Friday, June 29, 2007

Untitled, unthemed

Here I am, halfway around the world, and yet I'm still basically within my bubble. I just spend Rs.400 - $10 - on dinner. This could feed a family here for a week. Yet I don't flinch.

This morning I walked out to Road #12 to wait for my driver; I passed a donkey, hobbled, with her child, unhobbled, the youngster tethered by bonds stronger than rope to mother, never more than a foot from her. The hobble - a short length of rope between a front and back leg - looked like something she was very accustomed to, walking careful and yet seemingly without concern.

I am surrounded by non-human animals here, like this donkey - goats, oxen, cattle, the occasional sheep, the endless variety of dogs, all lean, and all a strange mixture of incredibly bold and yet whipped, watching as you approach, and shying away quickly if you get too close. Chickens, some running loose, but many more in cages or (most horribly) tied togther by their legs in squawking clumps hanging off the back of a truck, destined for slaughter. Other birds - tiny songbirds, like the bright green one that watched me yesterday from an overhead wire, and predators - hawks or maybe eagles, floating above the rooftops, often, it seems, with a squirming something in their claws. Rats. Enormous rats. Rats literally the size of our cat Ditz. Lizards, from the little brown fellow who's taken up residence in my kitchen, to the spiky punk-rockers lounging on the boulders near the office, where Anil and I take our lunchtime constitutional.

With the arrival of the monsoon, the air is cooler, cleaner - the inescapable burnt smell of May has gone. The breezes - hot and unrefreshing in May - are pleasing on my face. But I'm more careful about removing my shoes as I come in the house; the flooding in the streets spreads all manner of shit - literally - to every inch of pavement. There is more sickness, it seems: Anil has has been sick, Praveen - my driver - has been sick, I've seen people vomiting by the side of the road. Everything is damp. Laundry doesn't dry. The mosquitos are rising. My bedroom has remained blessedly bug-free - are the screens I bought really working? Will it last? Or will I someday have to retreat to the tent of the bed net and resume sleeping with earplugs - not to shut out the roar of A/C, but the dentist drill whine of the frustrated mosquitos?

I have yet to leave Hyderabad. Planning a trip seem so - immense. Everything is hard. It will be such a relief to spend two weeks hiking in August, with only familiar decisions to make, and precious few of those, an existence constrained by the contents of a pack. Here I am constrained by ignorance, language and this steady burden of obvious otherness - the stares, some friendly, a few unfriendly, but most just seeming to wonder - what in the hell are you doing here?

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