Thursday, 8 July 2010

Summer, 2010.

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.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


Here is a thought that I've been having again and again, almost intrusively, for the past few months:

Life. Is. Too. Short.

It's strange that the immediate catalyst for this (entirely mundane) realisation was the onset of spring. That's usually the time when I become so immersed in the annual renewal that I am positive down to the my bones.
Not this year.
This year, I've been catching glimpses of old people getting off busses, their knees creaking, their eyes dimmed, the grasp of their hands weak, their understanding of this new, fast, hard world sometimes incomplete. And it floods me with pain to think h0w quickly that happens. 70 years, 80 years, 85...
I've been thinking of all the things I want to do, want to see. All the things I want to be. All the things I don't even know I want yet. All the things to love, to hate, to know, to change, to touch, to learn. All the bigness, the vastness, the deepness of the world.
It seems impossibly crazy that we're given One life. And it's a short one. And we're given an instinctive hold on it. A desire to keep it going. How brutal.
It seems as though inside everything that is beautiful, wildly moving or worth learning there's the incessant ticking of a clock that never stops. A sadness. A knowledge that this lovely friend, our time here, is moving always further and further away, until one day she is gone.

I was on the phone to my mother today and I told her what I'd been mulling over in my head, again and again all through spring, and now summer.
She laughed, and reminded me that she'd turned 60 this year, and that I was too young to be thinking like this, I should go out and kiss the Man and enjoy the sun and forget everything else.
But I really can't. I feel a new sense of urgency, of mad attachment to this one, wild, precious life. And a breathless desire to make it stay, keep it around longer, hold on tight.