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Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving and trying times

It is grey and dripping outside, like I feel. Or I don't know what I feel. The world is crazy this week and we struggle for normalcy and meaning.

Bombay is under fire, on fire. We refresh our browsers compulsively, glued to the up-to-the-minute reports on the attacks of Shining India's most shining city. 195 dead when the shooting stopped and no more sense for 3 days of watching, reading and talking about it.

Chennai is under water. Chennai's skies are not falling, but are leaking all the tears of Bombay this week, drowning our streets and homes in a rising tide of sewage-tinged stagnation, unhealthy and floating with everything that littered the streets the days before. Traffic grinds to a sputtering halt, harshly represented by the dozens of stranded motorcyclists pushing their choked and flooded bikes through water past their knees. Offices close and we closet inside, not wanting to wade out.
India - Chennai - Monsoon - 01

Bangkok is under protest, both airports closed. We've been following it closely, for our own selfish reasons, and I've got my fingers crossed it will simmer down and the airport re-opens before our upcoming Christmas plans.

The world seems in chaos, panicked. We ignore the financial crisis back home in North America and its echoes here for more immediate issues and needs. Everyone has their stories. Friends miss their flight stuck in traffic and waste deep water seeping into the car for 4 hours trying to get to the airport. Commuters literally see people swimming - swimming! - outside their car, making batter time than they are. The whole southern suburbs are completely submerged. People are sick. I've got a cough that won't seem to fully go away. Worried phone calls flood in and swirl like the rain: are we in Bombay? Are we all accounted for? Are the Thai airports going to be open for Christmas? Our laundry just won't dry. The auto prices have jacked 100%, assuming you can get one at all. The power's out and now what do we do. Oh good, there, it's back.

It all is enough to paralyze and hide under the covers. And for a day or 2, we mostly do.

But then we carry on. We wade to the store to get much needed groceries. We mix cocktails of numbness, fatalism and stubbornness, and go to dinner at hotel chains the world witnessed on fire this week. Foregners were targets in Bombay. But we are not in Bombay. We need to live too. And then we turn even those off for a few precious hours and sit down as friends for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner - turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce (the trickiest to get), the works. We celebrate cherished friends leaving and new ones arriving. We laugh and drink foreign liquor we've squirreled away from duty-free runs. We eat home-made pumpkin pie even though our stomachs are already full of turkey and our blood already 1/4 gravy.

And we find our own magic moments in the situation. We wade home through rivers that were once streets at the peaceful and haze-softened midnight hours. We dance on the rooftop in the deluge. We call our loved ones on the phone or Skype and write lots of letters and posts. We hold tightly to each other. We watch bad movies, which will always be wonderfully, consistently kitch no matter how the world spins. We make a meal, 7 people in the kitchen, and it's damn good. We shrink the world to the personal, the viceral, the understandable.

And the world spins. Today Chennai is safe and not under threat. It is drying out and coming back to life. Bombay is finally quiet, able to grieve and rebuild. Thailand gets worse, but rumours are whispered of it being over by the King's birthday on the 5th. And me, my days are largely unaffected. The office re-open tomorrow, friends come and go in a maddening cycle and I don't know what I feel. I feel inspired and lonely both. Not sure if any of the week's events heightens that or just uncovers.

3 comments:

Shannon Spanhake said...

"Trying" yes it seems everything is trying not to make sense

Cal said...

Hello, I came across you whilst looking for photos of Nepal/Kathmandu on Flickr.

However I also noted that some of those photos were for a tailoring unit - are you still involved in that NGO/project? I'm looking for groups/small businesses to make 'ethical' garments.

I'd really appreciate it if you could email me clare[AT] clarelissaman.com - partly to talk more about this and also because we may want to use your photos!

ROUTES said...

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