Saturday, 8 May 2010

The bed, the maid and the gecko

It's impossible to underestimate the shock to the system of moving into a new culture, a new life, a new set of experiences, however well adjusted and experienced you may think you are. Coming away for a holiday is one thing. Coming for six months is quite another. There's a finality to the realisation that the 'normality' that you are used to is not going to be there again in a couple of weeks, that this is it. I should have remembered what it felt like moving to Glasgow from Bath but even that hasn't prepared me for this.

The shocks and surprises come in big and little ways, often with a subtlety that takes a while to realise. Vasanth my new friend and helper took me to the place where I can get a bed made. Yes, I could have gone to an emporium, they exist here is growing numbers, but this was a small carpentry shop on the main road with seemingly not much going on. Whatever was going on, was being done slowly, oh so slowly. But the bed will be ready in six days and will be assembled in my bedroom. I am assured it will happen on the appointed day and at the appointed time. Somehow I think it will. Then the mattress, pillows, sheets and towels had to be bought. So, onto the back of Vasanth's scooter and a scoot into the city. Sitting in a taxi in Indian city traffic is one thing. Being on the back of a scooter with trucks, buses, cars, hundreds of other scooters and countless pedestrians all wanting to go in the same and opposite mishmash of directions is quite another. I don't close my eyes.

Buying the bedlinen and mattress means sitting down at the counter while different shapes, sizes, colours and textures of goods are presented by an endless parade of assistants all only too willing to be of service. The cost is added up and Vasanth haggles but there is little movement from the friendly owner and I hand over the money. He doesn't use credit cards. Another trip to the ATM is needed. On to the scooter again for a final search for white cotton sheets - Indians I am told prefer patterned because they don't show the dirt so easily. The scooter gets a puncture but there within a few metres is a small repair shop and in the time it takes to down a glass of chai, it's fixed. We return to the shop where the mattress is being loaded on to the roof of a rickshaw together with the pillows, towels and sheets. The bottles of wine go inside with me.

Manjula the maid arrived in the morning, silently, barefooted. Stephen had warned me that she just appears soundlessly. A lovely smile, a shake of the hand and she gets on and does what she does. She makes chai. Wonderful refreshing sweet chai. I suddenly remember the Neil Young song Every Man Needs a Maid.

This morning, as Manjala isn't coming, I decide to make chai having learnt from the expert. I lift the cup to my lips in anticipation of that early morning bliss. The container I thought had sugar in it was salt. Manjula, where are you??

But that could not have been as big a shock as the baby gecko must have had. Suffice it to say, I flushed the loo, looked into the bowl and the little gecko was fighting for its life in the vortex. Dear readers, it survived.


  1. Darling S, what a wonderfully vivid account! Felt it in my bones. Such a pleasure to read. You thought you could prepare chai :-) even if the salt had been sugar... Well, you know, but full marks for trying. Do you celebrate Galungan and Kuningan in India or is it only the Balinese Hindus' equivalent to Christmas back home? (Forgive my ignorance). If you do, don't forget Manjula's 'Christmas box' for the 12th. The chai will taste even more delicious. Keep writing, keep saving the geckos, and enjoy every minute. x

  2. I second the comments above, Simonico. Loved the Jane Eyre allusion at the end, re the gecko. Loved all of it. Keep writing, poetry in the bones. H xx

  3. I wrote you such a long comment - in thanks - and was quite proud of it: all about the British election and your being far away, and the vivid sounds, sights and tastes of India that you portray; and the mircles of technology which might help our fractured planet. But, it was no doubt all too much and I lost it. Hopefully - to try again! Many thanks - travel well.


  4. Jeffrey, Thank you so much for your comment and I'm sorry you lost the long one. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it!

    I'm sorry we didn't neet up again before I left the UK but if there is anything you think I can do from this distance, please let me know.

    Hope you're well.