August has been a busy month at the farm. Four fields had to be cleared and the remaining bananas harvested. We made three trips to the HOPCOMS yard next to Lalbagh to sell bananas. By the middle of August we got a decent rate. Once the fields were cleared we sowed togri, huruli and avarrekai. Easy winter crops. I wanted to plant tomatoes and beans but Nagaraj said the peacocks woud eat them up anyway, so what was the point. He cited the banana losses to the elephants and neighbour Rame Gowda's vegetable losses to the peacocks as proof of his superior farming intelligence. And I conceded defeat.

Then we had 31 children from Mallya Aditi School come by to work on Lewis Carrol. We brought in stilts and Brinda Jacob Janvrin to choreograph the Garden of Living Flowers and the Mad-Hatter's Tea Party. Navaz Hormusjee called the night before the children arrived to ask if it was dry enough to sleep in tents and I said "Yes, it's been dry as a bone. No rains." Famous last words. Soon after the children arrived, by late afternoon, the rains hit us. It was beautiful, no doubt, but I was a goner. Fearful thoughts of wet tents, soaking sleeping bags, scorpions, snakes looking for shelter from the storm...is what occupied me. But children being children, were wonderful. As we sat on the verandah and looked out at the tents they transformed into an installation of torchlight and children-shadows.

Finally, the issue of Prudence - the Basset Hound-English Pointer mix breed puppy. She was to be a farm watch dog. (Ha! says Kuki, the only way she'll keep intruders away is if they die laughing. The best thing to do is give Nagaraj a deerstalker and a shotgun and they'd make quite the comedy team. Both with doleful eyes and demeanour.) But I wasn't to be thwarted in my efforts. So we took the dogs to the farm to test Prudence's skills. She wasn't bad, little survivor that she is, and even made it up the hill. But she was so exhausted that she slept all of the next day. Perhaps things will change. I think Nagaraj is quite looking forward to having her follow him around.

Thus passes August. Month of transition, month of rest. Lull-before-the-storm month. I saw the trucks on Magadi Road, filled with neon Ganeshas heralding...what? A new way? Water pollution? Anxiety?
But for now, I love the rain at the farm and have no truck with dark clouds.

Dark August by Derek Walcott

So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky
of this black August. My sister, the sun,
broods in her yellow room and won't come out.

Everything goes to hell; the mountains fume
like a kettle, rivers overrun; still,
she will not rise and turn off the rain.

She is in her room, fondling old things,
my poems, turning her album. Even if thunder falls
like a crash of plates from the sky,
She does not come out.

Don't you know I love you but am hopeless
at fixing the rain ? But I am learning slowly
to love the dark days, the steaming hills,
the air with gossiping mosquitoes,
and to sip the medicine of bitterness,
so that when you emerge, my sister,
parting the beads of the rain,
with your forehead of flowers and eyes of forgiveness,
all will not be as it was, but it will be true
(you see they will not let me love
as I want), because, my sister, then
I would have learnt to love black days like bright ones,
The black rain, the white hills, when once
I loved only my happiness and you.

The School In August by Philip Larkin

The cloakroom pegs are empty now,
And locked the classroom door,
The hollow desks are lined with dust,
And slow across the floor
A sunbeam creeps between the chairs
Till the sun shines no more.

Who did their hair before this glass?
Who scratched 'Elaine loves Jill'
One drowsy summer sewing-class
With scissors on the sill?
Who practised this piano
Whose notes are now so still?

Ah, notices are taken down,
And scorebooks stowed away,
And seniors grow tomorrow
From the juniors today,
And even swimming groups can fade,
Games mistresses turn grey.



who stops the car for mee 
to pee

The Heffalump (for Kai & Mia)

The Heffalump came visiting twice in the two weeks that I was gone. No one saw him and we know it was only One him, because Nagaraj told us so. And we believe Nagaraj. By the time the Heffalump-Spotting-Squad, comprising of Kuki and me in the jeep, got to the farm, there had been a rain and very few remaining foot prints. So we couldn't be detetctives now could we? Nagaraj showed us a roundish hole in the ground that he said was a footprint. It could've been or it could've been a spot where Nagamma's pot fell. But maybe it was indeed a Heffalump footprint.

