14 Jan 2015
I look around, and pause again to take them all in, as I have done numerous times on this trip. We're all here, the original gang of four, chilling like it's 1999, like numerous summer vacations spent lounging under rubber trees in our paternal home playing made-up games and swapping made-up stories of bravado and discovery. We don't have to fib about body hair or school yard heroics any more; the pube-counter has been abandoned years ago, and we're not as fascinated by Bruce Lee movies or Steven Segal fight sequences as we used to be. Of course, not having to fib and doing it anyway are two different things- the playground may have changed but the games remain the same.
We're alike in ways only brothers can be: the dip of our shoulders, the chicken legs, the predilection for deep-fried-anything, mouths arched in permanent readiness for a good laugh. We like to have a good time, and we're good people who like to believe we're good people. My brothers have all brought women with them- life partners in various stages of permanence. They point out more distinguishing features of the group: the eagerness to be liked, the lack of get-up-and-go, the mishmash of good intentions and inertia. But they say this with affection, with almost-motherly indulgence, and we are perhaps more pleased than we should be.
Back in the long-ago, when we were still children, we used to have this tradition of prolonging every game of Donkey till the last possible second. Come end of summer, we'd all go our different ways from our grandparents' home, driven away to the closest railway station or airport by some accommodating relative or the other. This meant picking up the deck of cards from our usual spot on the veranda and carrying the hand in play all the way up to the top of the slope where the ancestral Ambassador car lay in wait, honking impatiently, glinting ominously in the sun. The end has come early, abruptly, this holiday. We're still splashing about in the little creek we found; still waiting for another joint to be rolled. We're still upholding tradition, still playing till we absolutely have to leave, till the taxi turns up, because it's the only way we know to deal with parting. But we're trying out a new game. It's called "Waiting For Grandma To Die".
Thank God she fell ill-er last night, when we had already moved to Agonda Beach blessed with signals our phones can intercept and a secure 3G line over which tickets can be booked at the last minute. Thank God she didn't steal away in the middle of the night when we were still on wind-swept, grid-less Cola Beach, chosen painstakingly to liberate us from emails and Whatsapp and con-calls, if only for a couple of nights. Because when you reach a certain age, when the pube-counter makes way for the grey-counter or the baldness quotient, it's all you can do to assuage the guilt of not-being-reachable. The grandparents who were always in touch somehow throughout our childhood with promises of kappa-irachi and Alphonsa mangoes the next time we visit would never forgive us if we didn't show up to say goodbye because we had no network.