There is something to be said about living in faraway suburbs, even if it means battling traffic to get home, says Subha J Rao
“Amma, can I go for a walk?” piped up my four-year-old, scooting out of the gate before I could reply. Fifteen minutes later, my mother and I heard bits of intriguing conversation in the garden. The neighbour’s month-old brown and white calf was chomping down on our patch of green, and my worried son was trying to persuade him to behave. “Anna solraen illa, rose saapdathe. Amma thittuvaanga.” The calf, unmoved, finished with the red roses and moved on to the pink and yellow ones, unwilling to listen to ‘big’ brother. What had started out as a happy walk had turned into something else. All he had done was untie a calf that then dragged him back home.
Cut to another incident. I walked into a panic-stricken home. A grown cobra had sought refuge under the refrigerator. I did not know how to react. I’d lost touch with snakes after a decade of city life in different places. As a child, snakes and scorpions were commonplace in the rural quarters I grew up in. Our homes were surrounded by sugarcane farms and thick bushes. Usually, they were shooed away and the occasional snake killed. After it was cremated, residents would watch as milk and turmeric were poured down a hole for the snake’s soul to rest in peace.
Even now sometimes, these creatures visit us in the suburbs. Super-sized chameleons and lizards, occasional peacocks, pond herons that rest on the garbage dump and grazing goats that take a shine to the just-sprouting chembaruthi…
We also receive trouble, jumbo size. Some years ago, a herd of elephants came calling. They ruled our conversation for at least three days. We were prepared for battle, but all they did was swat down a compound wall and several trees.
With the trees and open spaces and profusion of flowers, bees are a given. Only, sometimes they enter the house, have no idea how to exit, and fall about in a daze. On the ground, on mattresses…often stinging you in unmentionable places!
Sometimes I wonder if it is worth battling terrible traffic jams to get home to this! But, it is. As I drive to Podanur, past a potholed village road, crossing a railway track, I see acres of brilliant green betel vines climbing on bulbous agathi keerai. Geese waddle in the farms, ponds teem with violet lilies and pink lotuses, and birds takes off from the fronds of arecanut trees. At dusk, everything is shrouded in fiery shades of orange. City slickers often travel miles to get a glimpse of such sights.
During the migration season, every morning, two golden orioles take off from the pungan tree in my front yard. Streaks of sunshine on a blue sky. Suddenly, the goats and the creepie crawlies seem like those pesky cousins who are annoying, but who you love nevertheless.