“Auntie, auntie,” Anagha (pronounced like Annika) says. She shakes her head, which we’ve learned is not a head shake meaning no, but an affirmation. Everyone does it.
“Will Alice join us for the Pick-a-nick under the lemon tree?”
“What lemon tree?” I ask, as this is the first I have heard of any pick-a-nick. Alice is not known for her ability to relay messages.
“When is the pick-a-nick?” I add, trying to figure this out.
“The pick-a-nick is in Alipoora. On tomorrow’s tomorrow.”
“But tomorrow is school day,” I answer, misunderstanding.
“No!” she says again, slowly, “Tomorrow’s tomorrow.”
“Oh,” I say as it finally dawns on me, “we call that the day after tomorrow.”
I explain that Alice must go to the tailors on tomorrow’s tomorrow. Anagha shakes her head again.
Many things are just the same— the morning routine, getting the kids ready, working on research—until you’re reminded that it’s not the same at all.
Like when my morning Uber to work tops out at 130-150 rupees including tip. Or something between $1.80 and $2.10. So perhaps it’s $1.40 and I give a 70 cent tip. Which feels strange on a couple of levels, especially when the driver is genuinely, sincerely grateful for the generosity. This expense is considered extravagant by our neighbors.
Like when I went to the bank. I am not the kind of person who is ever the bank manager’s big score of the day. As a rule. But here I am taken right back to the manager’s office as if I am someone important. We go through voluminous paperwork, as is the custom. After a time the transaction is complete (it will take about 5 days for the account to open). I thank everyone and wait for my Uber. A man walks in with a large metal box. It looks heavy. He strains at the weight of it but is wiry and strong. I don’t think much of it.
I walk outside because my Uber driver is calling and I mistakenly think this means he is here. The bank guard escorts me out. He takes the call for me and talks to the driver, who is caught in traffic miles away and dumps me. Not to worry. We head back inside the bank to push the button on a new Uber.
That’s funny, I think. I don’t recall the man with the double barreled shotgun sitting here next to the ATM earlier. He is in no recognizable uniform. Hmmm. I guess he’s just a farmer here to make a deposit? Is that a thing?
The man with the metal box walks past me again, sharing the weight of it with another man. The man with the shotgun resting in his lap stands up and follows them out.
That’s when I realize that this is an armored deposit being picked up. All the elements are there–guards, a metal box, and armored protection– exactly what you’d expect, but just a little bit different.
I traveled with my colleagues from the University on Wednesday to see the beaches of Kollam and the Kollam harbor. It was myself, Dr Jaya, Manikandan, Niyathi, and Alwyn– all talented researchers who work on issues of pollution in water and soil.
We wanted to scout out potential locations for collecting debris. We found several sites– just like in Connecticut, there is no shortage of debris available. I enjoyed spending the day with colleagues who are driven to work on these issues.
(This very cool action shot is just me and Jaya looking at dolphins frolicking)
The overwhelming nature of the debris was also a good reminder that collective action for this problem is critical. The heart of my work is galvanizing citizens and students to collect data and share the results with local politicians to encourage policy change. It is by its very nature not something one person can do alone.
Or maybe it is that one person should not do it alone.
Like having a pick-a-nick under the lemon tree.
Like a lot of things in life.
It’s better when you do it with others.