Expats & immigrants

The trouble started when a good friend of mine from my/our schooldays back in Kolkata rang up from America to tell me, among other things, that an expat was not the same thing as an immigrant, at least so far as the US was concerned. And I was reminded all over again of the racial/colonial connotation of these terms which I’ve been using so freely and at times interchangeably on my blog.

The word expatriate comes from the Latin patria for one’s fatherland or native land – ‘native’ again! We Indians see red if we so much as hear the word, after our colonial experience. And it’s not just colonialism but apartheid which is at play (funnily enough, it’s the Germans who say ‘at play’ while the British say ‘at work’) behind that apparently harmless word – expatriate. Expatriate, it seems, is reserved for white men – and women – who have chosen to leave their native country and live somewhere else, even Oxford gives the example of American expatriates in London. Imagine talking of Indian expatriates in Southall or Bangladeshi expatriates on Brick Lane.

What? It’s my fuzzy-oozy thinking again? How true. Then the immigrant is defined as a person who has come to live permanently in a foreign country. It’s the intention behind the whole operation, see. The American expatriates in London fully intend to go back to Chattanooga or Colorado Springs when their business in London is done – whereas the Indians do not go back to Chandigarh and the Bangladeshis do not go back to Chittagong. They have come to London not just to see the Queen but to stay.

That would seem to make us – including someone like me who got stranded in a country somewhere in the middle of continental Europe for the major part of his life – immigrants. But what if I feel like an expat – the way Joyce must have felt in Trieste, Zurich and Paris? Joyce ‘emigrated permanently to continental Europe’, as Wikipedia will tell you. Operative word: permanently. He returned to Ireland twice or thrice more, in 1909 and 1912, after which ‘he never again came closer to Dublin than London’ (Wikipedia again; who needs Richard Ellmann when we have Wiki).

Joyce was 30 years old when he saw Ireland for the last time and he lived to the age of 59. So was he an expat or an immigrant? Let’s have your bet on that but be careful: Joyce called his one & only, albeit unbearably bad play “Exiles”. Albert Camus’ collection of short stories is called L’exil et le royaume or “Exile and the Kingdom”. Exile seems to have been the buzzword in those days.

And then we come to the most devious/insidious differentiation/discrimination of them all: between immigration and emigration; between the immigrant and the (much more rare) emigrant, not to speak of the noble émigré. Imagine an asylum seeker from Asia or Africa telling his hosts in Europe that he is an émigré, and you’ll know what I mean. Or to take another example, Papa Joyce was certainly no émigré because he did not leave Ireland for political reasons. He left his native country for personal and artistic reasons.

Joyce is a perfect example of a backwards oriented writer, that’s someone I define as a person who prefers to sit looking backwards on a moving tram or train. Joyce’s creative life was like the smudged, mirror version of his past, ‘real’ life in Ireland – of the kind you get when you fold a sheet of foolscap paper in two before the ink has dried on the written half. (Can happen with your printer as well, but then it’s like-as-not the roller or the cartridge, which is why we decided not to ‘modernise’ the image).

To put it more simply, Joyce is the kind of expat who drives down memory lane in back gear – though naturally infinitely more clever and a genius and all that. And just as they make fantasy films and video games as ‘real’ as possible these days, you’ll find Joyce writing to an aunt of his (if I remember correctly) asking about the colour of the tram ticket on a certain route in Dublin in or before 1904. Must have needed it for Ulysses, the second unreadablest and unreadest book of them all, after Finnegans Wake – except for Joyce scholars, and I’m just a Joyce admirer, from afar.

All I’m saying is that both Europe and America have a history which is in half a story of exile & immigration, and in half the story of colonialism & expatriates & six feet of earth will always be England for me – which always made me feel like asking, if six feet was all that you needed, why did you have to take the whole ruddy subcontinent and three-quarters of the globe for it? Ah, you were carrying the White Man’s Burden, were you? I know where you unloaded that one!

Joyce was an exile in Italy & Switzerland & France. He was an exile in civilised & sophisticated & liberal Europe from his ‘native land’ which he described in the Portrait as an ‘old sow that eats her farrow’. I don’t think Joyce ever had the intention of returning to Ireland, except in his books, in which he did nothing else. Finally, Nora said napoo to the Irish govt. when they wanted Joyce’s bones back in Dublin. That, if nothing else, makes Joyce an immigrant.

