IN dEfensE of thE riGHt browN that IS nEVeR quITe tHe RiGht bRown AnD OtHer ColOURS ThaT arE nOT brOwn

color-worksheets-for-preschool-4There are times when the air is so thick and unmoving, the land dry and barren that I can only describe it in a colour: brown. Brown like the ruggedness of a tree trunk, its bark peeling off the way skin does when burnt. Brown like the Catholic school girl’s skirt that remains resolutely in place. Brown, the brown that isn’t rich like coffee or deep like chocolate. A brown that cannot find an adjective other than…brown. Brown is also sturdy, like planks of wood that becomes a bridge. The furniture at home unchanging and unbroken. The heavy temple doors. The old ceiling fans- the new ones are a forcefully cheerful dull-white. Brown like makeshift cardboard boxes, full with nothing, nothing without anything. Brown of the paper that covered notebooks of math, science and every other dreadful nightmare that made school. Brown of the hair of the servants gone brown from black from working in the sun- crying  out for coconut oil. Brown of the coconut when it’s not tender anymore. Brown of the skin of my hand which still escapes from being too dark. Brown that is not the skin of crispy chicken and all things fried, because that is golden. Brown not of whiskey or the hint of red in rum. Brown that has a smell that can also be described as…brown. Brown of eyes that never look as attractive as hazel that is called brown. Brown that is not dry sand or wet earth. Brown that is the brown under your feet on white sheets. Brown of those lines of sweat and dirt that form on your already brown neck. Brown that is never altogether too brown or too pale to be brown, but is just brown. The colour pencil that isn’t quite your skin colour and not the additional dark brown. The missing brown in WhatsApp emoticons next to the yellow and white. The brown almost like the colour of roots when a giant tree is uprooted- one that is old, almost ancient and had a sudden death. Brown like the mud vessel used for orange-red fish curry with a dash of coconut milk. Brown that doesn’t quite sound brown with a capital B. Brown which needs just a little something after it to be as brown as it can be. A hyphen to separate, a comma to explain, a semi-colon with more to come, a colon to summarise, even an ellipses with more brown to come.

Brown with a rounded sound and a texture almost too rough. Brown that comes like an afterthought, like umami. brown…

off late i’ve had this strange feeling. it’s a strange feeling i’ve been having about my house. every morning i wake up and everything is fine. once i know everything is fine and i go down for breakfast there it is again. there it is again this strange feeling. that strange feeling about my house. my house is getting bigger. it is getting bigger every night. every night when i sleep my house is growing. growing wide and growing long, growing long and getting tall. so tall that i know i won’t be be able to tell the difference between ceiling and sky. so wide that i know my mum is getting thinner by the day. so long that the resident pet is beginning to look like a hot dog on a stick. my house is growing too big for me, too big for me to find its corners and know its ends. too big for anyone at all. best of all no one seems to see it at all.
off late i’ve had this strange feeling. it’s a strange feeling i’ve been having about my house. every morning i wake up and everything seems just a bit odd. once i know the oddness is everywhere i go down for breakfast. there it is again this strange feeling. that strange feeling multiplied by a hundred. my house is getting smaller. it is getting smaller every night and every day. every day when i’m away it finds a way to shrink, every night when i’m asleep it’s just an inch smaller. getting shorter and getting thinner, getting thinner and getting narrower. so narrow i can barely squeeze my way down the stairs. so short my mum’s idlis look like melons. my house is getting too small for me, too small for me to fit my little toe in, too small for me to climb out of the doors and crawl under the gate. too small for anyone at all. best of all no one seems to mind at all.


Kathakali- traditional dance-drama, Kerala,India

Achan- father(Malayalam)

