The sprays are getting stronger. The last wave blurred my glasses. My mind starts the age old debate of decisions. Should I walk back to the car on continue writing this out?! I find myself sitting on top of a small boulder facing Niagara. Niagara is a waterfall. A strong one at that. Waves and waves of cold water droplets lash out from his center. It was like rain except for the fact that rain falls down. These tiny drops were cast out like a net from a fisherman’s hands. The fisherman in question is in an awful temper.
It’s been raining for a week and water is plentiful. It was enough to nourish Niagara’s huge appetite and give purpose to its fall. And what a fall it was. Water gushing down with murderous intent. Taking out frustration and pent up anger on its eternal enemy, the rock base. God only know what those rocks must have done wrong to receive such punishment. The impact is so strong, it creates meters high water mist flung outwards and wide.
These droplets wash over me again. Once again I think of rain. The paper I write on starts dripping. The words become sploshy. I stop writing and look up. Two small boys and their little sister run across the rocks oblivious to both the horizontal rain and the powerful waterfall. They are more concerned about jumping boulders and looking for frogs. Their little sister tries hard to keep up.
It’s cloudy but the clouds only thinly hides the sun. The sun seems to be playing its favorite peek-a-boo game. The good thing about a sun peek-a-boo is it creates beautiful streaks of light rays rather than the over washed blanket we usually get. Just when I think the decor could not get any better, the sun proves me wrong and draws me a rainbow. The constant outflowing blanket of droplets is the perfect canvas for a rainbow. So says my logical mind with its scientific training. My right brain on the other hand thinks that the sun is trying to soothe Niagara by painting a ribbon of colors. Hopefully, the interplay of light would lull its temperament and abate its anger.
Despite the pretty artwork, Niagara seems unconvinced and gushes even more water in what appears to be defiance. The rainbow grows stronger and more defined. It catches the eye of the younger sister who promptly abandons her brothers. She tries her best to catch the rainbow but it remains as fleeting as the sprays of waters that created it. This brings a smile to her dad who scoops her up and tickles her. Her laughter is how I imagine little angels would sound like if they laughed. The sun seems equally as mesmerized and shines on her golden locks. For a moment, the mighty waterfall seems stilted.
I find myself smiling. Surely, it can’t get any better than this…
There was wine. Bottles of them. Don’t remember how many. Enough to make me ramble on to anyone who would listen about the challenge of walking a straight line. It was quite a bit.
She was much older than I was. Out with some friends. She told me that I looked too young to be there. I told her so did she. That was the wine talking. She came to enjoy the Salsa music. She came to get away from the confines of her kitchen. Just for a night. She was like the aunt you always liked. The one with a nice twinkle and warm smile.
Then we danced. Well she danced with the wine. My veins dripped full of them. I felt my mind detach and stay on the bar stool. Without me “the brain”, the body was pretty good at dancing. Who knew? I haven’t danced for years. She was having fun. I was glad. So was I. Or maybe it was the wine. The song winded down. She sat down. I kept on going. Closed my eyes momentarily while I did my patented head banging move. Didn’t even know I had a patented head banging move. The dizziness started to set in. I opened my eyes. A pair of wide eyes peered back at me. They seem amused. She was young and boy could she dance! I was unconcerned though. The wine was dancing after all. My feet matched her every move. Salsa long forgotten came back. She didn’t expect the spin. Nor the turn or the sombrero…
The song ended. I smiled at my partner and was about to return to my older friend when the young thing commented that it was nice that I was dancing with my mum. That caught me by surprise. She smiled mischievously. I stared at her. It was then I noticed her date intently watching me. Offhand it occurred to me that his hips won’t survive a turn let alone a spin. The wine started talking on my behalf. I told her that she was a naughty girl for abandoning her dad. She frowned. I didn’t wait for the slap and skedaddled my drunk behind out of there.
My new friend asked me how was the dance. I told her it was boring because she was not there. That was the wine of course. Fortunately, she didn’t know that and I was presented with a pleased twinkle. We then talked about family. I told her how much I miss mine. She told me how much she loved her’s. Salsa melted to Jazz.
Fact of life, alcohol speeds up time. I helped her with her coat. She wants to introduce a daughter to me. Apparently she was my age… 20. I replied if her daughter was half as pretty as the mum, I would be one lucky guy but unfortunately I am married and the kids would never understand. There was the twinkle again. And this time it was followed by a pinch. Right on the cheeks. That was unexpected. And a bit embarrassing…
I tipped the glass. It was empty. I turned and flagged down a waiter. I had to tell someone about the challenge of walking a straight line.
I stare at them blankly. My eyes begin to glaze and I can feel my brain slowing down to a crawl. All of a sudden, my hearts starts to race and the frustration building up over a course of a couple of weeks finally pours out.
That got their attention. After a while, you tire of trying to understand a foreign language and just want to scream out. In my case, the scream manifested into a Vanakam. That surprised them. Almost as much as it surprised me. 30% of the population in La Reunion is made up of brown people. By brown, I mean Indian. Not Indians from Cowboy flicks but the sort of home grown Indian folks you stumbled into in KL. Only difference is these Indians speak French. No matter how hard I try my English on them which by the way is the real Indian Mother tongue (in a global fashion that is), I usually receive frowns followed rapidly by a stream of French even French people would have a hard time understanding. My bonafide French project manager certified that fact.
So, I said Vanakam. At first, they stared at each other in confusion. There were two of them. One tall enough to look at me in the eyes while the other was slightly more petite but both were unmistakably brown. Of course by brown, I mean Indian. A few seconds later, they smiled at each other signaling the end of the shock and replied something that sounded like “Ninga Tamil yah” which I think was “You are Tamil?”. Now it was my turn to widen the eyes. They speak Tamil after all. Hallelujah!
After days of trying to communicate with the locals in French and failing miserably, I finally found a foothold in communication. For once, I can actually use my Tamil. A language long buried in the annals of my childhood and lazy afternoons with my grandmother. At long last! I can order what I want without struggling to think of the words. Finally! I can ask people how many sisters they have without accidentally offending them. God! I can even start making jokes again. I found a common language. I am finally in!
I stare at them blankly. My eyes begin to glaze again. A school scene where I was laughed out of my extracurricular Tamil class when trying to recite a poem flashes in my head. The horrible truth dawns on me. My Tamil comprehension is probably about the same level as my French is. My hearts starts to race again…