Just as he was an expat because Ireland was all that he ever wrote about, even if he was talking Italian with Nora at home. I talk German with my wife at home and I write about India – in English. I’ve lived in one place dreaming of the other place until both places have exchanged places without my even noticing it, leaving me high and dry in a space-time continuum of my own. And still that does not make me the surrogate subcontinental Joyce of every Indo-Anglian author’s dreams; it just makes Joyce a wee bit more like the rest of us, an expat by intention and an immigrant by compulsion or default, we’ll talk about the artist some other time.

Big shit + no chief = Brexit

And we’re not talking about a certain resident of 10 Downing Street who’ll probably be able to buy up the place for a song when property prices tumble in London.

Otherwise you can’t expect a self-respecting blogger cum sit-down comedian like me to let an opportunity like this pass – when Chief Loud Blast That Tears the Skies (vide ‘Rule, Britannia!’) is suffering from constipation & the braves go to a paleface medicine man by the name of Cameron instead of to the shaman Farage for advice & succour. “Big chief, no shit,” the braves report.

Strangely enough, Cameron prescribes the same medicine that the shaman has been calling for since the beginning of the buffalo season viz. a referendum, which is duly held with the result that the flags are now flying at half mast in Brussels after they brought the sad news from Aix to Ghent: “Big shit, no chief!” Naturally everyone thought of Cameron and Cameron obliged them by announcing in the course of the day that he’d be taking his hat in around three months, leaving it to his successor to tell Brussels that they were being dumped – shame, as if he couldn’t have done it via SMS. And now look at Angela crying her eyes out.

As a European of non-European descent, I do not know whether to be happy or to be be sad, whether to laugh or to cry. People suffering from anxiety are said to assume the foetal or prenatal position and here we have Britannia trying to go back to the days of ‘splendid isolation’ as in the late 19th century, when Britain was trying to keep its involvement in European affairs to a minimum. Brought them two world wars in rapid succession as a reward, but that is neither here nor there.

In the country that I come from people still wish that Britain had held a referendum of a similar sort on or before the 31st of December, 1600, when John Company was founded. They’d have had no need for Paki bashing and could have had Southhall and Brick Lane all to themselves had they held that referendum… Just imagine, the country that founded the Commonwealth – which was called the British Commonwealth of Nations till 1947 – is leaving the European Union now. Alas, the British European Union is history. Another star gone from the silly little flag of the EU, as if for a children’s birthday party at McSoandso’s. And when Scotland and Northern Ireland go, there will be another two jewels (though no Koh-i-Noor) missing from the British crown – the Queen will soon have nothing to wear and Prince Charles will have only the Maoris to rub noses with, if it goes on like this. Ultimately, Prince George will be King of London & the Suburbs.

Will the European Union miss Little Britain or Disunited Kingdom or whatever the new entity is to be called? Will there be no more English hooligans fighting the Russian ones in Marseille every time there’s an European football championship? Does anyone realise that Euro 2016 has been free of acts of terrorism mainly because of the ‘hools’? Terrorists turning up to do mischief find the battle already in progress on the streets of whichever unfortunate town is hosting a match involving ‘Hool, Britannia’. It was only after reading Spike Milligan’s war memoirs that I realised that in the olden days, half the British populace only got to set foot on the Continent when there was a war. Doesn’t have to be a war, football championships will do nicely, thank you. My last thought on this count: can you imagine people in any of the erstwhile British colonies agonising over the fact that the British are leaving? Hallelujah.

And there is a last question that we have to answer: what was – or is – Britain’s malady? I’ll tell you. It is anxiety neurosis, angst for the future, angst of the future, angst in view of the subliminal penetration of German words like angst into the English language – almost as bad as the droogs speaking nadsat in Clockwork Orange. The British, who were naming every second warship of theirs Intrepid till the other day, have finally angst that reverse colonisation, the retribution for all their sins over nearly five centuries, will finally catch up with them and overwhelm them. Before England is a battlefield, English will be the battlefield, with mutilated grammar and slaughtered syntax and the unkindest cut of all – that Polish accent on top of the Indian one! – there’s this mixed couple I know…

Don’t worry, it’s just me and the wifey. And we live in the EU.

The facism of racism

Race is the most salient fact or feature about a person – if not about a nation – that we try to ignore & to equalise & to relativise all the time. But why? What are we afraid of? To me, race is a kind of ethnological scar, a mark of the evolutionary branding that all of us went through. To deny race is to say that all the animals in the forest are the same – yes, they are, but they are also different.

