India never ceases to amaze.
On the plane before we landed I’m watching an episode of Fleabag. A hit TV comedy in the U.K. that’s managed to pass me by, until now. In this episode, the family are at dinner and after a fight, almost all of them have bloody and bleeding noses. At exactly the same time the traveller in the next seat starts to have a nose bleed. I’m not making it up.
Off the plane and immigration are their useful helpful best and the finger print machine isn’t working so I have to wander off to find a different desk. That one isn’t working either. The Babu squeezes and rubs my fingers, squirts hand hand cleaner on my hands and manages to get it in my eye, gets me to rub them (the fingers that is) and try each finger one by one while chuntering on about how dry my hands were! He gives in.
This is all pretty irrelevant, I’m avoiding thinking about returning to an empty home without Manjula. I need to be tender and tough at the same time.
Shafi is waiting for me to drive me home. It takes ages as the Jains have got a big three day event that’s blocking the main highway between Bangalore and Mysore. Lots of people in white with their masks on to stop inhaling and killing living things, thousands of others venerating them.
I explain that over the years I’ve probably arrived in India over forty times. All bar one feeling very happy to be back. This time I have mixed feelings of being both sad and happy. We’ll have to see how it goes.
The place seems pretty messy. Rubbish everywhere. It doesn’t compare well with the three countries I’ve visited. I think it’s the longest time I’ve been away from India since moving here nine years ago.
Shafi kindly points out that Manjula was very lucky to meet me and especially as she had two trips to the U.K. and her medicines paid for. I point out that I was also very lucky to have met Manjula, to be looked after by her and had such happy times together. We buy some flowers for Manjula’s portrait, just like the ones on my tattoo. Their aroma now fills the house.
The other flowers also featured on my tattoo have already bloomed and died as they last just one night. We used to have bets on which night they would come out.
Lucie is not here. I whistle manically and eventually find her at someone’s house and we go for a walk. I keep catching Manjula out of the corner of my eye. No one is like Manjula of course, but just with a glimpse, the colourful saris can easily confuse.
I wonder what Mangla the cleaner has been doing while I’ve been away. The place is the dirtiest and dustiest I’ve ever seen it.
We have a parcel on the sideboard, from a lovely young couple, Johanna and Piero, who visited us last year from Switzerland. Johanna has painted and sent a beautiful picture of Manjula. How cool is that?