Category Archives: time

The woman from across the coconut


Time is this flexing, rubber-band thing that joins us all everywhere at once. We seem to possess the ability to warp it around ourselves, snipping off bits of time and culture that we like — to create little life-raft time capsules. I found out about relativity at recess in the library at my school. I remember taking out all the reference books I could find then in my quest to understand, and since it was my misfortune to be dyslexic with numbers and equations, I began to hunt down every bit of prose I could find on the subject. I have spent a lifetime wrapping my head around time and space. And there are still things I am not able to grasp.

One afternoon in hot, tropical Kerala, I was staring out the window. Through the gaps in a field of coconut trees, I watched a woman setting up a makeshift cooking station outside. Slowly, she began to pile up a mound of gathered firewood. She set a blackened aluminium pot of water to boil on the smoking pile, finally throwing in some washed rice. I tried to get a closer look in at her. She reminded me of women I had seen when my grandmother was still alive. She was deeply tanned from a life spent clearing other people’s lands. Her hair was rough, straggly and sun-bleached. And she wore garb that women in my grandmother’s time had worn. A sarong or lungi wound around her waist and legs. Over bare midriff she wore a short-sleeved blouse. A thin white Kerala towel called a `thorth’ in Malayalam was tucked into her sarong. The loose end of the towel was thrown over one shoulder and this carefree towelling was used to signal modesty. She walked the pebbled ground beneath on unslippered feet.

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