Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spinning Yarns

Chacha ji hs become my balcony buddy in Vashisht this year. That is he is someone to sit and watch the human traffic pass beneath and around us, to make the odd comment to or interjection about.
Chacha ji has the best balcony in Vashisht for this kind of gentle pass time. From our sunny corner we can watch the tourists struggle up the hill, the boys in the blanket shops ply their wares, we can tease the little boy Satyam on the next door balcony and almost reach across the street into two tourist rooftop resuaurants and in his own house behind us there is the shuffle shuffle clap clap of his daughter at the loom and the usual to-ing of any extended family. So there is plenty to feast our eyes on.
I understand probably about fifty percent of what he says and ninety nine percent of his meaning, while he probably understands fifty percent of my Hindi and absolutely nothing of my English. It hardly matters, we play our role like the two old guys on the balcony at the Muppet show or two birds on the tree of life. We bounce off each other for all that with a shared chuckle, raised eyebrows or the many handsignals which have developed over time when people want to talk about each other without being heard. One is the universal signal for crazy, the other is a dismissive downward gesture as if one were throwing away rubbish and the last most expressive one is the hand raised upwards int he shape of a lotus or curled slightly as if you were holding a small bird in the palm of your hand before releasing it. This says many things but a general approximation would be "What can you do? this is in Gods hands."
Chacha ji's hands are never still. For the last week while he sat and walked and talked around the village he has been making rope from goat hair. First he spun the wool onto a small hand held spool. When he had two spools of twine, he spun them together to make a strong twine. When he had three reels of strong twine, he sewed them togther to make a rope about the width of a bridle or reins.
"Strong, " he reckons, giving the half complete work a tug. "Last about fifteen to twenty years."
He looks so quaint as he totters around the village in his traditional Himachal clothes. The home made woolen jacket, the pyjama pants and his brightly coloured cap and his slighty bent legs give him the appearance of being a rather doddering old man. Tourists like to stop and take photos of his beautiful weathered walnut face and he nods encouragement with his bright inquisitive eyes. In fact Chacha ji is probably one of the richest and smartest men in this village. With rental properties all over the village and a large successful family, he remains as sharp as a tack. Alive and alert, interested but most of all amused by the ever changing worlda round him. He lets it all wash over him with a delightful mix of old age craziness and age old wisdom.


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