Tuesday, 20 April 2010

MORE INDIA, 12 - 16 MARCH (don't give up, I'll soon be finished!)

Friday 12th March

Up at 6h45, out for a walk at 7. I take the flat road through the rice fields. It's very cool when I set out. I get lots of photos, the light is different. Animals today, and different greens of palm trees, banana trees and rice. Lots of cattle around. This place is quite extraordinary simply because it is so ordinary! No Taj Mahal, palaces or ruined temples. Just simple rural life, devoid of tourists. We are very privileged.

Days are becoming quiet and routine. My massage time is now 11am. Can’t wash afterwards, they put special slimming oil on me at the end that I have to keep on two hours. So I go to lunch all greasy!
The group changes daily. People leave, more arrive. I have met such interesting women, we have really good discussions over meals, which we take at large tables on an open balcony in front of the kitchen, overlooking the river. It is an idyllic spot. And so quiet, the only sounds are birds and cattle, and women whacking clothes on rocks in the river.

We had a cookery lesson at 18h00. The recipes were not much of a surprise, to me anyway, but it was fun. They don’t put pepper or chili in our food, which makes it a bit boring. Akil, one of the "receptionists", has just graduated from hotel school. He did the cooking and explaining, under the watchful eye of the chef, and was obviously in his element.

Saturday 13th
It would have been Daddy's 96th birthday. I get up at 6h30; and am out for my walk at 6h50. Lots of mist. I prefer to be alone, but it is difficult because we all walk the same routes at roughly the same time. Lots of photos of rice, rice fields, cows, a child… same old thing, different light. A lovely old tree with a face and marvellous bark.

They give me a kerala style head dress after massage today to keep my hair out of the way. Fourth out of five days of eye treatment. I expect it’ll be the nose drops next now that my throat is better.

The kitchen relents and gives me some chili at lunchtime. Makes all the difference. Food is good today, except breakfast, just a plate of cucumber carrot and onion, no fruit. But I managed to get half a banana wrapped rice cake.

I've got sciatica now. I take two nurofen before going to bed and sleep well once I find the right position.

Sunday 14th
Up at 6h30, out by 6h50. Heavy mist which at 8h30 still hasn’t risen. It even wets my hair. I see a man on a bicycle with earmuffs. They wear them when it is cold! (This morning it must be 20° instead of 30°.) I  another man on a bicycle that I see often, with St Joseph mudguards, and I thought he was probably on his way to Mass… but I see later he has stopped and is selling scratch lottery tickets to a woman, who buys three, scratches them and chucks them on the grass in front of her house. Littering is not a problem.

I go into a plantation of rubber trees, nicked, with little rubber cups to catch the sap.Photograph lots of birds, not very well, they are all very shy, there are large pied wagtails but it is impossible to get a photo they are so flighty. I have discovered functions on my camera that I didn’t know existed. Nice green when you photograph trees for instance.

It’s Sunday so everything is very quiet. We have a special breakfast, lentils, potato dal, spinach, fruit, and two rice pancakes, just like American pancakes but a bit sour, with honey.

I had all my treatments this morning, last yellow oil, last eye treatment, last ear treatment, last gargle. The staff are all off to an engagement party this afternoon.

Lunch is very quiet too, most guests seem to be out. I don’t want to go out, I don’t know where they find the energy; And it’s sort of satisfying not spending money! We had potato curry, I managed to get chili again. And a poppadum. A treat. And fruit.

After lunch I take photos of the massage girls dressed up to go to the party. They are quite beautiful. With long strands of jasmine in their hair. When one takes a photo they all stand to attention and no one smiles.

I’ve been doing tapestry all afternoon, watching the changing greens across the river and reflecting on things. It is strange that we are as many as 22 women at a time, 15 nationalities we counted the other day. One man at the beginning who left my first day, Barry and Lucy in the middle for a week, a really nice young English couple. And we all get on. There are some who are very loud when they arrive, but they seem to quieten very quickly. On the whole everyone fits in, we talk about all sorts of things, we feel genuinely concerned about the problems and health of the others. Not everyone is here to lose weight. They are here for chronic asthma, skin problems, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome... but everyone seems to benefit from the treatment.

Today being Sunday whole families have come down to the river to play. Some people never seem to have a day off. The gardener has been here all day. He is the only one to join his hands in namasté when he says good morning. This morning he gave me a namaskaram, good morning in Malayalam. He’s a lovely old chap. The cook was not here this morning. He just arrived, surprisingly, on a shiny motorbike. He’s fairly elderly, and doesn’t look the type.

My massage girl says she gives her salary to her father. She did a year’s training in Hyderabad, must have cost a fortune. Will she continue working after she gets married? Depends on the husband. But, I said, surely, your father has invested in your education, he’s not going to choose a husband who will not let you work. She agreed  tentatively. She wants to continue.

I’ve had a curious experience with a sort of wood wasp. I saw one coming in and out of my room and thought she was probably laying eggs in the woodwork somewhere. By chance I caught her next to my suitcase, and found that she was building a little mud nest on the outside of my case. It was wet, so I destroyed it, sprayed my case with insect repellent and thought she’d go away. Next afternoon, I found a finished nest, all dry, next to the first. I took it off gently and found two sort of mud pellets inside and a grub. I got rid of those and wanted to keep the little mud nest. It was a work of art. Completely smooth on the inside, oval, with a little opening in the front with a decoration of mud as if the opening was peeled back. I wanted to bring it back to show people. But the following afternoon, the girls came to clean my room, a rare enough occurrence, and although they don’t take away essential things, like the trash bin for instance, they removed the little nest which was sitting on my third bed. I’m really quite upset, and am almost hoping the insect will come back and do another!

The three who went out for the day came back at supper time. They’d seen a lone bull elephant, and apparently the driver was not at ease at all, and villagers were studying the beast to see which way it would go. They destroy crops massively, especially at this time of year, the end of the dry season when there is little left to eat. It appears they are especially fractious at this time of year too.

Monday 15th

No walk this morning, just didn’t feel like it.

I have a new massage cycle, buttermilk poured on my forehead for half an hour, with a sort of bandana tied above my eyebrows. It goes into your hair and is meant to be good for the hair, thyroid and especially the brain! I could do with that!  But they don’t rinse it afterwards. Then I have a face mask for 15mns. No body massage. It's very pleasant, but I'm meant to keep the butter milk in my hair for an hour and when the time is up,  I have no water.

When I finally got my water fixed, I have a hell of a job getting my matted tangled hair back into shape.

It is getting hotter and hotter and even locals agree that this is a heat wave. I’d kill for a cold beer…

Tuesday 16th
6h30, 1 walk for an hour and a half. It's frightfully hot already, and I have no water to wash with. In the afternoon there is a big thunderstorm and the temperature drops by 20°. There are only ten of us left.

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