Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jitterbug Pavazhamalli

The newspapers say the pollution levels have dropped in the city, nine days into another round of Telangana agitations, but the trees and domestic plants are indifferent to this news. Early mornings, the dust continues to rise with every sweep of the broom and every passing school bus.

Turning a corner, I first spy a dead bandicoot with a scavenging crow burrowing in its neck. As I approach, the crow flies away but only to a tree nearby.

I smell the parijat before I see the flowers carpeting what passes for a pavement in this area. It's a displacing smell: it goes with the night, and recalls other white or nearly-white flowers - raat ki rani, china box, the ubiquitous jasmine. But this is cognitive dissonance; I know the parijat equals mornings, the turning of seasons, the long light and the vanishing promise of winter that comes only with the early morning and sometimes with the dusk.

A few minutes into the future, a pi dog will chase a scooter but I say this not as portent, but as another punctum in the continuous and overlapping experience that is the walk. It shares time with the man dipping his leaky steel bucket (tethered to a rotting rope) into a neighbour's sump, the woman making a kolam that's nearly invisible because it's on top of last Diwali's painted rangoli; with the man brushing his teeth, whom I can smell because I am walking too close to him in order to avoid a passing vehicle.

But those parijats: those coral-stalked, bruised flowers that look as if Murphy himself, offended by their chance-whirled fall, has personally pushed each one face down to show he can enforce his law - they bring back memories of not a place, not a person I know, not a ritual, but of Tom Robbins.

Remember him? I stopped reading him, I admit, soon after Skinny Legs and All (about which there is a story, but that's for another time), but (some of) my college days passed in a blissful hippie haze largely because of his books. In no particular order, those parijats reminded me of: top notes, the beet is deadly serious (tomatoes were frivolous, as I recall, and radishes were, of course, full of cold rage, the poor things), sitting next to a classmate and writing what I now realise amounted to an Exquisite Corpse exercise with vegetables in the starring roles.

Wonder what he's up to these days.

 Our parijat tree, of course, sheds all its flowers into our neighbour's place. But, since its perfume hasn't yet been bottled, its presence can be inferrred quite easily.


km said...

Lovely writing.

I've forgotten how to blog like this. But reading this post makes me want to try again.

Space Bar said...

km: If you liked it despite its many unforgivable typos, you must really miss old-style blogging!

(But I know what you mean. I thought I should exercise those muscles a bit.)

km said...

Typos shypos.

As long as one doesn't mix "your/you're" or "their/there", it's all good.

dipali said...

Please don't disappear again. Loved this post.