Saturday, July 16, 2005

Preparing for a Trip (Aliyah

I’m leaving for Gujarat in two days, or so is my plan and tickets, and I couldn’t be happier. Living in a place I don’t like makes it easier to leave. I’ve read most of Bhoomi’s books that don’t relate purely to psychiatry, filling a lack that I felt strongly at Kuthur. I’m going to visit Jyothibhai and Malini Behn Desai, long-time Gandhian workers and friends. I will report back from there, or at least I will try, as I can’t remember there being anywhere within ten kilometers that might have Internet access.

This morning Amma and I went to visit a friend of hers who runs a hostel for destitute women in Chennai. Currently she is running it out of a few rooms in a rented apartment building, which is not very satisfactory, and she hopes to get a better space. There was a row of treadle sewing machines, a pile of suitcases, and a strange profusion of young women in their late teens. We ate breakfast there: idlis, sambar, coconut chutney, and vadai (a donut-shaped, onion-containing concoction the ingredients of which I have never been able to fathom), with a sweet dish the name of which I have forgotten. We took back large bags of bananas and flour for Appa’s kanji (porridge).

This evening, we were visited by a relative Amma referred to as “Gandhi’s cousin-brother.” Apparently I got the relationships wrong and Gandhi is related to Jagannathan, not to Krishnammal. He is Jagannathanji’s grand-nephew, his brother’s grandson. It makes more sense to me now that Gandhi would have a family deity in Madurai, and would have to go there for Gokulmitra’s ear-piercing.

This house in Chennai is decent, but the only thing I really like about it is the series of terraces on the roofs, complete with hanging laundry. It’s more peaceful up there, above tree-top height, with the crows flying at eye-level, and the air seems cleaner. I can see a long way. Why do people like living so crowded together into cities? I don’t understand.


Last day in Chennai. I’ve been packing, doing laundry, and trying to get the area around my bed out of the disorderliness into which it has fallen. I’m much better at causing messiness than fixing it. Jothi is cooking onions, Muthukumar is tearing herbs, and Jagannathan seems to be relating the story of the prawn struggle. Krishnammal is walking from one place to another.

It’s another bright morning, already hot at eight o’clock. I don’t have too much to say. I’m looking forward to getting out of this city, but at the same time, I wish I could bring these people with me!

I went shopping on Thursday. I bought some presents for various people, but didn’t find everything I wanted. That’s how it goes.

I now have a slightly better idea of how to make sambar. You put the cooked lentils in after you cook the vegetables with oil, then water and sambar powder. Amma’s recipe still doesn’t make much sense.

Goodbye for a few day.,


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