Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Xanadu


Some time in 1991.
0800 hrs. Monday.

I am late. I woke up late. The quick trip back home over the weekend and the late train back didn't help. Sleepy and bleary-eyed I amble across to the bathroom. I open the tap. There is no water coming out. Instead it screams like a banshee; an inwardly wound whoosh of air into the pipe pregnant with a big vacuum somewhere in its entrails. I put my finger into the snout. It gets stuck there. The scream stops. I wonder how am I going to get some water! Class starts at 8.30. 

Water authority in Trivandrum city was still served by pipes that survived the colonial period. The age of those buried aqueducts becomes vocalized between 7 am and 7 pm. That’s when you could feed the taps with anything and it will devour it all. They reminded me of scary science fiction movies where alien trunks from UFOs hovering above the city sucked people into its bellies. My mind quickly went back to the Instructor who would be giving the morning class. I suddenly realized that aliens would never scare me. Once the worse had already happened, you are not afraid anymore.

1600 hrs. Friday.

It is almost dark, thanks to the monsoon. The clouds have invaded and the rain that lashed the ground has formed puddles everywhere. Five of us lived in a 2-house-combo within a single wall approximately 500 feet above sea level, on top of a small hill. (Another reason why water had to fight a failing battle with gravity and age to reach us, our house) There was no proper road that took us to the house. It was more of a crude path drawn into the rocks that polka dotted the way up the hill. It took some skill for you to execute the journey since most of the rocks were boulders smoothened through years and required the traveler to walk, hop, jump and grab when ever required. Friday evenings saw some of our friends indulging in such rock-jumping to reach our house which always welcomed visitors. Watching those guys from our vantage point on the compound wall was like watching a video game. We named our abode "Xanadu" after Mandrake the magician's inaccessible fortress.

0800 hrs. Saturday.

One of our guys was a martial arts student who had occasional delusions about his super human strength. This idea often prompted him to get up on a Saturday/Sunday morning and do flips and splits on the terrace while the rest of us were still sound asleep. There were other houses near by and the closest house also had an ethnic sky-view bath outside close to the boundary wall. It was such a Saturday. Mr Bruce Lee had climbed the stairs for his morning exercise. There was a muffled scream that penetrated our sleep and we woke up wondering if our friend had broken his freakin' neck or something. Later we came to know that it was our next-door-girl who had screamed. She did it when she was  in the sky-view bath sans clothes and noticed   a guy leaping into the air from the near by terrace. Bruce lee had in fact jumped off the roof and had sprained his ankle. His face reflected mixed emotions: pain and perverse pleasure. 

1000 hrs. Sunday.

An unwelcome visitor to our house was calling out to us from somewhere on the rocky road to Xanadu. We went to inspect. This guy was frozen in his tracks half way across the path. In front of him stood a skinny mongrel who bared his fangs and it looked like it was smiling. Stray dogs were many and they were territorial. They assumed that the whole area was their ancestral property and it was true. The only way to escape was to pick up a rock quickly and pretend to throw it at the smiling mongrel. You should not run at any cost. But if you got the timing all wrong, then you have to try scaling the smooth boulders to escape the canines; which was very difficult but a lot of fun to watch from our vantage point. That Sunday belonged to the mongrel. The creature sent our "friend" galloping over the rocks, back to where he came from.

August. 2011.

Some of us are going back to our college for an alumni reunion. Xanadu is also on the agenda. We hope to conquer the rocks one more time. The house , we hope is still there. There are a lot of memories strewn along that rocky path. I heard that the monsoon is already there and waiting for us.



The Covariation model