in post

14 September 2020


D went with J to look at cars and came back with a silver coloured 2016 Subaru Impreza. She is very happy about the new car. I like it too, though it seems too large after the Mazda 2. There seems to be more room in the boot / trunk which is good as that always tends to fill up quickly with yoga mats.

Earlier I went with her to do some shopping at a hardware store. I need to do a bit of painting in the house before the winter; mostly where the walls get some dampness, causing the paint and the plaster to bubble and peal. I don't think there's really a cure for the dampness, so it's just a matter of painting every few years.

I'm sitting outside on the patio. Just saw a scorpion. Tried to hit it with my shoe but missed; it got away. Just a brown scorpion though. The yellow ones have the bad reputation around here. I guess I should fix that gap in the screen so they can't get in the house. I think of Dorab and his screened porch, that is really the main part of the house; of the monkeys playing outside and the peacocks spreading their fans. It seems so far away, both in terms of time and distance. India has almost a hundred thousand cases a day now. God knows when they will beat it. Here, we are going into another three-week lockdown. My grandchildren will go crazy.

It's very pleasant sitting out here in the summer night cool air, with only the sound of crickets and the distant highway. I wouldn't sit out like this in Tiru. Too many mosquitoes. Dorab says that 30 or 40 years ago they would have their evening meal out under the mango trees; there were far less mosquitoes then. The mosquitoes came with the people. It used to be mainly farm land around there. Now it's valuable real estate. Partly it must have been the ashram that brought the eastward expansion. Just as with Rishikesh.

In the framework of the DocAviv films yesterday, we watched one about an Israeli singer who is planning to obtain a Moroccan passport, on the legal basis that her mother was born there. Growing up with other Moroccan Jews, she never really felt at home here, and feels a yearning for Morocco. The film shows the journey her partner made to the Moroccan village that his family came from. He spends time with the villagers, some of whom remember his grandfather. There are Israeli Jews who have returned to live in Morocco. After all, Jews lived there for perhaps a thousand years. We have one family in the village who every year (except this one of course) celebrate the Mimouna and invite everyone in the village. The holiday is about the day after the end of the passover holiday, when Muslim neighbors would bring the Jews many baked goods. In Israel, it has eventually come to recognized as a kind of extra holiday, following the second holiday of Passover.

But I know from Paul Bowles's books that for the most part Jews were despised in Morocco, just like the Nazarenes. Perhaps it is a modern phenomenon, resulting from 19th and 20th century politics. But possibly this hankering after an alternative existence in Morocco is a kind of romanticisation. Why should one return to a country in which you are not truly accepted? The experience of Mizrachi or Eastern Jews is complicated by the fact that they were never properly accepted by the Ashkenazis who controlled the country. (Even these terms reveal so much, considering that the countries of the Maghreb are far west of here.)

Bowles himself considered as home a country where he was clearly an alien. Or perhaps he enjoyed the feeling of being an alien. Our entire era is one of displaced peoples, who are not truly at home wherever they live. They make varying degrees of effort to adapt themselves to their location. And there are varying degrees of foreignness too. In Mugello, where my daughter was living, even a person from Florence feels like an outsider. In Virginia I spoke to two Californians recently who said they didn't really feel at home there. In Auroville and Pondicherry I meet many North Indians who feel almost as foreign as I do in Tamil land. Yet, just as there are degrees of discomfort, there are degrees of acceptance. The Florentine living in Mugello is at least an Italian, like me; the Gujarati living in Tamil Nadu is at least an Indian, like me.

Most of the Brits, some of whom had lived for generations in India or Africa, ended up going "home" after the dissolution of the empire. That's something I definitely would not do, because Britain feels completely foreign to me; it's just the country of my passport. I think it must have been quite difficult to return from a tropical, easy-going country to cold grey Blightie.

Recently I read an interview of Ai Weiwei, who made a wonderful documentary about refugees (The Human Flow) about his new life in Britain, after Germany. He feels more at home in Britain, apparently, than he did in Germany. Yet it seems that Germany, statistically and practically, has been much more welcoming to refugees than has Britain. Everything connected with homeliness and foreignness is rather complicated. Countries, religions, national cultures, may be too large an entity for humans to safely relate to. It's easier to relate to towns and villages as one's home and, probably, the smaller the unit, the better.

The jackals are baying, and I'm yawning. It's time to go to bed.