Nations are/were formed on the basis of race but are geographical & political entities, in the final analysis. Hence nationality may or may not correspond to race. One cannot change one’s race but one can change one’s nationality. Whatever nationality you have, it is the race that shines through. You have the passport in your hand but the race is in your face. It’s what they don’t teach border guards & policemen & customs and immigration officials because they don’t have to: border guards & policemen & customs and immigration officials are born with that instinct (maybe all of us?). Imagine Barack Obama arriving in a torn T-shirt and a pair of worn jeans, with a seven-day stubble, by dinghy on a deserted beach on Spain’s Costa del Merde. What d’you think a bored and slightly short-sighted member of the Guardia Civil would do with him? Call out the guard of honour?

Racism manifests itself mostly as facism, we conclude – not to be confused with fascism, though certain similarities cannot be denied.

Why talk of Barack Obama, take us South Asians in Germany. Even the sub-Saharan (a terrible word I picked up from Sacha Baron Cohen) toilet attendant in a Kaufhaus does not expect me to put down that fifty cent piece on his plate simply because I look like what I am viz. a South Asian. And he expects a South Asian to be either ungenerous or poor, possibly both. Reminds me of this Indian friend of mine who got held up after dark by a black person, might have been in Chicago: “Gimme whatch’u got!” My friend fished out the small change he was carrying in his pocket. “Where are you from?” the holdup artist was asking. From India – my friend submitted. “You keep it. You need it more than I do.”

I live in Germany, which consists mainly of Germans and then the rest of us from almost every conceivable continent, country, nation & race on earth. We, the non-Germans, are not particularly fond of each other. For example, we South Asians want the Germans to realise that we are not like the – well, sub-Saharans, say. And that we are better than the Turks, in many respects. The Syrians and the Iranians are fairer than us, we must acknowledge, which gives them an advantage. But none of them know English as well as we do. Who needs English in Germany, you say? Well, you may be having a point there but don’t tell it to the Germans. We still impress them with our subcontinental English.

Talking of the Germans, before I accuse any or all of them of being patronising & condescending to us ‘outlanders’, I have to remember how we outlanders in Germany treat each other. There’s this Italian who used to look down upon me, the midget, his only qualification being that he baked the best pizza in Ober-wherever-it-was. He could afford to look down upon me because I was sitting while he was standing. This was in his restaurant. I was sitting at our table when he turned up with the menu cards and some of the rottenest German in Germany, all adorned with his Gorgonzola smile. I could have made him aware of the fact that he was looking at the proud son of a proud nation, the proud progeny of a proud race whose history went back some six thousand years to the sewage systems of Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro (though there are not enough toilets in India today). I praised his pizza instead. We’ve been friends ever since and spend our time cursing the Germans in broken German whenever I visit his restaurant.

Oh yes, we hate the Germans, we hate the Germans because they do not love us or do not love us as much as we’d like them to. We hate them for not having stopped all immigration immediately after Signor Zucarelli (naturally not his real name) or at the latest after me. Signor Zucarelli’s father came on a Vespa over the Alps to Germany as one of the first Guest Workers whereas I am in my thirty-fourth year of asile d’amour or romantic asylum in Germany. So we are like the first child & the second child watching more siblings arrive by the year while our (imagined) share of the (imagined) cake gets smaller and smaller.

The new ones or the old ones, it is not as if we outlanders hurl insults at each other and go at each other’s throats all the time. As there is honour among thieves, there is a kind of tolerance among the outlanders here in Germany which is the exact opposite of ‘integration’, the beloved buzzword of the German government as well as of the German public. We outlanders leave the other outlanders be. On any particular evening in Bonn, there’s a different kind of food being cooked in every outlander kitchen which none of the other outlanders would like to eat on a regular basis – except as a more exotic form of waterboarding. All those smells are streaming or steaming out of the kitchen windows and mingling with the summer fragrance to create a mixture so potent that the Germans are wishing they were in some other place than Germany.

Why do you think the Balearic Islands are tipped to be the next Deutschland?

America Light: Wild West vs. Mild West

After the Orlando massacre.

Trump did not wait, he threw the first punch, Obama and Hillary refusing to get involved in the brawl. It might have been a scene from a rather modern Western, in a saloon, say, where they’ve gathered to choose the sheriff. It’s the presidential elections, you say? Hard to tell the difference, at times.

