I live a quiet life these days. You wouldn't guess it, looking at me running up the hill, laptop, coffee and several notebooks in hand. You wouldn't think it, seeing me screeching with laughter with a colleague at the bar after he's finished work and I've decided to break for a beer. We stand around in the sun sometimes and just roar. One beer down, and I can roar pretty damn loud. You would be forgiven, listening in on conversations with my mother, that Drama is my middle name: The Man did this today! He said that!! He bought me this! I hate this! I hate that! I love this! I want this! Ad infinitum.
But those are just the odd notes.
The spaces in between are intensely quiet, intensely peaceful, intensely alone.
I think. I write. I stare at the sun-dried grass outside the window, dotted with yellow and pink wildflowers. I listen to doves cooing on the window sill and crickets chiming away the long afternoon. I read.
The silence is golden.
The solitude is golden.
In between, there are intense flashes of memory: A piece of fieldwork. A fight I had when I was talking to the Man longdistance from a village somewhere and I had a mad idea to run away right there and then, lose myself in the middle of trackless dusty little villages. The touch of a strangers hand on my arm as he explained some vitally important point about irrigation. The point was vital enough that he touched me. The touch was vital enough that I forgot the point and still cannot remember it. The sound of neem trees and clinking glasses and Suttar drinking - no, slurping - his tea.
Inside all of these memories there is data that has to be written up, analysed and re-analysed, sharp recollections and soft ones that need to be remembered and re-remembered and a life, apparently, to be lived in the here and now. Bills, washing, laundry, insistent emails from my sister asking me if she should or should not order dinner, halfway across the world in Mumbai (No, she should save some money and cook herself.)
I've often wondered what people meant when they said that a piece of research can suck you in.
I'm not just sucked in, I'm several feet under, trying to grow a pair of gills so I can stay there longer.
But I am no mermaid, and sometimes I need to come up for air. And the beer at the bar or the Mans' mandolin, which he has taken to playing every evening, are just about as much sound and Outside as I can stand.