Written in 1985 the year after Indira Gandhi’s assassination
I read today about the continuing bloodshed in the Indian Punjab, at the Golden Temple, holiest shrine of the Sikh community, in Amritsar. The photo showed the bloodied body of a Kalistani militant separatist, shot by commandoes of the Indian army. Another number in the vicious impasse which has claimed so many hundreds of Hindu and Sikh lives, mostly innocent. I thought of Satinder.
We met knee-deep in mud, early one morning in the foothills of the Himalayas, high above the sacred river Ganges. I had begun the day at crack-of-dawn on an over-crowded pilgrim bus; I was heading into the mountains to walk among the icy towering peaks, and to visit various sites of historical and spiritual significance. It was the monsoon season. The bus had rattled along the winding mountain road for barely three quarters of an hour when the driver abruptly braked on a blind corner and halted behind a line of earlier-departed buses. Continue reading SATINDER
A Red Kamala on Arunachala
When I first arrived at Arunachala back in 1989, the mountain was little more than a pile of rock, with very few spindly trees breaking up the rockscape. Little wonder, since the mountain was deliberately burnt ever year, partly as a homage to Lord Siva (the mountain represents Siva, in form of Fire!), and partly to ensure that the dominant grasscover that managed to survive, would be burnt to an even stubble. It was harvested as thatching material for the homes of those wealthy enough to afford the high quality thatch it provided; burning the stubble also furnished a little nutrient as potash on the otherwise barren slopes. The government had attempted reforestation years before, but had given up long ago, discouraged by the miserable success rate.
Continue reading A Red Kamala on Arunachala
He wasn’t always a nice man, living up to his name. A cantankerous coot, as someone described him. In the one aspect, he would growl and curse, and lament his travails, and in another, he was soft and sympathetic, caring and accepting. More a pussycat than a wild dog.
He had his reasons, and motives for grumbling too. Nerikuttaswami wanted a green holy mountain, and the world seemed against him succeeding. He planted and planted, and planted. Good for him, for having a try. Even if they were all eucalyptus; he did his planting in the seventies and eighties, before awareness of appropriate species gained root. I suppose that he just thought a green, forested mountain was better than a brown pile of rocks and clumpy grasses. Very few on his seedlings survived. Continue reading NERAKUTTASWAMY – THE LITTLE JACKAL
Goanna blinked its leathery lidded eyes, keening its senses to the source of the noise as they had approached, and flicked a pink forked tongue at the air, trying to determine the identity of the intruder. The male he had already seen from a distance for a few years, now and then, but this colourful flower he brought with him was a new curiosity for the reptile.
“Take a look at that monster”, exclaimed the young woman, leaping back several steps, in case the advance of Goanna was a warning she should heed. Continue reading GOANNA
Must be getting soft in the head, old mate, he muttered to the kelpie at his feet. What would she want with a pair of rough diamonds like us?í
Jack tossled the dog’s floppy ears, smiling at the raucous laughter of a kookaburra further up the ridge. The dog, warming to the calloused hand’s ministrations, rolled back onto his master’s laceless boots and implored that the massage include his belly as well.
He sat on the edge of the packing shed bay, taking in the familiar panorama, and sighed appreciatively. Down at the foot of the banana slope, the cottage already lay in shadow, nestled amongst the rounded domes of avocado and mango trees. Framed by two hills to the east, the sea shimmered, still basking in sunlight.
Continue reading THE BROTHER’S WIDOW