I’m not very high up, altitudinally-speaking. That’s not a real word. I made it up to refer to the fact that I’m not that high up in terms of altitude. But I am high enough to see some clouds beneath me, and around me. I’m high enough, at the very top of this hill I’m on.
The end of this estate that covers most of the hill itself, in this property, this house that is at the farthest edge, at the very top, with nothing but green as far as the eyes can see.
Around me, the rippling undulating land is covered chockfull of groves of poker straight, slender supari trees that stand rigid, unrelenting, reaching up into the sunlight that’s weak, but there. Their barks are grey – silvery, taught and rough. The rows of these rigid towering trees, interspersed with the lax and soft green tree tops. The leaves tinged with grey, soft, cottony tufts that look like a giant green bouncy castle that I want to throw myself on to.
They’re rubber plantations, my father tells me. These trees so distinctly different from the supari. yet, evenly drenched as the wispy rain comes in. One moment the golden rays of the morning sun slant, struggling through the thick cloud cover, and the next, there’s dark layers of clouds rushing towards us. Needle-like drizzle coming down in buckets.
Of course, Niyu made a picture.
There’s a lone papaya tree where I’m sitting, much closer to my outstretched feet. I’ve been here long enough to listen to the subtle rustle every time a pair of bulbuls and green bee-eaters visit. Taking turns, sharing the luscious fruit that hangs from below the fronds. They’ve eaten the papaya inside out over the course of the three days I’ve been watching them.
The cats have learned our smells and tangle themselves up at our feet, making infinity signs between them, every time we arrive at the door. They’re a quiet couple, mostly interesting in licking themselves clean, and only once in a while casting an eye over to check what the other is doing. That kind of peaceful equanimity that I want, at some point.
And then there’s Julie the smelly, but most adorable dog, who surveys the land like the matriarch. Her slender limbs, hold up a shapely, rugged body. She’s the queen of everything, as far as her eyes can see. Turns out what she’s interested in is a squirrel scampering on the tree below. Frantic, one moment shes on the balcony, head sticking out over the edge veering over to catch a glimpse of it, and the next she’s darting out to catch it before it rushes off. Back and forth, this goes on for about thirty minutes. Some tenacity, she has.
The jungle sounds are eternal. In the day its birds and the frequent peacock calling, and at night it’s crickets and assorted suspicious noises that suddenly change the atmosphere around. The warm, sunshiney, rainy welcoming outdoors by day, turn ominous after sundown.
The peacock/s sound like they’re awfully close. The cook tells me it likes to dance in the porch of one of the homes on the property. On the morning the calls get particularly loud, we trudge off, silently, phones in hand, because picture, or it didn’t happen, right? We were met by one of the plantation workers happily ambling by, walking towards us a pleased grin on her face. It was there, dancing, she said. I saw it. How content she looked. And the others back home, were content just to hear it. It happened. And no, we don’t have any pictures to show.
When all the sitting around lazing, inhaling my books and taking in the views, listening to every little creak around me gets boring, there have been walks.
Somehow, despite all the endless hours staying still, I’ve clocked more steps than I have in a long time in Goa. The walks – up and down, up and about, through squelchy slush, shin-high weeds and grass, trundling through the wild, dodging dung and with salamanders slithering over my feet have jolted me back to a time we did this so, so often.
It’s been forever since I’ve been out like this, and I realise for the very first time how this, what once used to come so naturally, now takes such effort. Living in Goa has made me soft.
The nights are pitch black, like a curtain comes over the spectacular view that faded to black only hours before. The stars are overwhelming. Too many for a pair of eyes to feast on.
The meals are simple, delicious and full of flavour. The fish is small, thick and full-bodied. So different from the sea-fish I’m used to. The papaddams are puffy, blistering into bubbles that flake when you pop them.
The vegetables grow on campus, juicy green beans, rich, luscious red leafy bhaji, sweet soft cubes of potato and fragrant curry leaves and ginger. It’s Kerala and your meal plate won’t let you forget that.
What I feel most palpably is the silence, even in the midst of so much ambient noise. The birds chirp relentlessly, the trees rustle, the peacocks are conversing, the koyals making love. This is probably what silence sounds like.