Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Thursday, 7 September 2017

First Day At School

Never post in haste, they say. You might change your opinion, or be short of facts. So, I watched the news and did some thinking.

That little boy George. Prince George - Winsome. I wish him well with his school-life and all else.

   BUT - why the hell do I want to know who held is hand for his first day at school? I would think we should spent our time thinking of more immediate matters - like the plight of refugees from Syria and the Rohingas. We should spare a thought for the catastrophe in the wings when BREX-bloody-IT is done and dusted.  The Tories lie so much, we may never even know when it actually happened. 

   We should be really concerned about what the hurricanes are doing to the West Indies and parts of America. And how the Grenfell survivors are coping. Or not.

   And the power-grab. How are we (Labour) going to prevent it when we are short of a vote or two in Parliament behind us, and the Tories will close ranks as always when their sinecures are tested. There is much talk on the media (Norman Smith has not stopped pontificating, or looking where he can hang some of the chaos on to the back of Labour,) but Theresa May blunders on, blinkers in place and imagination switched off.

   Back to first days at school: I remember the day I took Asha, my granddaughter, to the local nursery ten years ago on a December morning. We had arrived from Kenya after ten years. Our wardrobes were not quite English winter. Asha insisted on wearing her gold strap-sandals anyway. I stayed with her that day, through the compulsory morning-break for half-an-hour.. When our hands froze, I got us inside a dilapidated phone-box in the playground. 'I am freezing,' the little one said matter-of-factly. So she put her hands in my coat-pocket.

   And her father? Like so many fathers hers had buggered off within a week of her birth. Mother HAD to earn a living and had to be in London by eight in the morning. So I was in charge. I think, today, of all those single mothers with no help, no money to buy new shoes or coats, and Mrs May threatening all sort of school-disasters. I have no time to think of Price George.

   As for third in the line of succession, I am quietly hopeful that will become irrelevant when our Queen gives up. Can you imagine the rest of that lot in charge of our nation's Royal heritage?

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Royal Expectation

Babies are wonderful things - another one, anywhere, and hope springs up even in my old, beleaguered psyche. I believe birth is nature cocking a snook at death.  Wonderful.

   Catherine Middleton and William are having another baby. I am glad for them. No doubt William will donate the entire privy purse coming to that baby, to Centrepoint.

   However, when I see the obligatory simpering of the newscaster announcing this news, I feel like throwing something at the TV screen. Lots of women have babies all over the world, many have extreme 'sickness'. Haven't they noticed?

   Recently we have had royal overload on TV. Diana and the princes and ... What is brewing? I wonder.

   The numbers of the homeless in this whole happy realm of ours climbs by the minute all over the cities, and now the smaller towns up north as well.

   As an old woman, I having a sneaking admiration for the queen. Her persistence and obstinate ideas about duty and loyalty. But I keep hoping that soon, when her reign comes to an end, the country will give the Royals a pension for two generations or so, and quietly forget them. It worked in India - all those Maharajas and ranis have disappeared into politics, Hospitality business (all those big palaces are useful after all.) or simply faded away.

   We cannot feed our people:

   The food banks are doing brisk work, filling up the hampers. Mothers eat less to keep the children fed. School-meals are threatened by the Conservative government. 

   All the tax-payers' resources should go towards housing and feeding our folks, not propping up the monarchy.

   And then - there is not enough money for the police, the NHS, schools, prisons. I don't need to spell this out.

   I am a republican and don't believe in monarchy anyway. But when things are so dire for many in this country, for Heavan's Sake!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Monster

I have never seen a steam-iron like this monster. It spews steam and venom, hisses like an inconvenienced cat, and breathes fire every half-minute as it gathers itself for another attack on my tender susceptibilities.

  And it is BIG! The size of a small dog almost. We shall need an extra room to store it. I'm scared of it and when my daughter is ironing, I keep a safe distance. I keep a safe distance from ironing anyway, due to congenital laziness. I was not born to this.

  In our house in Thalassery, when I was a little girl, we had no iron at all. Devi, the maid, dumped our washed clothes on a vacant bench in Achamma's room and we children just pulled out a school-dress as we heard the sound of the jutka (horse-drawn carriage) trotting up to our house. If we were late, the Jutka-man would simply give the mare a little encouragement on its haunches with the whip, and she would rear up and gallop off.