But we do know for sure that this time, the Heffalump was a little out of sorts and really made a mess of the bananas. He (or she, but most probably he, because girl Heffalumps are not known to wander about alone) entered the land from the art shed corner, then into the banana field near the s-shaped loos with the pink roses and ivy. And then, guess what? He doesn't care too much about bananas so these he just picks off the plant and tosses on the ground. But what he really likes is the heart of the banana stem. So he peels the leaves and outer layers away and then eats up the heart. We took photographs of the mess he made. All the nice plants stripped and tossed on the ground. He even made a dent in a pumpkin. Remember I gave that one to you? And Aala made a pumpkin pie and dhamrot with it.

I suppose after eating a whole field of banana stems, the Heffalump must sit down and burp. But I can only imagine this part. I spend a lot of time imagining the animals that I know are there, but that I haven't seen as yet. The bear that Nagaraj saw on our lane a week ago, at 6 pm, as he made his way back from Vardenahalli. The mother bear and cubs that the painters saw two years ago. The 5 elephants that the forest department chased past us and towards Savandurga. The leopards that must love the rocks. The wild boar that come for the groundnuts and sometimes root around in the bananas. Thank goodness we see a lot of peacocks or I might just have to imagine them as well.

And so I imagine that the Heffalump, after destroying the banana field, walks to the pond and gets a good drink of water. I know for a fact he scratched himself on the tamarind tree near the oven because we have evidence! A dusty red patch of mud high up on the tree that Nagamma pointed out to us.

What means this, home?

I met a man recently, called Coordt, who was described to me as not owning a flat. That is, Coordt lives out of a backpack and doesn't call any one place home. He travels extensively and has opted for simplicity and frugal consumption. Pretty much his whole world is contained in his backpack. His girlfriend Pei-jen is from Taiwan. And he carries a plastic fork. Just in case.

New urban babas.

A curious thing happened. I was watching the Germany-Spain game in the Casino foyer at the National Theatre. Of course everyone was charged. The German national anthem came on and, I think, three people stood up. The rest continued with what they were doing. I was struck by this. In India, everyone would have worked themselves into a lather.  Later, Andrea told me that she was quite shocked by the shows of nationalism; the flags, the facial make up. She said her generation were brought up to be highly suspicious of nationalism in any form.

So what does it mean to say home?

Another friend from Schnawwl, Robert, said it was just an accident of birth that he was German.  He truly felt more Dutch than German, so didn't have any nationalistic feelings at all. His partner is French - Brittaine. Three actors at Schnawwl are immigrants - having come to Germany for a variety of reason. One from Spain via Luxembourgh, one from Switzerland and one from Russia.

So, where do they belong?

Coming home is always a strange and emotional affair. Reminding one of jet lag and drinking Duty Free whiskey or creme caramel Baileys for breakfast. And how souls have to meet...gently, softly.

Tomorrow we go to the farm and will bring some bananas back. It feels perfectly like home there. But so does 58 St.Mark's Road, (yes Zui, a lot of our memories are here) even the mildewy smell of books and the oldnesss of it - feels like something worth coming back to. And so does being in my parent's home where I know better than to throw my stuff around, but where I can bank on my mother's divine food and the picture of my father reading the papers and The Spectator in his rocking chair. So does Nanu's beach house where the ocean awaits us like a mother and the old tiles and trees are our dear friends and allies.

And the home of all homes that appeared in my dreams for years. First as a dull ache, a yearning. For in every dream, the home returned to us and was present and available. And then it slipped away. The yellow home with green shutters that kept out the Madras afternoon heat, and fuschia and white bougainvillea pouring over the verandah. That home, I seem to have stopped dreaming about, but it lives quietly in me, a place of refuge. Much as the puja room that drew me in. The diwan, the book shelves, the picture of Annie Beasant, of ancestors and Gods. The low window through which I saw a pomegranate tree.

And knew that we were ok. That we would be ok.