Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Family Way

Today I went shopping for a new laptop to replace Billy, who is not quite making the grade at the moment, and while at the computer market, in the furnace heat, amongst the hoards of beggars, samosa cooks, shoe shiners and shifty types who’ll sell you a knock-off copy of anything from Hitler’s Mein Kampf to The Gideon Bible, I was again reminded of what it is that makes India a tough place to live.

You see, India, or more precisely, Delhi, is like your mother’s old Aunty when you’re a twelve year old kid. You know what I mean - she’s about a hundred-and-three and she looks it; she’s all hunched over with a grotesque, protruding spine sticking out of where her right shoulder blade should be. She’s got those hair-raising, gnarled, cold fingers that slop limply into your hands when you’re helping her out of a chair, and of course, there’s that massive mole on her chin out of which grows a long, course, black hair like the one Michael J. Fox pulls out of his chest when he begins to realise he’s becoming a Teen Wolf. And let’s not forget that flower-wilting smell of decay on her shallow breath from the lithium addiction, which you can just make out above the stench from her horrid, never-ceasing flatulence.

So Delhi’s basically like that … but when you live here, in the summer time, it’s not like your Great Aunt who still lives in the country, and whom you only have to see at Christmas. In the summer time, Delhi is more like when she has just had a stroke, and has had to come and live with you. Its so hot and dusty here that your life becomes just as if that hemiplegic old bag has moved right on in, and every time she shuffles by, you can hear the grinding of all the crusted grit that she’s accumulated in the folds of her flaccid, jowly skin, all the way down her useless left side.

Basically, living in Delhi from May to August is nothing short of torture. Leaving the house on any given day during these months is reminiscent of when, as a twelve year old, your mother ushers you closer to that ancient, grotesque dame - you’re trying to pull away, but firm hands are pushing you closer … and closer, and in the end, when your will is completely sapped, your astral self steps out of your body and begins convulsing on the carpet as your physical form leans in to kiss that cold, clammy, leathery mug. And like a day on the steaming, streaming streets of Delhi, once your astral self has re-entwined with your body and its stinging, newly stubble-rashed lips (thanks to Aunty’s sandpaper complexion), all you have left in you is to cower in the corner with frightened, haunted eyes for the rest of Christmas.

But just like Old Aunty Ethel, you know that it’s not Delhi’s fault, and that you have to feel a bit sorry for her. So you try to love her as you should, however with all the arthritis, the flatulence, the medication and the bed sores on her arse, she has become a pretty cantankerous old bitch! She never smiles, she never ceases her complaining and she can be as unforgiving as a sailor’s chancre. Still, you try to grin and bear the abuse and look for the nice things about your aunt. You try to love her, in the knowledge that she may not be a part of your life for very much longer, and maybe she’ll reward you for your patience with a decent slab of inheritance when she’s gone … but the old spinster just will not admit defeat and die. She’s been complaining now for the better part of a century, and although her fragile frame groans with the physical effort of it all, that cold, black heart just will not give in. Fuelled by sheer stubbornness, it just keeps on rattling with the relentless regularity of an autistic adolescent.

So that’s what Delhi is like in the summer time; ugly, painful, uncomfortable, relentless, and with an ability to seek out and exploit even the most deeply suppressed pockets of Catholic guilt imaginable. It’s for these reasons that Donkey is getting out. As of last month, my work at Saving the World HQ is no more, and after putting-in a short stint with the Sugarpuffs Anonymous people, I’ll be rolling on out of here, and making tracks for some higher ground … some very high ground, as it happens. Donkey’s got a new gig, and he’s heading to the roof of the world; the mysterious land of ancient Tibet, and its awe-inspiring capital, Lhasa.

So from early July onwards, don’t be too concerned if Old Donkey’s posts seem even a little more garbled than usual, and if I just wander off halfway through a …

… um … what was I? … oh yeah, a sentence, just appreciate that there’s probably a whole lot of high-altitude acclimatisation going on. Maybe you should just go and make yerselves a cuppa until I get that turn of phrase back on track.

I’m obviously pretty excited to be going to live in a place that I’ve only ever dreamed of visiting, but like many things as you get older, the excitement is somewhat tinged with other, less positive feelings.

Number one on the negative aspects chart is my having to live without the companionship of Mrs Donkey for a while, and that guts me completely! But there are some other, less easily understood negative feelings going on down there in that twisted, bitter, little heart of mine. For instance, now that I have made the decision to move, I’m starting to see things in Old, Great Aunty Delhi and saying to myself, “I’m really going to miss that”, or “I hope I get a chance to visit that before I leave” etc etc.

Glass half full or glass half empty? More like glass half broken, and all the water draining out, and three pieces missing, but I’ll still be banging around in the cupboard looking for a straw.

It's not just the expats, life's tough for just about everyone in Delhi. Pic: Hagas


Pomgirl said...

Another great post, Donkey. So evocative...I almost felt like I'd been to Delhi.

If you could have picked anywhere to work/live where would it be?

And good luck in Tibet - wow!

DonkeyBlog said...

Thanks Pom. I reckon Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand would be pretty awesome, but Samoa will always hold a pretty special place in the Donkey's hearts. Kathmandu would be pretty good, too, but not so easy to get a job there. But for now, Tibet will do just fine as a pretty exciting adventure.

lived-legna said...

Lovely story, great ending! Good luck on your new adventure Donkey!

lucy said...

Dude. You're going to be living in Tibet?

I hate you.

(The hatred comes from jealousy so don't feel bad)

sabrina said...

You're going to Tibet?!!!!! I hate you!

And where are the pictures you promised?

DonkeyBlog said...

Sabrina - first hatred, and then requests! Sorry, apart from a few exceptions, you only get one pic per post (until I decide to change the rules, I guess).