This was the time I had returned from Italy and had taken up a temporary teaching assignment in an obscure law school in northern Kerala. Numb after the sudden return from Europe, I remained pretty lost all the time having no idea what I should do next. It was then that an old professor had referred me to this University.
At about seven kilometers from the seaside town of Thalassery where I stayed in a small lodge, the campus was placed in a seaside village that mildly reeked of fish. Every morning, I drove by the side of a murky green sea on my wobbly old 115cc bike with a worn out chain which kept rubbing the metal chain cover.
The kids would blankly stare at me from the classroom windows when I put the bike in its stand. They were friendly and naïve. But they occasionally came to us all worked up demanding more marks in internal tests. There was a nice canteen run by a couple of women. The food was very inexpensive and didn’t taste bad at all. I looked forward to the breaks and got in to polish off a snack or two.
I took an unfounded joy in being really careless the way I looked and dressed during this time. A weedy beard grew by itself when I stopped shaving and kept growing. I kept 3 long sleeved kurtas that I wore on alternative days laundering each every night. To save on weight to be carried when I left for home on weekends, I never kept a towel and instead used one of them for a bath towel. The kids had never seen me in my normal self and took me for one of those crazy beardos with existentialist issues.
In the lodge, I had a room that had windows to the direction of the sea which was just a minute’s walk away. When the humid sea winds and the hot noon sun warmed it up unbearably, I worked on the old computer and slept off stark naked inside the room. Every night I slept off re-watching Seinfeld episodes. When it got really stuffy, I would get out of the room and walk around the town aimlessly. There was a decayed pier like thing that extended a long way into the sea. I would sit on its farthermost tip hanging my legs and relish the scare that the waves crashing around me gave. A lone peanut seller roasted peanuts on a cart and I kept wondering how he managed to do it under the stiff sea winds. I would end up finally at the Overbury's Folly, where I'd sit staring at the sea till darkness covered everything except the swishes and swashes of the waves below.
It never made sense to me what I was doing.
There was Mahé, a former small French colony about a few five minutes bus ride from my lodge, where alcohol was cheap and available freely. But I had quit drinking altogether and that left a crawly void inside that I could fill up only by walking. So I kept walking and the fatigue gave a dull high on.
Once in every week, I took a lottery ticket and unenthusiastically waited for its results. I’d never won a lottery in my life and had no hopes of it happening ever. I was merely exploring whether sharp deflections really happened in life. In fact, I knew that a huge cache of money could only complicate my messy life for a while and return it to the same state once it gets over.
I ate tiny bananas and fried snacks dripping with oil.
I stayed there for almost two months. Another place, another set of memories.