16 June 2008

IST + 01:30

As I walk along the beach at Varkala, Kerala, I see old grey-haired men pass time by the waves. Their history is the story of Kerala heard all over India. Worked in Dubai or Singapore, and returned home when their tired old limbs had fresh young ones for company, and competition.

After exchanging names and home-towns, we move on to things that matter.

“You have a job?”


“How much?”

I’m slightly embarrassed but I tell him the truth.

Then we talk about family. He explains how he’s married off his children. He’s a proud man, proud at having fulfilled his responsibilities. His wife is long dead, so he sits by the waves and listens to the coconut trees.

Now it’s my turn.

I tell him about my parents and elder brother.

“No sister?!”

In Tamil Nadu, if someone misbehaves with a chic in public, someone will yell “Weren’t you born with sisters?!” It’s the most embarrassing public allegation according to me, but maybe that’s because I try not to misbehave.

So I didn’t quite pick the intent behind the Old Mallu Man’s reaction to my sisterless existence and fumbled into confused silence.

“No expense! Your path is clear!”

Sister = Expense





In Vietnam, the factory is filled with women. This is especially strange to me, because my old factory in Madras had less than a dozen women lost in a sea of 500 men. They were Tamil-chics-who-wear-flowers-I’m-allergic-to, stacked away carefully in Accounts. I’ve never felt happier for not following my genes into Accountancy.

Here, the cashew and coffee factories are filled with women. The suppliers of trucks of coffee are women, all the restaurants have women… on the streets, in the stores… everywhere.

I walk into the Cashew Regrading Centre, where women sit around mountains of cashew, picking the good from the bad and the terrible. They all flash a big smile and say hi, with a bow of the head.

The older ones tease the young ones who glance at my brown skin. I think Indians and our brown skin has much greater value outside India.

I can’t stop blushing and smiling.

Later, I sit next to 35 year old Nga (Ngyya) and learn some documentation. We have 5 mutually understood words, and struggle with communication for half an hour. It’s fascinating, and at the end of it, I learn more Vietnamese than documentation.

They’re most curious about my age, not how much I earn. Two days back I was with a bike-taxi guy, waiting to score some, and we were generally talking… and he guessed my age correctly, without needing a second guess. I learn that he’ll turn 38 the next month. I told him that I was born in July too, and asked him the date… he frowned in thought and said “I don’t know… I’m so busy you know!”


Elvis said...

Dai, if you get time try writing... iI get this feeling people just mite like to read what you write..

Cant say the same when you talk..

. said...

We know you're in Vietnam. We know its beautiful, historic and underdeveloped and you're busy changing all of that.

But, do update.

Wanderer said...

lol thanks for the encouragement, king mooken! maybe one day my talk will improve too.

mundo, you know i'm waiting to be influenced.