Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

OMG - The Colour!

The colour. Oh my God, the colour!  I had forgotten the colours of my homeland.

Coming out of the aircraft in Chennai, I felt zombie-like. The steel-grey-pretending -to-be-blue of the seating inside the cabin, the subdued black and beige of the stewards, all conspired, no doubt together with jet-lag, to make me feel as though I was swimming underwater.

   And then came Chennai. Magenta flashed from saris, duppattas, children's clothes and adverts. It was accompanied by brazen green of all kinds: grass green, cow-dung green, peacock green and all things in between. Mingling with these were many shades of blue and bold mustard and yellow. Not to mention the saffron of the holy men. No rainbow ever got close to this.

   I looked at myself - navy blue top, slightly lighter blue trousers, blue cardigan, blue back-pack. For heaven's sake! When did I lose my colours and get drab and boring like this? I remember the days when I flaunted all the colours in front of me, but would I dare now? Another thing that has been bludgeoned out of me by the cold U K weather and the blues and beige's and blacks of working England.

   When I travelled to England in 1974, running away from an unsatisfactory marriage, I wore a forest green, full length crimplene skirt with a huge, animal and palm-tree design on it. With it went an orange satin blouse and a red coat. What utter confidence! And open sandals, despite the freezing February blast into which I landed 

   When I started working in Beauchamps School, I still wore the clothes I always wore in Zambia. Dark pink trouser suit, skirts in many shades of bright green... I must have looked like a migrating bird which had wandered into the staff room by mistake. I tried tights once. Trying to get my legs into the tights made my room-mate laugh. I gave up on that, thank God.

And then slowly the colours dripped away from me. Probably with my self-confidence. I adopted the blues and the beige's, and the stare that looks through and past people. I watched out for my vs and my wubble us, for which I took much teasing.

   I tried to be really English, adopting lipstick and rouge and matt-finish light pink powder, till Raghu, my son, looked at me and said,'Doesn't do anything for you, Mum.' And Kitta helpfully pointed out, 'It's Mum's English face.' I gave up. The make-up disappeared into the back of the dressing table drawer and the home-made black mayyi for the eyes came out. I stuck with that. But the clothes continued to be apologetic as befits a migrant.

   Today I decided that I shall go back to the bright shades of my youth. After all, at eighty-one no one's really looking at me. Next summer I shall take my brightest saris out and flaunt them past the dour shoppers and shop-keepers.

   Thankfully, I discarded the polite reticence of my adopted land very quickly. I now accost women, children, dogs and telegraph poles alike. I smile at people indiscriminately and for no reason. Sometimes I win and make a new friend. It takes time, but time I have at this point. So hello neighbour, passer-by, child, dog -Happy Christmas!



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