My past month involved living next to the Bay of Bengal, heading to a Japanese film festival, going to Pondicherry for a weekend, and ended with burying a little kitten.
We have been living in a beach house at the fishing village in Venpurusham during November. This idyllic community with three roads, waste segregation, and potable water was a quaint little place to spend our time studying, running, learning Japanese, cooking, dealing with annoying bureaucracy, and cycling into town. The house has neem, coconut, and drumstick trees all around it and frangipani, jasmine, and parijat creeping through it. We managed to run regularly — dodging the goats, cows, and horses that dominated the roads. Aquatic birds like the cormorants, egrets, storks, herons, pelicans, and stilts towered over the landscape that had the Bay of Bengal on one side and the backwaters on the other. The black sands covered the beach next to my house likely due to basalt from volcanic activity or they could be placer deposits.
The people in the village sat together in the evenings on the road playing cards while the children ran around and screamed when they were in need of attention. Well fed dogs and cats splayed themselves lazily on the road, cocking a ear if there was any movement.
My family decided to show up for a few visits which was most fun! Siblings and grandmothers really are the best.
We cycled into Mamallapuram for a few meals and groceries. Mamallapuram is an old town along the coast of Tamil Nadu. It was very busy in 7th Century, a major port for the Pallavas and the ruins that we cycled through every day were a testament of that. There is a strangeness to living amidst such ancient things, as one casually goes and buys milk from next to the Pancha Rathas, monuments that were carved out of single pieces of pink granite in 668 AD. The 2004 Tsunami uncovered monuments in the ocean floor just off the coast of the Shore temple that you can ask the local boatman to take you to, perhaps on your way from grocery shopping for the week.
We headed back to Chennai for a weekend to visit friends and attend a Japanese film festival, that was being screened in a theater for free in the other side of the city. We managed to catch two movies back to back but missed the best one ( Kimi no Na wa/君の名は). There were an abnormally large number of Keigo Higashino’s novels adapted into films being screened. The excitement my father showed about this particular fact maybe meant that they read their audience well.
We also managed to go to Pondicherry for a weekend. The primary purpose was a scouting mission to check if we could find places to rent which met our expectations of being uncrowded, furnished, and in a relatively remote location. We viewed a few houses but none of them met our needs. We stayed with friends at Maitri Collective, a lovely welcoming space that Steven managed to capture much more eloquently. The end of the scouting mission resulted in us deciding that we will eventually head to Kothagiri to weather the summer.
As the month was drawing to a close, there came the usual storms that rage in Tamil Nadu during late November and Early December. These cyclones have occurred every year since I can remember. Sometimes ravaging the city and other times letting us off easy. The activity in the bay of Bengal combined with the warm temperatures in the South make for fertile ground for these November-December storms. For some reason, this year many of the animals around us decided to procreate at this inconvenient time and suddenly the place was flooded with puppies, calves, fledglings in the trees and a litter of kittens that decided to make the stairs on our balcony their home.
The mother, a slightly pudgy cat decided to leave two kittens under the stairs, one on the roof next door and one on the ground. She kept moving the kittens between these three places and at some point, there were three kittens on the balcony and a dead rat she had killed. On the day we were heading back to Chennai, we saw that a kitten had fallen down from the tree and hurt itself. We rushed it to the only hospital we could find in Chennai. They tried to operate on him but he died at 4 PM on the 5th December.
We then needed to find a place to bury him and thus began the strangest search for a Pet Cemetery. We heard that the Mylapore Burial Grounds accepted pets so we went there. The ground was littered with garbage, filled with Human (in the form of human skulls and bones) and plastic waste. The men digging a hole for kitten waxed poetic about the meaninglessness of life while kicking a human skull and then tried to extort 3000 rupees from us to pay for our kitten burial. This strange interaction removed any gravitas that might have been associated with the death or a funeral.
As I sat on the beach that evening with my sister and friends reeling from the days events, I kept wondering if we did the right thing by taking the kitten (we had named him Veerapandiya Kattabomman) away from his home in the last stage of his life. I hope, in the hospital before he passed away, he was warm and relatively pain free.
After that traumatic kitten day, it was my sister’s birthday and there was cake and chips and loving family and friends which made me feel more at ease. Early next morning, we were on a flight to Bombay to attend a wedding and to spend some time with cousins before heading to a 10-day Vipassana Course in Nagpur.
Bombay is a strange place. Words escape me and I keep surrendering to clichés trying to capture it. Bombay is anything you want it to be. I really am in awe about the way Bombay feels. With many teas consumed, we are now going over to Nagpur.
The month had highs and lows but the sounds of the coast keep playing in my head as I go to bed now.
Books Read Recently
Remnants of a Separation: A history of the partition through material memory — Aanchal Malhotra
Early Indians — Tony Joseph