During my happy days there, I developed an image of Kottayam as a woman. Kottayam was a broad. She had beefy arms and amazonian thighs. She had jet black hair that shone with oil and cascaded over her ample behind. Kottayam was a big-breasted lady. She had that nonchalant walk that tickled men. She was sexy; a great romp in the bed. The only question was that whether you could take her. She had an earthy sense of humour and that glint in her eyes held a lot of promises. I thought of Kottayam as Queen Latifah. In that crest than ran from Kanjikuzhy to Thirunakkara, she was a like a buxom woman lying stretched on her back, inviting. Every morning, she took a dip in Meenachil river and strolled with her hair dripping water and the wet white sari tied up above her abundant chest clinging to her body. In the evenings, she sat on her front porch before the slow moving river and gazed at the boats passing by. Kottayam had a zest for life. She would make a great mate, the kind who doesn't need your support; all she asked was for treatment as an equal and she took care of you.
In Alleppey/Alappuzha, I am like the unwilling individual who is forced into an arranged marriage, compelled to cohabit with another person. She is not the kind I'd care to make love to. She is the one who mumbles from within the smoky kitchen, coming out with bleary eyes, squinting, her dishevelled hair caked with dust and soot. Her skin is rough and scaly. She wears a blouse with no bra inside, the dark stain of sweat in huge semicircles under her armpits and her shrunken, shapeless breasts slump over her distended belly that bears the scars of child-bearing. I am reminded of some old heroines of the B&W era of Malayalam neo-realistic movies. She is coarse. I shudder to listen to her accent. I faint at the reek that emanates from her hair, the reek of sweat and coconut oil, condensed. She wears cheap, bright, synthetic 'Nighties' that makes me want to puke. The stagnant waters of her canals, the ramshackle old buildings barely standing, the creepers and water hyacinths that clog the waterways - Alleppey/Alappuzha is like a dull, morose, sulky buffalo.
Yet I am married to her. The faithful person that I am, I strain to tolerate her. I sense sorrow and dejection in this town. I try to cheer her up, fondling her once in a while, though she refuses to be aroused. There is a beauty somewhere deep in her; her pretty beach, the paddy fields where Egrets and Herons and River Terns and Black Drongos fly around, the Backwaters beckoning you to the vast expanses of water. Maybe if I tickle her at the right erogenous zones, she'd stop lying on her back like an old whore and get on top of me, like Kottayam always did.
What I would do with Alleppey/Alappuzha ( I still cannot get over this dichotomy of names) is to give her a bath, shampoo her hair and clad her in a jeans and top. I'd like to do a Pygmalion on her. But I cannot do anything about the dull eyes and downturned mouth of this town. So, like the typical Alleppian who stands in the long queue before the liquor shop as night falls to buy a Quarter of the cheapest Rum and then goes home to bash up his wife or scratch at the mosquito bites, I try to beat it into this town's head that 'Look here you ****ing b****, dress up and get out if you don't want another kick in your ass don't be such a sourpuss'.
I am telling you, my readers, Alleppey/Alappuzha could be as kinky as Mumbai, why, Mumbai is just a hag, made up old floozie of Kamatipura. AlIeppey/Alappuzha is just so dried up, all she needs is someone to love her - and I tell ya - she'd bloom!
In the dull, quiet, early mornings that I explore this town oh-so-slowly on my bicycle, I feel like I am looking over a woman sleeping on her torn charpoy, her legs barely covered by the shreds of an old blanket. You look with detest at her partly opened mouth and foul breath and the occasional snore she splutters out. She is graceless and ugly even when asleep. But there is a kind of peace in sleep. Like the dead, damn it! I grind my teeth; if only if only you said you loved me and wanted me instead of cooking my dinner and washing my clothes and bearing my children, if only you came to me in the early mornings and gripped me in both your hands and kissed - why, I'd wash and comb your hair; I'd massage your feet and paint your lips. I'd slap your buttocks red and make you hot. I'd clean up your sodden canals and clear up your face. I'd stick a bindi on your forehead.
My morning rambles continue. I am getting sick of this town; the sicker I am, the harder I try to find joy in this place. Am I extending my way of attributing life to inanimate things to Alleppy/Alappuzha also? I am, I know.
The life that I breathe into my bike or my Netbook or this town - is really truly, me. Yet, I believe that is how one can learn about life, by seeing oneself in others. Everything, every being that you look at, reflects you. Looking at my bike, at my Netbook, at my dogs, at this town or Kottayam or Trivandrum, I learn a little more about myself. You do not see them as they are, you see them as you wish them to be; which is what you wish yourselves to be. They are; therefore you exist. I always remember the time I was hiking around Lake Manasarovar. Breaking out of my trance, I noticed that many of my fellow pilgrims hardly saw the magnificence of the landscape. They went on munching their namkeens and sweets, cursing the strong, freezing winds. Then I realised that the beauty of the landscape is not out there, but within me. Everytime you connect with another person, everytime you fall in love with another person or a town, you are falling in love with yourself. The goodness and ugliness that you see in another is the goodness and ugliness that is in you. What you seek from God is not really his/her love and protection and redemption; you are seeking all that from within you.
I sympathize with the men and women who fly from one relationship to another; it is not really just physical love they are looking for; nor is it the platonic, spirtual partnership. People are searching for themeselves in others.