges
and climb steep hills and veer around jutting spurs of land making
driving that much harder. There are monstrous bungalows everywhere
painted in lurid colours: shocking reds, stunning pinks, surprising
violets. I can't remember the lie of the land as all the landmarks in
my head are erased by new structures, mercilessly torn town to
accommodate news ones in its place. So I have a hazy idea of where I
am.

We drive, rather I am being driven by Babychayan, my brother-in-law,
in a Maruti Alto at a good speed and the wheels hum softly and the car
is stable and takes the bumps well. We ask directions to be sure and
three of the people we ask are fully sozzled at 4 p.m. in the
afternoon. As I have said often enough Kerala has a serious drinking
problem. And the problem isn't helped by the government selling liquor
to them through the public distribution system. There are endless
queues here at all times of the day and night, waiting patiently for
their nightly quota. The patience seem to evaporate after the first
two pegs and there are obscenities shouted at each other in the open
after that.

The benevolent leftist government has given the poor very good sops.
The daily wage for labourers has been fixed at Rs 400 ($ 10
approximately) a big amount by Indian standards. They have also
increased the supply of liquor. So the idea seems to be work more and
drink more. The government functions in a robinhood-esque manner. In
the middle are caught the middle classes, neither here nor there. They
have to pay heavy bribes and have to suffer power cuts and wait
interminably for gas connections and for admissions. They can't afford
labour at Rs 400 a day and they prefer to leave their land
uncultivated, which lie filled with wild plants and weeds. No there
isn't much useful vegetation in the God's land except perennial
long-term money-yielders like coconut and rubber.

I sit with a cousin and aunt. Both of them have lost their hearing,
suffere Alzheimer and their house has been nearly burgled recently,
the window rods were cut and a robbery attempted. The aunt is 95 going
on 96 and she has seen better days. The house is enveloped with spider
webs and there are even webs in the corners of where two walls meet.
The paint is faint and peeling, their's is a life of slow dissipation,
of a life that has gone past them, nothing left to look forward to. No
expectation. No future.

I see a snake, a sliver of motion sweeping into the cow pen, I see a
huge spider, large and lethergic with some recent meal. There's rain,
hard pounding and irresolute. There's unrest and dissolution in God's
own. Amen.

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