There are places i remember…
There are some things you never forget.
Like the sight of a tiny, pale, translucent light-green slug sliding up the windscreen of a car early in the morning. And when the early morning sunlight hits it, it’s body glowed from inside, like there was a round ball of light inside.
There was a lemon tree behind our house and although I never plucked a single lemon from the tree, it’s smell spread through the whole back yard.
On some days we (my brother and i) would sit at the top of the stairs that lead down to our house (it was made in a hollow in the side of a small hill) and dig out, what seemed at that time, foot long earth worms! I remember the small wooden gate that opened to both sides at the top of the stairs. It offered much less protection than the thick forests that surrounded our house.
There used to be huge centipedes. They had brown scales on their backs and looked like cockroaches, must have been ten inches long! And there were known to give very painful bites… once one even disappeared into the sheets and niwaar of someone’s cot and the poor woman couldn’t sleep all night. (looking for the centipede which was never found!).. i think our dog once tried to sniff at one. It was half dark, there were very few streetlights and thick vegetation on the roadsides. Dad pulled him away sharply.
Once we found a baby bat caught in the tiny mesh of our window. There used to be those tiny wooden spaces at the bottom of the window that you could slide to either side? I think we opened that and set the bat free… I don’t remember too clearly.
I was sitting on the swing one day, right outside the kitchen door. It was hanging from a tree. I looked up at the door suddenly and saw a shiny, bright-red snake coiled around the thin water pipe that led into the kitchen. I remember screaming loudly, though I didn’t really feel any fear… the maid and my mother came running out and took me inside.
The maids house was at a small distance from ours. She didn’t speak hindi but always had a big smile ready for me. It was at an even lower level than our house was. Once, I wanted to see some balloons that Natraj (the maid’s husband) had bought- I remember a black one – (or get them blown up) and I went down to their house. Mum wasn’t at home, but when she got back I was yelled at for going down there alone. “I tell everyone that my kids would never do that!” was one of the things I remember her saying… I must have been around five.
Natraj once brought a huge crab home. It was gray and white, easily around the size of a small TV. It hung from a rope in his hand reaching almost till the ground. I remember sneaking up from behind and thinking it was dead. I put a thick stick between it claws, and gently, slowly, the twig snapped. I backed away fast.
One night I woke up and went to my parents room. My mother was up too. I looked out of the window and the sky was glowing red in the distance. I remember saying there was a fire somewhere on the island. Dad said it was probably the lights from the market. We stayed up and watched for a while. The next morning, the newspaper headline said “Fire in Aberdeen Market”…
There was a wide cemented space in front of the house. All around that was thick grass and behind that, the forest. We were separated from the forest by a fence of barbed wire and wood. On both sides of the front door were flower beds. Once, we found a dead baby cobra there. Mum was scared and worried that there’d be more where that one came from. The maids husband swung it and threw it over the fence.
A thin cement path ran around the house, a part of the foundations, close to the wall. Once, a small black mouse was found in the house. Our dachshund ran after it and it escaped to the back and hid behind some old cement sacks that had been lying there for years. Dad said it didn’t matter if the dog ate the mouse, but I was howling and he finally pulled the dog away.