Sunday Morning

I had to drive out to West Mambalam early on Sunday morning.

I passed a long queue of people waiting to get into a temple on Venkatanarayan Road.

I had to go up to Panagal Park and turn left on Usman Road. On a weekday this area is chaotic, crammed: it is a major shopping area for silk saris and gold jewellry, among other things. More to the point for me, it was at one time the only place one could buy ‘exotic’ vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, leeks, parsley, lettuce, mushrooms. All these vegetables are much more widely available now, and the Panagal Park vegetable market has shrunk drastically.

I’ve been as far as Usman Road before, but this time I turned for the first time onto Madley Street, heading to West Mambalam. When I first arrived here there weren’t any decent maps – there was a feeling that maps could be useful to one’s enemies, I think. Now I swear by my Eicher street map. I plot my route carefully, and keep it on the car seat. I like the variety of names – Hindu, Muslim, English -- I assume that Madley Street is named after some former British notable.

As I emerged from the underpass beneath the railroad tracks, the streets became narrow and winding, of variable width; like the village lanes they must have been. I had a hard time finding a place wide enough to park in. I started walking back toward the main road. Inside a tiny front yard, a man with a Muslim’s white cloth cap and a bicycle was holding a pair of scales on which reposed a silver fish, which ended in a neat pink ellipse where its head had been. A man and his wife scrutinised the fish, and another which lay on a cloth on the ground, and discussed them with the fishmonger.

Suddenly a car alarm started yelping. I turned back, and it was my car. A bunch of small children had clustered around it – it was the only one on the street. They were slapping it, delighted with the sound. I turned it off with the remote, but again they began to slap, each slap resulting in a yelp. A man came out of the house in front of which I’d parked – bare chested, with a brahmin’s thread across his chest, and wearing a white veshti. I was apologetic. I said, “If the children hit the car, the alarm will go off.” He shooed them away, and I went on, hoping that they would keep away until I returned.

On the way back I wanted to stop at Mansukh, to buy the Gujarati Sunday morning specialities: jalebi and gatia - which we never eat ordinarily, it's about the last thing I want for breakfast - but I got distracted by the Cine Dancers Association building, and missed the turn.

These were the excitements of Sunday morning.

Fruits of the hot season

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