Sunday, December 31
An unnamed road, 9:27
Irma got up to wash the bedding, a Sunday ritual, while I take Bruno for a walk. We walk down to the village shop where I buy a footscraper. I chat to the man behind the counter and photograph the shop. We walk a bit further and then turn back.
We will have a smaller breakfast than usual and then shower and sit on the balconies to dry. At 12:30 Tagarat will arrive to take us to Udaya and Lekha’s house.
They have invited us for lunch and we will spend an hour and a half with them enjoying rice, jackfruit curry, spicy chicken, and cabbage chopped so fine we couldn’t identify it. We will finish with Lekha’s rice pudding, something Naa has loved for years.
Udaya will show us round Blue Breeze, the house almost opposite his where we stayed before Auo died. I will remember writing in the garden in the early mornings while Auo sit swinging in the homemade swing, stopping every now and then to ask “a random question”, as she used to say.
We will walk from Blue Breeze, along the route we used to take, to the bottom of Temple Road. Tigarat will not appear and so eventually we will get another rickshaw.
As we approach the forty fove degree slope that takes us from Hawa Beach to the road to Kovalam, the rickshaw will grind to a halt and the driver will order Irma and Naa out. He will then race to the top of the hill with me. Irma and Naa will trudge up the hill in boiling sun, and arrive considerably less than pleased.
Irma will phone Tagarat who will explain that the traffic delayed him. He will arrive while the other driver continues trying to persuade us to get back in his rickshaw. Since our house sits on the top of a hill, and the driver has admitted that he doesn’t know exactly how to get there, we can all imagine how the journey will go. We will say hello to Tagarat, leap in, and drive away.
He will fetch us again at 18:30 to take to the the beach for our New Year Buffet at The Spice Village. He and Udaya have worked out a route that uses a variety of mysterious back roads with the intention of avoiding all the queues and police road blocks. On the way we will see police forcing people to park their cars and walk to the beach. We scoot past.
We will eat alone at Spice Village, but as we finish the place will fill up, with people we know, including Anu and the young Belgian woman from SISP. Naa will get her face painted.
We will walk back to our secret merting place at the back of Peacock Hotel and Tagarat will appear. He will take another circuitous route through back roads and alleys, all mysteriously deserted.
At 11:00, after an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve we will decide we can imagine what the fireworks will sound like at midnight, and go to bed. I will feel far too full, from my two big meals.