In India

I am currently in India with family.  The family has moved from Delhi to one of its satellite towns.  Although it feels strange not to be in Delhi proper, this area has its advantages. 

I have been sick with an awful cold but am recovering and slowly feeling vaguely human.  It is unbelievably hot, hotter than I remember Delhi summers to be.  In the day the sunlight at the bottom edge of the window curtains is a white hot line like the edge of a furnace.  It is impossible to go out in the day because of the loo, the mad, hot wind that can make you sick.  All this is familiar but the degree of heat for days on end is not.  The power outages are familiar too, occuring several times a day.  The inverters save us by powering ceiling fans and lights in key rooms when the electricity fails. 

Despite the heat, early mornings are full of birds yelling and singing lustily.  I have seen some old friends.  The red-wattled lapwings in the area cry out all morning.  I suspect some of them are demented enough to want to nest in he empty field in front of the house, and they seem to be complaining about the cricket-playing kids, the pariah dogs and the cats that prowl the area.  Lapwings are ground nesters, which is nuts to begin with. 

There are also peacocks on rooftops uttering their cat-like miaows and flocks of Brahminy mynahs shrieking like cheeky schoolboys in the verandah.  But most exciting for me was that I actually saw a koel.  I’ve always loved their melodious voices but they are supposed to be very shy birds.  I think I’ve only seen one once before in all my life.  This morning when I heard one call very close by, I went to the front gate and peered up at the trees.  There was a black bird hidden in the leaves, scratching its head with its foot.  It paused, called out a long, beautiful note, and then resumed scratching.  I was thrilled!

The monsoons are supposed to be late and mild this year, which is really bad news for the crops. 

Yesterday I was able to venture out to a bookstore with family.  Got a collection of stories by Ismat Chughtai (in Hindi) and (among other things) Manjula Padmanabhan’s new SF novel, Escape.  I’m looking forward to some good reading.

Talking of good reading my sanity was saved during my sickness by two detective stories by Marcia Muller and the remarkable new fantasy: The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick.  I really enjoyed the book — the complexity, the inventiveness, the world-building, the action scenes — although I have the vague notion that I enjoyed the first two-thirds or so more than the last third of the book.  Still I am really keen to read the next book in the trilogy.

More updates soon.


5 Responses to “In India”

  1. Kurt Says:

    Dear V,

    In England, the loo is a source of evil winds.

    There must be references to the Loo in Indian culture as a weapon or creature or a god–if not, make one!

    Somewhere there is a koel singing and no one to hear it but lapwings who chitter uninvited like demented bird ladies from a Dicken’s novel about the wonderful open nest space in the cricket pitch and the bright future in heaven. Somewhere else there is another koel listening for the first koel’s song, the song that is the mate to its own, the song which the loo has pounded into dust and buried in the stratosphere, hiding it there till the monsoon. The koel may be the wind’s nemesis, or accidental harbinger, or victim. There is a story there, hiding in the jet stream.

    I’ve read about The Red Wolf Conspiracy but have been afraid to add it to my growing list of distractions. I’ll add to the list to be read over the winter.

    Here’s a distraction for you that you might enjoy: The Filter House, short stories by Nisi Shawl, from Aqueduct. Reading it now, rich multicultural glimmering stories, the kind that make you say “ooh” and then scribble words that might spark a story, in the same way that the shadow of butterfly wings or diamond flicker of a dragonfly might tell the story of flight.

    Head cold in the heat notwithstanding, your poetic reports make India sound like the land of enchantment, full of exotic life and ways beyond the comprehension of a westerner, dangling like a garland over the Ganges. Yes, that’s right, you’re perpetuating myths, and if you stop, you’ll break your reader’s hearts. You’re also making some of us ponder describing our own everyday surroundings in a this same way.

    • vsinghsblog Says:

      Hello, Kurt:

      The word Loo is used with both its meanings out here. You might say you are going to the loo or going out in the loo, and people will understand the difference. Of course if you are going out to loo in the loo that is another matter all together.

      The rains seem to have come to Delhi so the heat is only terrible rather than really unbearably horrible. I haven’t seen a rainstorm yet as i just returned from Kanpur, where the monsoons are approaching but not quite there yet.

      I’d love to read a description of your exotic environs some time!

  2. Born on the Loo « Zephyr 98 Says:

    […] […]

  3. Dr.Arvind Mishra Says:

    Hello Vandana ji ,
    The bird which you saw was a male koyel ! just google searched for image of a female koel -I can bet you won’t believe your eyes !
    Did you receive my book ,anthology of hindi sf ?

  4. vsinghsblog Says:

    Arvindji, you are completely right. The female koel is remarkably different from the male. The strange thing is that I saw the two birds sitting near each other but didn’t realize they were the same species until I looked it up!

    I am worried about the book as I have not received it. I will check with Zubaan again, they have recently moved office. When did you send it? Hopefully it will be found soon as there is someone leaving for the US at July end who can bring it.



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