I can hear, outside the window, the snick of the scythe as the gardener, squatting, cuts grass. He complained that the blade was dull, and I said that he could give it for sharpening, but he went ahead and started cutting anyway. He smiles at me as if I'm a little freakish. I told him to put the grass cuttings on the manure pile and mix them in for compost, and he smiled that smile. I asked Lakshmi, "Why, what's he saying?" – his village Tamil is hard for me to understand, and my foreigner’s Tamil is hard for him. Lakshmi told me, "He says, how can you put in grass and get back manure?" I tried to explain, but he looked unconvinced.

Something is injured or dying behind the wall across the street. Crows begin to dive, then rise, turn and dive again, croaking the loud signalling call. More crows fly in from all corners – from our garden, from the slums near the sea. All join, croaking and swooping, until the air is a pattern of interlocking birds, black and sky-blue, an Escher drawing.

It’s hot. On the other hand… mangoes every day.

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