Monday, May 25, 2009

Life- a soap opera for servants

One evening, as Raj and Rohan swished Jedi Knights and Stormtroopers in a mock-battle, I watched them, struck once again by the rarity of this sight. So commonplace it had been before, the slow lingering of simple fun in the US. Despite rush hour of weekday traffic on Georgetown Pike and countless errands crowded over weekends, the delicate orb of family life had shimmered like a pearl in the shell of busyness. I recalled walks along wooded trails banking the Potomac, picnics among rhododendrons, the woodsy smell of summer barbeques, the sharp scent of mulled apples and crunchy red-gold leaves in autumn, and the gorgeous fireside chats in winters. I recalled the cosyness of desi parties as families and children gathered in each other’s homes for late nights over homemade gulab jamuns.

Now that seashell was fractured, and the once-beautiful pearl had lost its sheen to salty tides and slimy flotsam. The petty troubles of life dominated, the gauze of glitz suffocated and the joys of stillness were dulled.  

Even more so, because, intimacy, once a part of ordinary moments- hands held tight while driving some place, an impromptu hug as we dried dishes after a good meal prepared together, unaffected kisses in the park or at my own doorstep- seemed impossible in India. Bedrooms were no sanctum, shadowy presences hovered outside the door, dusting, mopping, listening, and to create that separation, beyond two levels of doors under lock and key, demanded precise plans that became impossible to organise. There were people everywhere, eyes and hands, curious and watchful, tongues flicking like monitor lizards, carrying gossip, currying favours for rumour. My life had become a television soap opera for the benefit of my maids and my cleaners and my drivers. The closest we came to togetherness was in a crowded five-star restaurants, marriage on meal slots. How could, then, intimacy survive?

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