In any case, I too am not bound by the rules of piety, like Trump, being an Injun and a sit-down comedian. One stray American of Afghan parentage and an interesting psychopathology goes on a rampage and kills nearly fifty people in the most powerful, if not the most civilised country in the world. The police go in after three hours, if I’ve understood correctly, and shoot the man. That’s when the people inside our imaginary ‘saloon’ start talking about lynchin’ a certain class and category of people while the mourners outside, led by the county’s first female minister, pray for stricter gun laws.

Something on those lines and no, I’m not laughing. Nor should you.

Knowing less than even Borat or Azamat Bagatov about the fabled country, I am trying to understand how any nation or government can regularly allow psychopaths armed to the teeth to storm a venue, any venue from Columbine to Pulse and slaughter innocents, the only variable being the number of the dead and the wounded as in the duck shoots of the sahibs in colonial India – that strong enough for ya? Well, here’s another: they should permanently close down and board up the White House and the Pentagon and the Congress too, for that matter, for everybody’s joint inability to stop such mayhem on a recurring basis – I’d have thought. They’d have done something even in the Stone Age, I’m sure, ask the Flintstones. Or go back to the Mesozoic Era and ask the Dinos. Who lets potential madmen acquire semi-automatic firearms, huh? When will the National Rifle Association wake up to the fact that they are not the National Semi-Automatic Association? When will both sides in this unearthly debate stop giving their semi-automatic responses to this by now semi-automatic slaughter?

God knows, I am a child of the sixties who grew up in the already fading glory of the Western comics: Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickok; Rawhide Kid and Lone Ranger; Roy Rogers and the Kid Colt Outlaw. We used to play cowboy games in New Alipur, Kolkata, with life-like plastic imitations of six-guns and Winchester repeaters. Naturally there were no Indians in our games, would have been silly. We preferred the saloons where the cowboys did all the shooting, mostly at each other. The limp but tense hand of the gunfighter hovering above the holster while his stetsoned shadow fell in an inky blotch across the pulpy page – it was the moment for us to cry: “Draw!” And Trump drew.

Certain basic considerations: (1) a gun is an instrument to make a hole in an animal or a human being; (2) certain kinds of holes in human beings usually prove fatal; (3) all scientific evidence shows that while weapons of slaughter have got better and better, human beings have remained as vulnerable as on the day of Creation e.g. the American President’s limousine is fully armoured, but not the American President; (4) one man, one vote is democracy, but is one man, one gun democracy too? (5) Don’t even need the sleek and modern semi-automatics, just imagine a Western saloon in which every cowboy is carrying an old-fashioned kalashnikov recognisable by every child soldier in Rwanda – okay, we’ll settle for Desperado (1995) with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in the lead roles, in which case please remember that blood is not ketchup and never was nor shall be; (6) as regards the killers and the cops/upright citizens, the bad ’uns and the good ’uns, will this unofficial and undeclared arms race between the two continue till the world runs out of bullets and/or human beings, or is it time for us to call for retail as well as wholesale disarmament together with a general amnesty for humankind? What about all of us going back to the Golden Age of the Western comic and letting the outlaws as well as the sheriffs carry the same kind of manageable weapons which don’t leave half the extras on the set bleeding on the floor? (7) The best safety catch for a gun is a gun licence and a gun licence is usually harder to buy than a gun, at least in the country that I come from – unless you are in Donald Trump’s country, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s, and Barack Obama’s, where you can buy handguns online and let your five-year-old bang away with ’em at the nearest shooting range, I’ve been told, but remember, they won’t let you take it into the cabin with you.

If you want to enjoy the American way of life – less cordite but full taste – did you know that you can have it with only chapajeros and a lasso but without the gun? Just follow the example of the best-known Western hero of all time, without a feature film to his name: the Marlboro Man! Holy smoke, no gun? Yes, smoking can kill you too, but it might take a bit longer.

When Donald Duck goes to TrumpDonald’s

I love America, that king as well as clown of a country all rolled into one. Never set foot in the land of milk and honey but came as close as the Niagara Falls – once. Had to keep to the Canadian side because I had an Indian passport – and no visa for America – at that point. Might have painted myself red and tried to pass myself off as a Red Indian, until somebody told me that red could also mean a ‘commie’ in the land of J. Edgar Hoover. Better dead than red, see? That’s when they told me to cut out the comedy stuff. It was mouldy and it stank, they said.

