A Year that’s Passed

I slept on four different beds this year. Two of them were comfortable, with lamps that bathed the rooms I stayed in with warm, comforting light. It was a treat to read in those beds, by those lights. I didn’t count the number of books I read or the songs and podcasts I listened to or the number of times I watched the TV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The other two beds - well, one was a board and the other is a blast from the past. The less said about them the better.

I didn’t want to leave those comfortable beds, those rooms and the houses to which they belonged. I didn’t want to leave the gardens around and on top, the trees and plants I’d watered and touched and fed compost. But this has been a recurring theme in my life, one I can’t quite kick out, the foul shadow that always falls on the happier parts, destroying the good.

Well, maybe that’s too melodramatic a reading of a not-so-happy situation. But the past twelve months were a good lesson in rediscovering my roots, realising that the soil of home is redder than what memory till now had painted it, that the bad things still remain and will probably never truly go, and that the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses have slowed down in some places while gathering speed in others. Super Fast buses now crawl on the NH between Thrissur and Ernakulam and speed their way through the hill country of Kottayam and Pathanamthitta, swatting two-wheelers like an elephant would swish away flies.

The December wind no longer blows the way it should in Thrissur. My parents look anxiously at mango blossoms and fret about the changing weather and how it will affect the crop in the coming year. My mother still mourns the absence of any fruit on the jackfruit trees. The chrysanthemums which I planted in March finally gave up the ghost and so did the red spinach. The dahlias have found new life. The shy orchids have perked up and found new determination in living.

A beloved chompu tree was struck by lightning in May after bursting with fruit for two months, making it a sight to behold this past summer - green and pink, a psychedelic vision on hot sunny afternoons. As if to compensate, another tree of the same species but a different type, is bursting out now. Bees sit heavily on its fine, hairy petalled flower and the petals fall in a shower on the ground.

I spent two months as a paying guest in Cochin, in an old house at Vytilla where the back garden was filled with snakes, rotting mangoes and flood waters during the monsoon. A bat found its way into the kitchen and we shrieked, me and the caretaker, as its inky wings beat against the single CFL that lit the kitchen.

There were some hard lessons learned - ones that a thirty year old should, you’d think, have learned by now. Don’t trust too many people, everyone eventually disappoints you, and keeping your expectations low is good for your blood pressure and frame of mind.

I keep thinking of one memory that would stay, ten years from now, and I think it would be a battle between these:

The sight of iridescent blue dragonflies in a mating dance-and-swoon during the pouring rain at a traffic jam near the South Bridge in Ernakulam. A vision of nature following its own course in the midst of man-made horrors.


A really quiet morning on my street in Thrissur this past November. A quiet that lasted exactly two minutes when the eruption of maniacal, gobbling laughter that set all the neighbourhood dogs barking in confusion. We traced the sounds and peered over a wall to see the two turkeys my aunt had bought, strutting their stuff, lord and lady of all they surveyed.


World Cups that are yet to take place, outrage that already has

Last night, Russia and Qatar were named the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

For the 2018 World Cup, England was a contender as a possible host. For 2022, the USA was in the mix.

To say that the media of both these countries have not taken their defeat well would be an understatement. The moment the cameras in Zurich trained on Prince William’s glum face, the BBC was already muttering about racism in Russia. On the Guardian’s football pages, the overwhelmingly middle-aged white football journalists snarkily suggested that black footballers better keep away from Moscow and St. Petersburg. Those are the journalists who go to places such as France, Italy and Spain on holidays where incidents like this, this and this happen. And who give those countries a pass when it comes to moral outrage because, my, they are so picturesque. And you can binge drink in them and show off your designer thongs (if you’re white-skinned, mind). And rotting corpses on beaches? Pshaw! Check out those blue waves and the sparkling sea. But the corpses - those are just gypsy girls. They are (in hushed tones) not exactly Italian, right? Mozzarella and tomato and spaghetti Italian. Not Monica Belluci Italian.

Oh and Mario Balotelli who gets abused for being a black man on the Italian national team? His repeated complaints about the invective and monkey chants thrown at him every time he plays for Italy or in Italy are dismissed by English journalists as the complaints of a petulant player.

And then of course, there was the powder keg of Qatar 2022. Out came the closet racists on the Guardian’s comment pages. “Gay rights”, “Women’s rights”, “Workers rights”, “Amnesty International Reports”. These are the football fans who vociferously support gay rights by abusing footballers and coaches with the most disgusting homophobic vitriol every other Saturday. These are the supporters who drove Justin Fashnau, the only English footballer to date to come out of the closet, to take his own life in a cold garage in 1998.

As for Amnesty’s view of the UK? Doesn’t exactly make for pretty reading.

Oh and Qatar hates Israel and Jews so much that they won’t allow that country to play in the 2022 World Cup if it qualifies. A comment that gained traction on the Guardian’s blogs except for this to undermine that supposed truth.

Nate Silver, the statistician who writes the FiveThirtyEight blog on the New York Times is “puzzled” by why Qatar would have got the 2022 World Cup. Here’s a hint Nate: the money, the accessibility and the fact that the Middle East is one of the most football crazy places on earth. Africa, Asia and Europe are just a couple of hours away. One of the biggest economies in Asia with a burgeoning middle class is three hours’ flight from Doha. Think that didn’t rate with the beancounters at FIFA?

No country on the planet is perfect. This is just a sporting tournament, not an award for ethics. There will be skulduggery and corruption. There will be abuse of human rights. But before the declining powers of the West go around looking under Russian and Qatari rocks for dirty secrets, clean out your own backyard first, stop invading countries illegally and don’t smear an entire religion or race with the same paintbrush. Think you can do that? No?

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.