Veshakaran- performer

vesham- character/costume

pacha- colour green or noble/good characters in Kathakali

kari- colour black or the villains(female) in Kathakali

kathi- villainous character(male) in Kathakali

minukku- noble/good women in Kathakali

lalita- demoness transformed into a noble woman in Kathakali

chenda- percussion instrument

kali- performance

padam- script/play

Nila- river, Kerala

Poothana- demoness,Hindu mythology

Simhika- demoness, appears in a Kathakali padam as part of Hindu myth

Draupadi- wife of the five Pandavas, Hindu mythology

Kalamandalam- Kerala Kalamandalam, university for performance arts,Kerala


I need to learn, again, how to walk

I got my driving license two years ago right before went to UK. After two years, now I am back to China, I don’t think I can drive properly without my parent sitting right next to me and telling me how to do. My hometown is a relatively small city, where traffic is still alright. But I can’t still deal with that- too many cars at the street. Plus, those small and not quite sturdy electric bicycles sometimes come out of nowhere and get on the primary car route, which gives me a chill.
I was even scared of walking at the street on my own during the first few days I got back. Walking at the street here requires another set of skills, it seems. Can’t be too polite. Maybe even have to take a little more courage, or else you can’t get across the street for very long time during rush hours. Again, need to watch for those small electric bicycles, like ghosts- come from everywhere, unbeatable- without the need of observing traffic rules and regulation. Plus, should be aware of those people getting too close to you. Thief. Streets, bus, metro, even in your own private cars, should be aware of someone suddenly comes close to you.
But how can I really stop someone getting close to me in public? It is China. Crowded street is all we should expect and know. So my parents strategy is- don’t wear pretty clothes don’t buy designer bags don’t even buy luxury cars. Don’t show off. Stay low key. So bad people won’t lay eyes on you.
I have to get familiar all those tips and rules again before I wander around my hometown on my own. So after getting back for two weeks, I finally went out for a walk for the first time in the evening.
I like walking around the city. Walking at the street is one of the best way to mingle with the people, I suppose. When I was still in Newcastle, I love to have a walk around for an hour every day. I like how all the buildings and houses are not that tall at all, so it feels like I can look further and enjoy a better view while I walk. I can always catch the sight of the sky without really looking up. I love a walk during weekdays, when the town is start to get quite after 6 pm. Most shops are closed and most people are staying home during weekdays. At first when I went to Newcastle, I needed to get used to how early quietness lays down to this city, then I started to enjoy such serenity. I also enjoy a walk during weekends, when the city centre is on fire. All the dressed up people and all the people dress up not to the weather was quite a shock for me at first. And then all this become quite a view to me and to the city of Newcastle.
Then now all of these seem to be gone. I walk around my hometown. Buildings are getting taller and taller. The tall buildings make the road cramped, which I have never felt this way before, strangely. I can’t see anything beyond those tall buildings alongside the road, which maybe good for me to concentrate on the traffic, even when I walk on the sidewalk. The ghost of small electric bicycles still haunts me on the sidewalk. But walking in my hometown is not all that unpleasant. I still do enjoy a bit busy side of life. When the night falls down to this relative small city, life is still lively here. Shops are open until quite late and people can still enjoy the pleasant of shopping in the evening.
Honk. Sorry, I guess I am stuck in my own thinking a little bit too much. I must be get in a way of some electronic bicycles. I should pay more attention to the traffic. Honk- how can I nearly forgot its existence after two years in UK. Honk gives me a startle, maybe that is how it works. But it is indeed everywhere. It brings the cramped road a little bit more chaos. You can say life is more lively here, as everything is busier. And I just wait patiently until all the cars pass so I can across the street without being startled again. Alas, I don’t mean to sound negative here, but I just need to learn how to walk in my city again.

The Killing

Psychoda insect on a leaf

There are quite a few trees around my house. A raintree with its roots in the defense enclosure nearby spreads itself over my roof. Its shade covers one third of the naked roof. In summers, the bedroom remains cool; the hall, the kitchen, the bathroom, hot. Perhaps the insects come because there are trees, and grass, and moisture that hangs in the air longer than usual. I know jack shit about insects. This is pure speculation.

The window in my bedroom has four rectangular panels. Each panel has a small wooden door. The intervals between the iron bars on each panel are wide enough for a curious hand or a stray insect to slide in. So the owner has wisely decided to seal the panels with mesh frames. Now two weeks ago, one of the frames fell off. Without warning and with a rather soft thud. Almost matter of factly. It’s summer, and without the frame, the night time breeze sails in more confidently. I haven’t fixed the frame back since. And I keep the small wooden door open. Sleep if not always peaceful, is at least temperate.

Insects are a nuisance though. Several different kinds, I know not their names, only shapes, and sizes, and colours and the sounds that they make when the lights go off. I am not sure I can tell the difference among some species. I haven’t paid enough attention, so all the sounds in the dark sound the same.

When it’s dark and I can listen to them, inside my room, I imagine them doing evil things. Evil things to me of course. Like an insect wriggling into my ear while I am fast asleep (google images of  “dead insect  inside ear”) and dying there. Another one skating under the blanket, reaching the inside of my thighs and crawling slowly, intently. Or just a regular bite in the neck.

My mother was talking on the phone one afternoon and telling her friend, how the brother-in-law of a common friend who had been at the Chennai airport to receive his niece returning from US died on the way to his sister’s place. A Japanese mosquito bit him on the neck. He had an instant bout of inexorable fever and died.

For a while imagination is great. Exciting, dark, colourful, amusing, unexpected. Then you want her to shut up. You want to sleep. Because you have to get to work in the morning. But she won’t shut up until the voices in the dark are at it. So you decide to put an end to that.

It has become an unintended ritual. I forget they are there when all the lights are on. I don’t even see them. I put out the lights and there they are. I create situations in my head for a while. Then I switch the light back on. And kill every single one I can find.

Bang one against the wall with a hardcover copy of Anna Karenina Volume 2. Suffocate a bunch of them under the pillow. Flick one hard enough so that it hits itself against the almirah and loses its head and its limbs. Or sometimes, crush the slow ones studiously between the thumb and the forefinger.

Then I switch off the lights, and slip into sleep in no time.




I have been intending to fix the frame back for a few days now, but I keep putting it away. The summer is still on.