So be it, but the point is that either America is funny, or the rest of the world behaves in a funny manner when it comes to America. I love America when it comes to movies e.g. I don’t find it funny at all that an American actress (Meryl Streep) and an American actor (Robert Redford) should play a Danish coffee-farmer and her British big game hunting lover in Kenya in the year that my father was born – we’re talking about Out of Africa and this sentence is already too long.

(Subtle shift to new para) and still, when I hear stray Americans from the Bat Conservation office of the UN in Bonn – they go jogging on the Rhine, the UN employees, not the bats – and they talk to each other in American – still can’t think of it as a separate language but it is, just listen to Prince Charles and then to Donald Trump. Both make you feel that you’ve never learnt English. Both make you wish that you’d never learnt English. And yet Donald might be president before Charles is king.

Because Donald is right out of Tinsel Town, right out of the movie world – I’m sure other worthies have noticed and commented on this before, but to me, Trump is a kind of political Rocky, a street fighter, who may or may not turn into a political Rambo. And then again, he might put on specs and settle down to more serious character roles with state-of-the-art (art-of-the-state?) stunts causing minimal collateral damage. Which would make him as American a President as mom’s apple pie.

I never watch Super Bowl but I love watching Americans watch the Super Bowl – and the ads, of course, which cost more the minute than Zambia’s foreign debt. And the same is true of this quadrennial political Super Bowl that the Americans have, which they call the presidential elections. The whole world watches America choose a President – can be the old President, if he’s running for a second term – can be an ex-President’s wife who wants to know just what it is about the Oval Office… And now America is waking up to the possibility that they might even get a Trump for President. Just the possibility awakens Begehrlichkeiten, as the Germans say, which means covetousness and concupiscence, everywhere in the world: Indians are doing puja praying for Trump’s victory and dreaming of a Muslim-free country; people close to the Kremlin are opening bottles of Sovetskoye Shampanskoye, nobody knows for what reason.

In a world in which children are raised half by their parents and half by Walt Disney, I find Trump would have won hands down if children from the age of three upwards (to the age of ninety-three, say) were allowed to vote: they’ve all heard of Donald Duck and had their birthday bash at MacDonald’s; just change the names to Donald Trump and TrumpDonald’s and give ’em little plastic figures of Lyin’ Hillary and Crooked Hillary and you’ve got the presidency in your pocket.

But as someone who’s always wished that mighty nation well – from afar – I have a piece of advice for Americans regarding who they might have chosen for a president (maybe they will, someday, though it’s a bit late for this one, isn’t it?). Does that make me a presidential advisor? Wow! In any case, the Americans first chose a president who is half black; and now they might be about to choose a president who is a woman and an ex-First Lady. Why don’t they do it as a kind of wellness package or flat rate and ask Michelle? She’s African American and the current First Lady and if there was a vote for Brown Indians, she’d be getting mine for sure.

With memsahibs in India (2): Water of India

When I arrived with my newly acquired ‘family’ at the old family ‘home’ in Kolkata – a ground floor flat in South Calcutta which had just been inundated – the living-cum-drawing-room-cum-my-father’s-chambers-cum-study was a sight (it’s just one room that we’re talking about). The water had seeped up the walls so that they’d had to whitewash the whole room, in blue this time (how can you whitewash something in blue?). But the plaster had retained most of the moisture, which had made the whitewash/bluewash come out all patchy & blotchy (like Itchy & Scratchy in the Simpsons) as if the wall (or the house) had liver problems.

I still remember Kasia’s face when she saw that ‘outer room’ of ours for the first time. It’s not as if she was disappointed: I’d told her all about our ‘residence’ in Calcutta (after having shown her a picture of the Vicotria Memorial as the place where our family summered) – she’d thought that I was only joking and that I had a nice sense of humour. What I hadn’t told her was that you didn’t need a sense of humour if you were from Kolkata, Kolkata being a joke of almost historical proportions. After all, Job Charnock had picked the most unsuitable site he could find for his camp so that the enemies of the British would not be able to approach the ruddy place (did they say ruddy in the 17th c.?) – not that anybody would want to approach such a mosquito-infested swamp where one could catch malaria or kala-azar or dengue the moment one set foot upon the morass. Three centuries later Lenin would be making the sage pronouncment that the road to world revolution would lie over Calcutta. It was just his way of saying that the world revolution would never take place. Hadn’t wanted to sound that pessimistic, I suppose.

