What makes some events stick in your memory and yet others just fade away? Often it’s the unimportant things, or sometimes things you’d rather forget, that remain while stuff you really want to treasure, like the gems your children do or say as they grow up, just fades away.
Here’s one of those unimportant things that still seems strangely vivid…
We’re heading up MG Road, Anneke and I: East Fort, Chalai Market, towards Secretariat and then Napier Museum. Two kilometres down, two more to go. It’s late morning on that shadeless street; the sun is searing. The air is thick from four lanes of grinding, honking lorries and buses, taxis, tuk-tuks and motorbikes. We need to almost shout and yet not breathe too deeply. Amongst all the workaday traffic an out-of-place, anonymous limousine pushes past and later, a multi-axelled, foreign-tourist-gawping coach.
She’s vibrant, smart, pretty and tanned. The boys stare. The girls pretend not to see. I wonder if they think I’m her father, if they notice me at all.
It’s July, hot and incredibly humid. Our skins glisten with sweat. We should have taken a bus but there’s so much life out here; so much to see and drink in.
We’re picking our way over gap-toothed, ankle-twisting pavement. Past rough, hand-made wooden beds, fake watches and felt reindeer, sarees and brass goddesses. The smells.
We’re just chatting, wondering about everything unfamiliar around us.
And then, out of the blue, “So what brings YOU here?” she asks, catching me completely off guard.
“Huh? Oh. Well. You know… I wanted to do something meaningful, did a Google search, found Sebastian, read their story and now I’m here!”
“That’s not what I meant. Why HERE? Why Trivandrum? Why NOW?”
I look at her. I don’t really know you. What will you think? Who will you tell?
“Oh… It’s a long story.”
And like a ricochet, “What was her name?”
I’m knocked aback.
“How d’you know there was a woman?”
“OF COURSE there was. There ALWAYS is! Though I did wonder if it might have been a man!”
I smile and start to speak but she doesn’t really hear me: it’s her story she wants to tell.