Monday, February 3, 2020

Banana Leaf Bliss

The news was not good today. The still stinging blow of betrayal in the Senate, the SF 49’ers lost the Super Bowl and then the blow that my two courses in Hong Kong are cancelled, which means a significant financial loss and confusion as to where I’ll be and what I’ll do next week. I had every reason in the world to succumb to despair and its hand was on my shoulder ready to press me down to the ground and get its foot on my neck.

Then I went out to dinner at the local Kerala restaurant. Ordered more food than I needed and paid a total of 6 Singapore dollars—about $4 U.S. And there I sat, once again eating dhosa and rice and papadums from a banana leaf with my fingers, sipping ginger tea with milk, listening to Indian old-style pop-music, feeling the breeze from the ceiling fans above and the open non-wall to the street, listening to the buzz of conversation with barely a cell phone in sight and the strangest thing happened. I felt happy!

Perhaps it was the instant throwback to 1979 when I lived like this for three glorious months in the state of Kerala and loved every day of it. A place where there were two cars, bikes, oxen, elephants and a few buses, no telephones (I mean, not even landlines!), ceiling fans, packaging was newspaper or banana leaves (which were also plates), very little garbage that the goats wouldn’t eat, so much made from local rice and coconut, visible, tangible, understandable, no TV, a rich festival life, no buildings over two stories. In short, the way human beings mostly have lived on this planet. How I loved it!

And here in my Hilton Hotel, locked away in my Rapunzel prison (with no hair to let down!) on the 16thfloor, a damn air conditioner that I can’t easily control, no windows I can open, a silence void of human chatter or bird calls, the beckoning distraction of Netflix which occasionally offers elevating art, but mostly distracting entertainment, the despairing news-of-the-day a few computer clicks away, the pool with the pop music from hell (not the Indian variety) and yes, I’m used to it, but let’s face it. None of it makes me as happy as those 20 minutes in the Kerala restaurant. 

I believe I’ll go back tomorrow.

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