‘World revolution? In Kolkata? During the rains? Vladimir Ilyich must have been joking,’ Kasia was not laughing.

On the day of our arrival @ we’ll leave out the address for the moment and substitute it with #home, Kasia said something to Laura – my stepdaughter – in German. I think I heard the word Armut, which means poverty – upon which Laura asked where we kept the heilige Kuh, which means the holy cow. I’m joking, of course, but in those days most Germans thought of India in terms of poverty & the holy cow. It’s like thinking of Germany in terms of sauerkraut & the pork knuckle, but I’m not complaining.

Kasia was stepping out of the magic circle of poverty & the holy cow for the first time and getting to know the Calcutta monsoon, which is like a dress rehearsal for the deluge. Conscientious as she was and unaware of the fact that even a family as ‘poor’ as ours had maidservants, she had washed a couple of her things and Laura’s things right on the first day & hung them on the clothes line in the verandah (you don’t hang your clothes outside during the monsoon, unless you’re mad or a memsahib) to dry. To dry? She was checking the washing conscientiously every day for the next three days & the washing was just as stubbornly and obstreperously wet – one result of the hundred percent humidity in which you could see the sweat drops appear on your skin like morning dew on rose petals the moment you came out of the shower. Kasia was fascinated.

The joke is that memsahibs do not sweat, having been born with an air-conditioned skin like the expensive upholstery of foreign cars. Kasia and Laura did not suffer in the humid heat of Kolkata as much as the prodigal son, a son of the soil, did. I thought I was going to die in that stifling heat – while the memsahibs laughed. My memsahib, for example, surprised everybody by finding every Bengali dish too bland – I couldn’t explain to the family or to our hosts of the moment that here was a memsahib who ate lettuce – as tossed salad – with chilli pickles. It made me sweat just to look at her, while she remained as cool as if she was used to dining with the Devil over fire & brimstone.

But we had landed in Calcutta in the middle of the monsoon and my memsahibs had had their first taste of flooded streets & open manholes – I’d scared the sh** out of them by telling them how many street urchins got sucked out to the Bay of Bengal through the woolly underground, some of them still alive (I’ll pay for my sins one day, I know). In expiation, I took the memsahibs to Puri and put them up in the Bengal Nagpur Railway hotel, where they were fascinated by the chameleons in the garden & the crows at the breakfast table (in the room, thanks to room service) who pinched the sugar cubes unless you guarded them like the crown jewels – hope they all got diabetes! Laura helped a toad find its way down the long corridor to the steps, hopping like the amphibian all the way. And then there was the nulia, a kiln-burnt, tribal version of David Hasselhoff holding Laura’s hand and leading the blonde & blue-eyed child into the raging surf with the equanimity of an antediluvian Neptune. Meanwhile, a vendor came along rolling his cart on tiny wheels with ball-bearings – turned out to be a videotheque on wheels; the man was asking me with a wink whether I was interested in ‘blue’ films. ‘Wow! They’ve got video carts here!’ Kasia was exclaiming. The word she used was Videokarren, on the pattern of Ochsenkarren, which means a bullock cart in German. ‘There’s India for you,’ I told her, brimming with pride.

A couple of years later there was that trip to Salkia on the Hooghly river where we were having a picnic to celebrate the fact that both my brothers had got married on the same day so that their expat elder brother & his zenana would not miss the fun. The venue for the picnic was a deserted, derelict jute mill right on the river, a caterer providing the food. I’d told Kasia repeatedly that she should go nowhere near the drinking water which had been carried up in barrels, the water consisting of cholera & typhoid germs in equal parts. Kasia had followed my instructions to the ‘T’, except for washing the forks & the spoons – specially brought along for the memsahibs – in the water from the barrel. Oh yes, Keya was with us too, having been born a couple of years earlier.

They nearly died, the memsahibs, all three of them, they were so sick. We had to prepone our flight & return to Germany three days earlier. Kasia has refused to watch Dr. P.C. Sorcar Jr. perform the Water of India trick ever since, saying that it reminded her of the Salkia water and the rainwater on Calcutta streets and every other kind of water in India except aerated water, no, make it coconut water, will you?

I shall.