|Art: Binod Pradhan|
Now that I’m old it’s like I’ve lost my mind, except I know this has been going on for much of my 89 years. With my grandkids these days, I’m a wild bear – untameable, with a powerful set of lungs and legs, growling and mewling and blowing kisses with abandon. In my garden I’m pernickety, an eagle-eye behind double trifocals – snipping down here, tying up there, pursing my lips and giving master courses on the will to live. Into town I rarely go, and then only in disguise; but out here on the land I am calm, cool to the touch, with wide vistas, my hair turning from red to white to golden to black as the sun slips by. It’s nearly always been this way: waking up one person, going to bed someone else entirely.
It’s nearly always been this way, but it was far worse when I was younger. In those frenetic days I was a whole menagerie – better living through chemistry, making cigarettes out of coarse weeds, changing my hairstyle with my shirt, a rock’n’roll hero at my friend Raju’s house, and a sullen caveman at my own. There were no wide vistas, but only the steep ups and downs of violent formation. The beds changed frequently, and sometimes I didn’t go to sleep at all. I’d carry a sour lemon with me from one place to another: it’d be the same when I arrived, but I’d already be different.
It’s nearly always been this way, but I do have one memory off on its own – like the prelude, the dedication, before the chapters, like the photo on the front of the book itself: contextualising whatever is to come. I am sitting in a small room, on my father’s lap, facing a window; his beard is scratchy on the top of my head, and the floor is far away; outside the window, it is black: we are a small bubble of light, all there together, surrounded by nothing at all.