Wednesday, December 29, 2010

India: Where Even Simple Pleasures Are Not Simple

This is the time of year when many of my friends turn up in Goa, Kerala, Thailand and Singapore. It's cold here in Dehradun and it seems right to get out if one can. I'm one of those who can't. My house is too complicated (three people with disability means vacations by the seaside are not happening), and anyway my purse is too small.

I don't mind. I console myself with the "simple pleasures" in life. Beethoven. Candles. Homemade bread. And, at this time of year, a fire in our very own fireplace.

What a treat. I buy wood for 5 rupees a kilo (what a bargain!) and all day I look forward to that moment when Moy is in bed and the biddies are in their room and I will light the match beneath the grate.  I may also pour a glass of wine, I may write letters, I may read a book. I may just stare into those flames and pretend that they are the ocean.

This afternoon, anticipating this evening's "simple pleasure," I set the fire up early. I tore up newspaper and crumpled it under the grate, set up the kindling in a neat little triangular pile, then laid in the logs on the side. Naina, Moy Moy's babysitter, watched me doing it with interest.

"I get my wood at the tea gardens, Didi," she said. 

"Oh? Do you also have a fireplace?" Even as I asked, I knew the answer would be no.

"I've got a chula set up outside," she said. "That's where I cook our food."

Naina's gas cylinder ran out a few days ago. Gas is in short supply lately and it's unlikely she will get one for at least a month. So my simple pleasure is her dire necessity. Before she can have a cup of tea in the morning (I wander sleepily out to the kitchen whenever I happen to wake up and switch on the electric kettle), she has to gather sticks, fan the flames and boil water and milk.

It is nearly midnight now and my fire is dying. I'm going to bed.  But I go mindful of how lucky I am, how blessed, and of how easy it is to forget that and how stupid.


Entropy said...

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

-Mark Strand

Jyotsna said...

How true this is and how essential it is to count our blessings each moment..

ana @ i made it so said...

i am so thankful each day for all i have and all i can do. and yet, it is so surprising and humbling to have it put into perspective at times, as you shared.

i'm afraid i will be up a while now, reading into your previous posts... :)

Jo Chopra McGowan said...

Ajay, I love your "comments" - you put me onto so many wonderful poets. Thanks. Would love to hear you in your own words some day!

Jyotsna, I haven't forgotten I'm supposed to get back to you - just an avalance of work at the moment!

And Ana, thrilled to have you here!