|In God’s own country…
Where a ramp came to symbolise so much more
The drill pounded into the earth, and the sounds of men swearing whole-heartedly in Malayalam, while welding together the iron bars against the external walls of the bedroom, overwhelmed my senses. The noise grew in intensity throughout the day, the cacophony crowding the thoughts in my mind, compressing them into a tight ball of piercing sensation which dug its claws into the back of my brain. Then, just as my bloodshot nerves threatened to take on a life of their own, and snap in desperation, it stopped.
For a moment the silence overwhelmed, and then like a thick comforting blanket, the quiet enveloped me in its embrace and I relaxed, tentatively letting my spirit unfurl from the nook where it had been backed up for most of the day. I heaved a sigh of relief. The electricity had gone off at the pre-ordained hour of 6pm for the daily outage in the city, and so the workmen had decided to call it a day. I was at the family home in Thrissur, a small town in the self-proclaimed God’s own country – Kerala, and the noise was on accord of a ramp being built into the back wall of the bungalow.
A precautionary measure by aged relations—an uncle and aunt—who lived on the floor above, it was their insurance for the future. They had been worried that if one of them were to fall ill and be hospitalized, then perhaps the stretcher would not fit the existing, narrow stairwell. Their original idea of fitting a lift into the façade had been abandoned due to the steep costs associated. Besides as someone pointed out, what was the use of having a lift powered by electricity, in a city that was prone to daily outages? So they had instead, decided to go ahead and build this ramp.
I gazed at the half complete structure with fascination. It seemed like some futuristic beast, struck in half by lightening, iron rods bursting in all directions like a medieval torture instrument. Any moment, I expected flashing lights, blaring sirens and little green men from outer-space landing at the top of the structure, only to slide down the gradient, laughing hysterically.
|A 1300+ year old temple of Lord Shiva, near the family home in Thrissur
That night, over the obligatory evening pegs, the uncle sheepishly confessed that he had not been hospitalized or even been unwell for as far back as he could remember. He was just really worried about his advancing years, and concerned that he may develop some chronic condition at any time. Hence, he was future proofing his life, planning it to the smallest detail as possible. He had lived his early working years travelling around the sub-continent, indeed embarking on several adventure-trips around the world. Now he refused to get on a plane if the journey was more than three hours—stating his advancing years (he really didn’t seem old or fragile–at least to me) as the main reason to deprive him of any of these experience; in the same breath pointing to the unused crystal champagne glasses now showcased in the living room, he wistfully spoke about those good old days when his house was filled with friends and he and his wife had entertained almost every week. As the evening lengthened, the liquor loosened his tongue, and he proceeded to regale the assembled company, with many amusing anecdotes from his voyages.
I looked at the scene, trying to reconcile the ramp and the defensive fear of the future it stood for, with the adrenaline of living for the exhilaration of new experiences.
It really was all in the head.
What you can or cannot do, what you want to do, it’s all about your mindset. From where I was, there was nothing (I thought) stopping him from continuing to have those experiences, whatever age it was; and the very same applied to me. I too have lived a lot of my life, at the edge of a ramp of my own making. Barriers, which I have put up, convinced that they were impenetrable, while I peered wistfully over them at the world outside. Building many gradients to the future, perhaps never to use many of them again.
Why not simply slide down this slope now, as if I was back in my childhood playground, w-h-o-o-p as I gather speed, scream with the intense pleasure of roaring down towards my goal and laugh with joy when I cross over the edge?