  The clothes smelled of the rice-starch Devi used on the dresses and when she was really enthusiastic, the dresses could probably stand up on their own.

  Somewhere along the line, we acquired an old iron, much abused. From the junk-room, I think, and there was a good reason it was there. The lid of the iron did not hold and it had a habit of dropping the smouldering charcoal on pristine mundus. The maid generally put a piece of cane on the bolt on the lid to prevent coal escaping, but the stick sometimes let you down, sliding off, breaking up... We, children, were not allowed to go near it for obvious reasons.

  As we got older and began noticing the well-turned-out girls in school, who actually had mothers and such like (mine had been dead a long time) my cousin Mani and I conspired to get our hands on the treacherous iron. BUT -  the iron needed charcoal, generally made from coconut shells. The coconuts had to be really dry before the shells could light up; so we would have to wait till the kitchen used a properly dry coconut. This could take weeks. 

  Getting the iron ready was quite a process. First you set the coconut shell on fire till it blazed. In about five minutes the flame would die down leaving bright red charcoal. Then the charcoal could go straight into the innards of the iron. It would stay hot enough to iron for about half an hour; after that it would need a complicated refill.  Mani and I gave up and settled for unironed clothes.

  These days I sit back and watch the iron glide on clothes. which will be worn for a few months and after, donated to charities. I remember the time when I had two dresses for school and just getting them dry for wear in the monsoon season was a house-hold challenge.



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A very proud Labour Member

Today I was very proud of being a member of the Labour Party. I was proud of my leader. I was proud of that amazing manifesto!

  After the local elections a few weeks ago, I was thrown - felled down. Stopped talking and it takes a great deal to silence me, as you all know.

  But today, I applaud that manifesto. I remember the United Kingdom, to which I migrated in 1774. My children went to Universities and qualified without me having to pay fees from my meagre teacher's salary. I did not take that for granted because I came from India where only the rich can afford higher education.

   And I remember, with gratitude, the times I have been to my G P and the clinic without having to pay for every visit, every prescription. I am Indian by birth, by culture, by habit. But I loved the freedom of the individual in Britain, which I enjoyed without question. MAGIC!

  But, today, I listened to the Labour manifesto unfold and the hairs on my arm stood on end. If only I was young enough to door-step, to go husting...  LABOUR DESERVES TO GOVERN.

  At my age (82) I am expected to be right-wing, Tory, 'I'm-alright-Jack' pensioner. Not a hope. I am financially comfortable, but I would gladly give more than my biblical tithe, to restore this country to what it tried to be not so many years ago. My children feel the same.

  I still hope the country will see sense and vote Labour. But even if it takes time, years, to turn the population around, this dream of Labour's WILL come to pass.

  So Tories, fox-hunters and hedge-funders, beware. Your nemesis is approaching. Find corners to hide in your mismanaged academies, in the corridors of your rarefied grammar schools and your tax havens. BE GONE.


Wednesday, 3 May 2017


I cheated. Yesterday. If not saying the whole truth is cheating. Also, these blogs, till the 8th of June are about our election, about telling a few people at least that the Tories are a huge scam that we have succumbed to for seven years. So I didn't think my personal angst was pertinent.

   But, on second thoughts, I know, first-hand, what it is to feel there is nowhere that is yours.

   My second visit to England was in February, 1974. This time I came alone. I was running away from my marriage and looking for a place to be, where no one would ask any questions. Coming down the steps of the plane that brought me from Ndola to London, the metal grabbed my hands, it was freezing. I was wearing summer clothes: no coat, no socks, no gloves. When I hit the tarmac the wind nearly blew me away. Fortunately my friend, Alda, met me and took me to her brother's warm and welcoming home.

   I stayed there for three days. I needed a job and a place to live. A friend said North Thames Gas was taking temps, so I applied. I got a job answering the phone and filling up forms for connections and disconnections as people moved in or out of their territory. My pay was 59p an hour and there was a room to rent near by on Lower Mortlake Road. Bliss! Or so I thought.
   Alda had also arranged for me to meet a Head Teacher in Essex who needed Maths staff. But that was weeks later. I had to make a one-room home. I remember it was eight guineas a week rent. Two Irish nurses who worked freelance in care homes, a lovely Goan girl, Anne, and I made up the household. The owner lived in the attic upstairs - he was a bachelor and I soon came to understand he extracted rent in kind from one of the Irish girls when she could not pay in cash.

