Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Till Classes...

So a week has passed since I arrived at Kodi.

Classes are going to start tomorrow.  I'm both anxious and excited.  The week has been interesting to say the least.  I've met a flurry of new faces - teachers, administrative staff, support staff, new students, old students, parents.  I remember perhaps 10% of the names...

Some things have been a little annoying.  I'll get the complaining out of the way first.  I found two snakes sunbathing on my driveway... later I realized they were dead, but still.  Not the biggest fan of snakes.  My bathroom roof has a small leak - classic problem with old houses!  My kitchen light doesn't work, so I've been cooking by candlelight whenever I crave Maggi in the evenings.  And worst of all my Aquaguard water filter is spilling out yellow water.  That needs replacing.  Maintenance, I've learnt, is the most important department here at Kodi and I'm trying to make friends with most of the people there.

Ok complaints over.

Oh and, I am yet to see a ruddy bison that I've been hearing so much about!  The new French teacher had a herd in his front yard, and I had two dead snakes!

Ok, really, complaints over...

I have worked out a great dinner system though.  My neighbor, who is an excellent cook has decided to cook for me and another neighbor dinner everyday as long as we contribute to supplies and company.  We have had some great meals so far...

The week's also been a beehive of activity.  Preparing lesson plans.  Learning how to make lesson plans.  Learning how to use the hi-fi software to make the lesson plans.  Filling out paperwork, shopping for the house, more orientation work, learning where stuff is on campus, meeting more new people, more orientation activities... I am a bit exhausted.  And classes haven't even started yet.  I go to bed with a sigh.

Then I wake up in the morning to a bright sunshine, and the mist rolls onto campus at about noon, and all is sublime.  Sometimes, when I need a break, I stand by the window of my departmental office with a cup of coffee and watch as the mist covers the lake.  It is then that I wish that the people I love could be here with me to see this in silence...

Next update after the first week of classes!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Early Morning Impressions…

(Photos on Facebook… not uploading them here too)
Over the last couple of days I’ve explored tiny sections of Kodi.  I went for a walk around the lake which is deceptively large.  Covering the circumference of the lake takes about an hour or so and along the way there are little benches and information about the various trees growing around the lake.  There are always random young tourists taking photos in abandoned boat houses, and strangely a lot of people on tandem bikes.  I got caught under a tree with a stray dog in a massive downpour and took the time to pen some thoughts, the result of which is the previous post.
The lake is a bit more commercial than I would like, particularly in the afternoons.  There are a dime a dozen kitsch shops and boating and other random fairground stuff around the Eastern side of the lake.  The western side of the lake is more remote and desolate and surrounded by orchard estates and perfect for a lazy afternoon.  I am, however, yet to find a suitable location for my hammock.
I woke up the second morning to the sound of namaz.  Kodi, I learnt, is home to an equal presence of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian populace.  It’s like a peaceful Jerusalem.  I was walking around the streets and saw random halal biriyani joints next to churches selling the most massive jackfruits I have ever seen (6Kg+). 
But perhaps the most surprising thing about Kodi so far is the sheer number of “Eucalyptus Oil, Organic Spices, and Homemade Chocolate” stores there are, all apparently sanctioned by the TN government.  I am yet to try one of these places though.  Also on the list is the Kodi Cheese Shop which is supposed to have really good locally made soft cheeses and parmesan.
I was invited to dinner at Ketaki’s home, who is part of the HR team here, along with Amit Roy, my neighbor from Bombay, and Katrina, and Eric (also from Minnesota), who teaches World History and TOK.  Ketaki and her husband, Josh recently moved here with their two sons Kartik and Noah from Maryland, and we had a lot to talk about NOVA.  Ketaki, who is half Bengali, made payas for us all and it was great.
My shipment also finally arrived, albeit fairly damaged.  A lens on my telescope broke, and so did my portable LP Players turnstile, and some crockery.  I’m most disappointed about my LP player, but luckily I have two, though the second one is not nearly as good on sound.
I have also started eating at various places around Kodi.  Some have been less than impressive, some quite good.  I’ll cover food in Kodi in the next installment.

