It is about 40 c. and the only thing keeping it remotely bearable is the wind. But even that wears on a body after a while. I came down to the south of India, to Tirumangalam in part because I wanted to experience the monsoon. However, I neglected to properly research the phenomenon – it certainly has started – on the other side of the Western Ghats which is a long mountain range running down the length of southern India. The rains here on this side of the Ghats won’t start until possibly September! There are in fact at least two separate arms or branches to the monsoon.
Lesson of the day – Beware expectation without fact!
This part of Tamil Nadu is pretty flat, farming country which hasn’t had a good monsoon in 4 or 5 years and a lot of the farming land is fallow for lack of water. We are fortunate here at the guest house to be sheltered by huge trees and a riot of planted greenery – rubber plants we baby along at home, here run with great abandon, up the trees and have to be cut back periodically with machetes; the corn plants have to be at least 3 m. tall. We have all sorts of birds; boisterous crows or at least something analogous, who inhabit every branch and gossip loudly over our human activities. There are several “somethings” I’ve never actually managed to see despite some fairly strenuous efforts, which go “Whup, whup whoop” but only on the opposite side of wherever I am – its a very good game I’m sure! And then there are the – also unseen “sickly cat” birds. These all start a cacophony bright and early every morning and only seem to pause in the somnolent heat of the day. The large step well just outside the gate keeps everything watered and provides a perfect playground for the largest colony of chipmunks I have ever seen.
My other expectation was the simple vegetarian meals I would be eating based on last years experience. Muthupandi however, has been outdoing himself and I fear I shall gain not lose! Lunch today was a large omelet, perfect french beans sauteed with a bit – well a lot actually – of garlic, sweet steamed carrots, the most perfectly fluffy deep fried potatoes and an addictive herb gravy (and I don’t even like gravy!) We may be eating vegetarian but we are NOT eating light or simple. Tomorrow I intend to beg for a tomato, some cucumber and maybe a hard-boiled egg.
The pace here is slow, the heat precludes anything else I think but we are getting a handle on doing the Child Profiles and photographing all the children in school. We walked down to the primary school at the end of our lane – about 160 kids from age three to ten in an open room separated only by a miscellaneous collection of room dividers. How they manage lessons in that din I have no idea! The children are quite wonderful, enthused to meet new people and show off their skills and very few, if any of them have a shy bone in their bodies! They are the most perfect subjects for my camera and I literally don’t think I can make a bad shot unless it is on account of my own technical fumbling. I do confess to having had a LOT of difficulty initially balancing the very harsh bright light which washes out just about everything, with the dark hair, skin and eyes or my subjects. Think I have it now tho’ – I can’t wait until I can post some for you to see…
The profiles themselves are both heartbreaking, and a testament to the courage and resiliency of these youngsters. Parents who have died, others who have simply left or given up, children left with elderly grandparents and yet they are so very happy to be at school, playing with friends and eating well perhaps for the first time in their lives. We aren’t seeing starvation by any means – India has come a long way in feeding her people, but we do see children who are very small for their ages who literally “blossom” when they get healthy, regular food. These kids also recognize that for them, a good education is absolutely key to lifting themselves and hopefully their families out of this pernicious cycle of poverty. I will have much more to say on the subject I don’t doubt.
In the mean time its back to work….