Archive for November 8th, 2008

Keeping up with the Joneses

November 8, 2008






There is a Flamboyant tree over the fence, in next door’s garden.


It is laden with blossom, so laden that not a trace of green is visible.


It’s bleeding colour into my garden, staining crimson the caramel sand.


There is a Flamboyant tree outside my verandah.


It was sickly when I arrived in this house. A headstrong, loudly purple bougainvillea had clambered up its trunk and was slowly strangling the life out of it with cruelly twisting fingers.


I cut the bougainvillea down. I felt no remorse as I hacked it to the ground where its remains lay spitefully spiking my bare feet with hidden thorns for weeks.  I still didn’t feel any remorse. I just hopped and cursed.  Excuse my French I used to say. Until Hat began to learn the language, ‘That’s not French, mama!’, she reprimanded sternly, ‘I know better now’, she added.


I watched the Flamboyant anxiously then. I scattered fertilizer at its base. Poured precious water onto the earth embracing its tired old roots. I feared the bougainvillea might have maliciously dragged it to its own similar fate.


But slowly, slowly tiny, tiny shoots of green began to appear. Just one or two at first. They yawned and stretched and unfurled as long feathery leaves.





I watched next door’s burst into flower. An unashamed Scarlet Lady.


My own tree seemed content to gently busy itself with a more demure outfit of lime coloured lace.


Until two days ago. The first bloom.


I like to think I coaxed it there, that my patient urging ignited the brilliant red.


But I suspect it’s suddenly woken up and could not bear to be outdone by the Joneses?




The telly went on the blink.

I would like to pretend I am so cerebral I would not miss the telly for a few days.

I am not. And I do. Especially because I live in an Outpost. Especially when Husband has abandoned Hat and I. On those days, especially, which become taut and seamless in their longevity, I miss the telly. I want to punctuate long days’ ends by escaping into BBC Prime. I want Sky to deliver to my tiny little world its own bigger one.

So I began to stalk television technician, Raju.

After two days he succumbed to my texted pleas.

He arrived. It was late. I was in my pajamas.

He tried to make the telly work. (I hovered anxiously. So did Hat. ”Will we miss My Family again?”, she asked.)

”I need to collect something from my house”, announced Raju, ”to make this work” (he gestured at offending appliance).

Ok. I said.

”Do you drive, mama?”

Yes, bewildered.

”I do not have enough diesel in my car to get me there and back again”, he explained.  ”Can you take me?”

I was desperate. Hat too.


So it was I found myself driving Television Technician Raju around the Outpost late at night in my pajamas and slippers with a gleeful Hat on the back seat, texting her distant father, ”We are driving Rajoo around in our pajamas trying to get the telly mended”.

I discovered – during our foray out – that Raju was born in the Outpost, that his father, a goldsmith, came here from India during early gold mining hay-days, that his wife is from the Gujarat.

He discovered that my mother was born in Bombay, that she lived less than 100 miles from here as a child. A small neat symmetry I thought.

Later, much later, ensconced in front of Prime, glass of wine in hand, Hat deliciously curled up on the sofa demanding, ”what shall we watch next Ma?” and Raju/Rajoo presumably safely back home and quite pleased to be shot of me, I considered that my neighbours’ wives (spouses to – on one side – a local judge and – on the other – the Regional Commissioner) probably don’t run around an Outpost after dark clad in their nightwear.

But then perhaps they don’t have tellies to break down either?