   For heating you needed 50p coins for the tiny radiator in the room. You had to sit very close to it.

   We shared kitchen and the one bathroom. We had to play Box and Cox as the bath-water got colder by the minute and the grease-line broadened in the bath tub. I would sit in the tub and use a large mug to wash, no self-respecting Malayalee could possibly bathe in a tub!

   I believe the only reason I took the teaching post in Wickford was because there was a council house attached. That rare thing that is so hard to find these days. But, till the Essex Council located a flat in Laindon I was a lodger on Southend Road. House rules were that I must not close my bedroom door when sleeping - the landlady was recently widowed and lonely. She would walk in at odd hours of the night wanting to talk and cry. I never had the heart to ask her to leave me alone.

   I was allowed nine inches of bath water, but then I never told her I didn't do her kind of baths.

   I took piles of exercise books home and marked them sitting propped up on my over-dressed bed. It was all pink nylon and needed to be burnt as an act of kindness to the environment. On Sundays I would walk around looking for an empty house, room, storage box to live in - anything.

   Meanwhile, after six months the Council found me a flat in Laindon. It was in a 14-storey high-rise monstrosity, which locals had nick-named Suicide Flats because so many tenants jumped out of the windows and topped themselves in sheer desperation. There was a lift, which usually stank of urine and stale beer, so I walked up and down to my third floor rooms.

   Second-hand furniture for the bedroom cost 15 pounds and my caretaker slavaged dining chairs and two old wing chairs which someone had thrown away near the bins. But I was happy. I had Terry Wogan for company till I went off to the bus stand in the mornings, and the local scalawags in the evening, neighbourhood primary school children who I taught to read, while their parents were at the pub. They called me their 'teach' and rewarded me by generally 'looking after' me. They accompanied me on trips to Basildon market and crowded in on the living room, uncarpeted floor with their gossip and careless affection. I was blessed.

   No home since has meant more to me.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

They need Homes

At the end of the day, we need a place to go to. As of right. All of us. Where we know we can go back daily and feel secure.
   All those sleeping rough all over our country are our responsibility. The Tories can do nothing for them because they are seen only as a blot on the landscape. The Tories have never cared,

   We need those 500,000 homes, which Labour has promised to build in the first year, to house these young men and women, these abandoned people of all ages. A place where they can all find shelter, a warm room and a welcome. People to talk to and help.

   Even animals need shelter. WE NEED A CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT. We don't need  'a bloody difficult' Prime Minister.

   The Tories, indeed, are the blot on our landscape, on our national consciousness.



Monday, 1 May 2017

Food Banks amid wealth.

I am paranoid about access to food. Probably the result of living through the war-years in Thalassery. My father had gone off to jail because he did not approve of the British Government and wanted them to quit India. He had bad habits like organising public meetings and processions at a time when meetings of more than five people in public was banned by decree of the colonial masters. He was in jail for about two years. I was seven when he went.

   He was the only bread-winner in our household. There was myself, my two cousins not much older than me, and a spinster aunt. A niece of father's, Nani edathy, cooked whatever there was to cook: mainly moong in many enterprising ways and rice three times a day. Morning and evening it was conjee- rice in its liquid cooking starch, and afternoons it appeared as rice with a catch-all curry called Sambhar, into which dhal and all kinds of suspicious leaves and vegetables went. It was tasty and I love it still. A lot of love went into it because Nani knew how to love.

   At the end of the day, there would not be much food left for Nani edathy, the niece. I would find her scraping the bottom of the rice pan to get a decent serving. Scraping gently so that neighbours would not know there was food shortage in the lawyer's house.

   So, when I see those empty fridges and larders in the homes where women are forced to go to the food-bank for just enough to eat, I feel a tremendous sense of failure about the Tory Government. And anger. And we are supposed to be the sixth richest country in the world.

   Where are those riches going? And who is responsible for this terrible inequality? Why has this ridiculous government abrogated its duty to its less rich people.