The Garden and Some Other Things

I’ve been walking in the garden and picking things up from the ground. The weather is lovely: breezy and not too warm – the best weather that there can be in Chennai. I found a sprig of eucalyptus leaves and seeds:

A slim, lightning-quick lizard darted away from me. They are much more attractive than the fat house-lizards – and are supposed to be poisonous.

One corner of the garden is less tended than the (not-very-tended) rest, and I imagine it as a bit of forest in the city. There is a flowering tree, whose flowers one hardly notices until they fall. When they are in season the ground is carpeted with them. Now I’ve begun to see just a few of them every day:

They are so delicate that they look as if they had been crushed. Their frilled petals are the palest lavender-pink, almost white, and they have fine pink lines which lead into the greenish yellow depths. In 1990 the tree on which they grow was blown over by a cyclone – or the fringes of one – but we managed to raise it up again. It has these fragile, crumpled flowers, but it survives.

When I was buying light bulbs and fuses to replace the burned ones last week (I go to a shop off Kutcheri Road, which sells electrical things in the front and tea in the back. The proprietor gave me a good cup of Nilgiri tea while I waited for my purchases to be collected and packed), I somehow got stuck in the maze of small streets that is Mylapore. One of the things I saw was a gaunt bullock, unhitched and munching on a small heap of straw and onions which the cartman had put out on the edge of its cart.

The refrigerator repair man was a young Tamil Muslim, with a white lace cap and a fringe of soft black beard under his chin. He was very polite – he called Ramesh Walid Sahib, which means “Respected Father.” When I offered him tea, because the main power switch had been turned off by electricians, and he had to wait, he said that he was fasting (it was the end of Ramzan). As he was leaving the house, he said to me, “Thinks good, life good,” which I took to mean that positive thinking is beneficial. (This was before the stabiliser which he supplied caught fire; but I appreciate his good intentions and his politeness.)

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