Test the Water

These days,
Rain comes hurtling
In my general direction,
Like arrows from a cruel bow.
I fend them as best
As I possibly can, but
When you join the quiver,
I am crestfallen.
My courage wanes
And tears choke me.

But my love triumphs.
For I know:

If you are the rain,
Then I am the lake.
You make me who I am,
You are a part of me.
Whether you are
Warm and gentle,
Or harsh and heavy,
Or sleet and hail,
My body will always
Embrace you as you fall.
For without you,
I would not be me.

And together,
We are sublime.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Getting Here...

Day 1
I left for Kodaikanal from Calcutta on the 6th of July with a very strange feeling in my gut – a combination of excitement, apprehension, and the tension of leaving behind everything and heading towards a new land and a new lifestyle.
The flight to Chennai was rather unremarkable, except for the elaborately plump young Bengali couple sitting next to me.  The wife emasculated her husband all through the trip while elbowing me in the stomach while I was clutching my pillow and trying to catch up on some sleep.
Chennai to Madurai was also eventless except that my iPhone charger blew up at the Madras airport and I flew in a propeller-Vayadoot plane.  I had never been in one before so I kept staring at the engines from the window throughout the flight.  Yes, I’m very easily fascinated.
At oven hot Madurai ours was the only plane at the airport!  Mr. Rajni Siva picked me up in an Indica taxi and we were on our way to Kodi.  The 137 km drive takes about 3 hours with a couple of breaks in between and Mr. Siva happily taught me some Tamil phrases and basic counting along the way while telling me about his family, and about the local flora.  As we hit the Palini hills, the climate suddenly chilled and a light mist descended around the peaks. 
It was about 8 in the evening when we pulled into the Main Gate of Kodaikanal International School where Katrnina Derrick, the drama teacher from Wisconsin was waiting for us to show me my new home.  KIS is spread across Kodaikanal with multiple campuses and staff housing.  Mine turned out to be a little cottage in the middle school campus called Hiawatha House about a five minute walk from the lake.  My neighbor, Amit, who I will be meeting tomorrow at a dinner with our hosts, lives in a cottage called Minihaha. 
Dropping my stuff off, I went out for a little tour of the area with Katrina and her husband Naveen who is a free-lance nature preservationist and motivational speaker from Mt. Abu in Rajasthan.  He told me what he really missed here in Kodi is his old Enfield motorbike and we talked about Motorcycle Baba and Rajasthan.  We finished the evening with a dinner of dal-bati at a new Rajasthani family run place called Aby’s CafĂ©.
Back in my really large (2 and a half bedroom) and tastefully furnished cottage, it was really chilly and slightly damp, as is common with these hillside cottages, so I started a small fire in my fireside boiler and went through all the introductory paperwork that HR had left for me at the cottage – which included Maggie, coffee, biscuits, oatmeal, and a carton of Slim Milk.  There is a eucalyptus oil distillery close to my cottage, so leaving the windows open allows the minty smell of eucalyptus to waft into the room.
I went to bed after making a few calls, wrapped in the linen and thin blankets the school had provided but couldn’t sleep.  I was hit with a sense of longing for familiarity and people I love who I’ve left behind.  I wanted to write about it, but it was too cold to think really, and I got too lazy to go stoke the fire…
So here I am now, seven thousand feet up in the Palini hills, en-route to becoming a lonely high school economics teacher.   Who would have thought…

Friday, July 06, 2012

Breath and Fog

As I rest my warm cheek
On the cool pillow,
I imagine it is your bosom.
I trace my fingers and
Imagine it is your arm,
Goose bumped by the cold
And my breath on your ears.
You let out a soft groan
As you squirm and shift
And I bury my face deeper,
Inhaling deeply your scent.
I kiss you and you sleepily
Push my face away
Crooning my name.
Then your hazel eyes open
And you stare at me mysteriously;
And I wonder
How can I not help but
Be in love with you?