The clouds leak constantly. I imagine someone doing laundry up in the sky, trying to wash dark smudges from the rain clouds, wringing them dry into white fluff once again. The clouds have no shame. They weep constantly, not caring that all eyes are turned towards them. Clouds have no control over their emotions. I am grateful to them. They cry the tears I want to. I sit on the steps outside my grandfather’s house and watch the rain. The roof leaks a little; we put steel utensils at the right spots to keep the floor dry. These spots keep shifting because the roof is sloped, sometimes we move the utensils. Many times we forget. Sometimes the rain stops, without intruding.

The rubber trees have grown from the last summer I was here. The earlier trees had dried up; no longer could they be suckled for milk, that dripped slowly into coconut shells, a viscous white. New saplings had been planted two summers back which had afforded a view of hills long blotted by the old rubber trees. Now they were grown up and once more, sunlight filtered into the courtyard through the dark green of their leaves. Moss grows on the steps up to my grandfather’s house

The clouds infect the earth with green here. A green that seeps and creeps and drips, into houses and dreams. A green that cuts into you, slicing in, where it festers in the moist darkness of your heart. In it, writhe centipedes and millipedes, and other creatures with too many eyes and too many feet. While bathing I had reached an uneasy truce with various insects, most terrifying of all a spider the size of my palm. When I was younger, my grandfather had often reassured me that insects are more afraid of us than we are of them. I try to trust him.

We went on walks, as we had for more than ten summers (or is it monsoons?). There are explosions of jackfruit at regular intervals. They make the path slippery and treacherous, and fill it with a haze of tiny flies whose English name I do not know, tiny enough to inhale. I am still amazed that it grows on trees. I now know that it is the largest tree borne fruit, because my phone is smart. I always think how lucky people who cross the jackfruit tree before it let falls a fruit are. The pungent sweetness of its golden flesh that lies inside the hedgehog green exterior is an acquired taste I believe. After years of resistance, this time I succumbed. I must be growing up. I like the chips more, crisped in coconut oil. And there’s a dish of fried jackfruit seeds of course, beyond compare, coated in spices unharnessed in a delectable crunch.

Pineapples on the other hand, sensibly grow in spiky bushes that look much like  its crown, and thus care more for human safety than the jackfruit. Pineapple fields on a hillside are a sight to behold. These feature on our walks too. But my favourite part is the stream, fed by those clouds full of inner turmoil. The water is clear, and in its deepest doesn’t rise above my knees. But the current in parts is swift. There was a time I lost a slipper to it, and floated the second along as well, since what was I to do with one, and hopefully someone downstream would find the pair and put it to good use. We chart its course, constant companion.

The village market is close by. We go every day. We have little else to do. My grandfather’s house is not used to many inhabitants any more, each day we go to buy bread or eggs or evening snacks that are fried and oily and hot and perfect. The shops are still housed in structures built more than half a century ago, old shutters that instead of rolling down fold out and in like Chinese fans, and the roofs are slanting, clay tiles lie cocooned in each other. The house has a similar slanting roof, red clay tiles, and green moss and below that a wooden ceiling, from when my great grandparents built it. As I fall asleep at night I look at the same ceiling they looked at, and wonder how different the thoughts that traversed our minds. Fireflies flit in the dense darkness, mirroring the cloud bereft star studded night sky. Even the fireflies emit a green light here.

It is strange, how losing a place as we know it makes us so afraid. For me my grandfather’s village was to be that unchanging dot in space and time, unravaged by the passage of years, where I would go each summer to find that everything was as I had left it the year before. And finding that it cannot be so, I am imprinting each sight, which had earlier seeped in only subconsciously, committing each detail to memory. There is the view from the bathroom window that has no glass, only wooden bars, a high small window through which coconut trees, the sky and part of a hill is visible. The way points of sunlight pierce through needle like holes in the roof. The mangosteen tree towards the back of the house which sheds fruit each day. This summer I learnt how to crack open its thick purple skin, placing it between my palms and pressing down till it popped, its sweet white fruit succulent on my tongue. Furniture from my grandfather’s house in Delhi (I remind myself of its earlier place in the earlier house and its new position, its earlier and current uses), as though I’m the sole historian of his artefacts. I travel to a small village in Kerala each summer, of rubber trees, monsoon streams and exploding jackfruits. And even when I no longer take a flight, a train and a hired car to get here, I don’t want that to change.

 

Ranjini Nair

Ranjini Nair

Ranjini Nair wants to be a dancer. She is currently figuring out how to support herself while doing so. She also has degrees in literature, and is wondering what she can do with them.

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