Yesterday my brother rolled his eyes and told me that I was living in my head. In my defense, it’s uncontrollable. The wildlife around our home and in our home in Pondicherry is overwhelming. I’ve always known that India is a tropical country and fosters a range of interesting creatures. However, I haven’t been as acutely aware of this as in the past week.
I was just beginning to grow used to the lizards that we share our home with. In fact, I even aww-ed at a baby lizard crawling up my wall! Then on Friday I met a friend at church who was missing part of his left eyebrow.
He told me that while he’d been shaving his face that morning a lizard fell on his head and just stayed there, perched on his head. He was so shocked and creeped out that he jumped and accidentally shaved his eyebrow. I had to ask how big that lizard had been. He described it as being of humongous proportions, unlike any I’d ever seen so far. But I believed him and was grateful that we had none rooming with us in our home. Unfortunately, I’d considered myself lucky too soon. Later that evening, on my way up to my room there was an amazingly large lizard frozen on the wall. At the time it looked as large as a chameleon and as disgusting as a house lizard.
I will admit that the lizard had shrunk a little by morning. But it was still one of the larger house lizards I’d ever come across. Also, it hadn’t gotten any less creepy. It kept sticking out its tongue and reminding me that it was a reptile. I wish I had a better grip on my imagination because it took off unsupervised and had me seeing the lizard fall on my head, perch on my shoulder, and even slide down my back. That night I dreamt of flying lizards. It’s interesting to think that that’s what dragons are really. But it wasn’t dragons I dreamt of. The lizards in my dream were regular looking, similar to the ones hanging out in my room. Except these lizards could fly if they wanted to. I even saw little decapitated lizards that were regenerating themselves. My week has been stressful with having to be unnaturally alert and discerning. The line between imagination and reality is getting blurry. And that’s because reality hasn’t been any less horrifying than the nightmare.
I know that I saw a lizard crawl into my closet. There’s a lizard that lives behind the mirror on my dressing table, another that lives on the window ledge, and one that regularly tries to sneak around my bed. It’s been two times already that I’ve shaken my bedside table and had a lizard scurry away.
I knew my lizard phobia was getting out of hand when my morning and evening prayers were for protection from lizards. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be braver, or just have the lizards leave without a struggle. To calm myself down a little I decided to read something I could get absorbed in and forget about my momentary troubles. So I am now reading The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald.
I don’t know what it is about certain writers and particular books that make a person’s mind and body relax even if their thoughts aren’t particularly soothing. Reading Penelope Fitzgerald pulled me back to the times I used to enjoy reading books like Watership Down and The Glassblowers while enjoying cups of Lopchu tea. I love living in those sort of books. They envelop me in contentment that’s incomparable.
This is the first time I am reading The Bookshop even though I’ve had it for a very long time. The story is about a middle aged lady, Florence Green, who goes through quite a bit of unpleasantness in the process of starting and running her bookshop. It’s very charmingly told and I plan to review it as soon as I’m done reading it. What is ironic about my uninformed decision to select this book to calm me is that the story is about Florence Green having to accept difficulties, injustices, and looking for ways to fix her problems – especially when she’d rather not. I read this on page 18 and it made me sigh:
The curious sounds associated with the haunting continued at night, long after the ill-connected water pipes had fallen silent. But courage and endurance are useless if they are never tested.
Before I end this post I have to say that apart from the reptiles, scorpions, and intruding squirrels, Pondicherry is a lovely place to live in. As my brother says, there’s lots of village fun to be had here. And it’s true! We had dolphins come by the beach once while we were eating lunch there. And I’ve seen flamingos, golden orioles, and other pretty birds while out on walks or even from the terrace.