Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Chile Diary Chapter 11

Hitches and Glitches

I had many apprehensions in coming to live in Chile. I even recall repeating that I was scared. Unfortunately the people who surround me either think in narrow grooves or are eager for fresh gossip. So everyone, without exception, wanted to know why I was “scared to live with my son.” I had mentioned nothing about my son. The inference was absolutely wrong and born from deliberate misinterpretations. I shook my head wearily and smiled to myself wondering how it was possible for them to constantly dig for gossip and create mountains out of non-existent mole-hills, endlessly; tirelessly for years and years. But many people thrive on malicious, irresponsible natter.

I had to answer their queries. But I myself could not understand why I was using such a strong term for my apprehensions. I wasn’t able to put my finger on the reason of my fear. Why was I scared? It isn’t in my nature to be “scared” of travelling to a new, unknown territory. Nervous, perhaps yes, but frightened? No, it was definitely too strong a word to describe what I was feeling about my pending foreign travel.

I made sure to shoot down the insinuations and gave all the practical reasons I had, to feel nervous about. I was closing home in India. Everything I had worked for and built laboriously and lovingly through the years was gone. I would have no home to return to; No place to call my own. I had left myself bereft of all options. Wasn’t that a scary situation? It certainly did sound like one to some, who agreed while the others realised there was no story here and directed their minds to more material gains from my rather hasty departure from India. They weren’t disappointed in this. There was a lot they liked in my home and a lot they carried away. But I still wasn’t so sure if this was the reason why I was scared.

One month later, with the benefit of hindsight I realise it must have been intuition. I had been begging Tintin to let me stay in India for about three or four months more. I even wanted to try for my Canadian visa before I left my homeland. This provided me with an option. I wasn’t easy with the haste. There were many questions that were either not being answered satisfactorily or answered too soon. Four weeks later, of which three I’ve spent being in a refugee status, stressed and in nervous tension, I know why I was positively scared to come here. I’m isolated; physically; emotionally; spiritually. I cannot get through to my own. But surprisingly the Chileans can feel my anxiety. They have been warm and supportive; friends and strangers alike have extended encouraging moral support. Nevertheless, Chile has been scary and terrifying despite the warmth and help extended by the wonderfully hospitable people of Vina Del Mar.

The latest information that was conveyed to me yesterday was that I wouldn’t be able to fly out to Canada from here. My return ticket had been already booked by the company. So if I did not use it Tintin would have to bear the cost of the same. The company refused to change the destination to Canada. That was fine with the boys, but fortunately we found out that a particular document, necessary for my Canadian visa, which was in the vernacular would have to be translated into English and notarised too by a govt certified notary. My papers had still to be submitted. Thank God for that. Getting a document in Hindi translated into English in Chile would have been impossible. At least now I can think of returning to India and presenting my documents to the embassy there.

Many important details were not pursued earlier making me a pain not only to myself but also to others! I was shunted here to settle for good as a dependent. Now Tintin finds out that too will not be possible as birth certificates of both mother and son are required to prove biological relationship. This means that both the certificates must have the child’s name too. Well at the time of my birth and that of my sons, birth certificates did not carry the name of the child as children in India were named formally only after a month or two. So it would mention a girl child or boy child born to so-and-so on such-and-such date at such-and-such place. And this is how ours is too! I’m sure I’ve made my point clear about my intuition of “scary” situations turning up with all the haste. I remember telling my son and his wife that they were “jumping to X, Y, Z before going through A, B, C.” Well short-sightedness has taken its toll.

Granted the Earthquake of this magnitude could not have been anticipated, but the quake situation is constant and so a problem coming up with me being left alone almost all the time should have been anticipated; the problem of language and communication should have been anticipated; my need for company, entertainment is real and should have been anticipated; that I’d be a part of their outings if not all the time then quite often, at least till I settled in properly, was also very obvious given the situation and should have been anticipated; These are predictable situations. Previous knowledge grants that this isn’t the best place to leave me alone.

That’s the mood Saturday sees me in; Despondent and disappointed. But one must go with the flow....always. I am in God’s hands and though I might feel let down at times that’s not the permanent attitude. My sons are trying to do the best they can, and I appreciate all that they are doing, it’s just that they are too headstrong to listen to reason at times. I still have hope. “God will show the way, where there seems to be no way......” It’s only ten past one in the afternoon. I have a long day ahead of me.

Early morning Tintin and I went to see the house on 15 norte. It is beautiful. It’s built on a rocky hill and made in the terraced style where the houses are built along the slope of the hill and do not rise up in one big, perpendicular block. So it seems to be a hill of jutting terraces. The terrace gardens add to the beauty. Although it is smaller than the present apartment, it has been planned so well to provide small but sufficient space for a neat living-dining room, small but adequately planned kitchen, two bedrooms, bathrooms, walk-in wardrobe. The furniture has been selected with taste and keeping the limited space in mind. The best part of it is the terrace in front. The location is great, the view simply amazing. The minor hitch is that the landlord is renting it out only for ten months, from March to December. This means another change of house at the end of the year. The major hitch is it’s on the fourth level. And being built on an incline, each level has a longer flight of stairs than one would normally find. So this one is ruled out.

The other mom staying here was trying to ask me something. The only word I could comprehend was “problema.” What now, I thought while I threw up my hands and shook my head and smiled a helpless smile, hoping she’d understand that the only problem was that I couldn’t get a word of what she was saying. She caught on and indicated that I should wait till she got her son on the phone. Now I was sure she had a major problem and was keen to know how it involved me.

As it turned out she was getting her friends over for lunch and wanted to know if that would be a problem for me. And if necessary, she would call off the lunch. I told her son that since I was, at the time of speaking, a permanent fixture at the dining table I’d be the problem to his mother and her friends. And since I was in the mood to write I had no time limits, I could close shop in ten minutes or continue till evening. If the group could carry on around me, it was fine with me. They could carry on with their lunch. This brought an overly demonstrative response of gratitude from the mom who hugged me and kissed me profusely!

Anyway neither of us had to bother about it. The Indian group comprising us, had a lunch of rajma-chawal and after a short nap left to pick up my track pants and buy some stuff for the house. The other mom’s guests hadn‘t arrived till then. By the time I returned here at six in the evening the guests were leaving. What a relief! I thought it had worked out fine for all concerned. But that was the forethought. Once again I have to remind you that ‘relief’ isn’t a long-term companion in Chile. I walked into the house to find there were still more people in the house, and although I hoped against hope they would leave, they didn’t.


Rajma-chawal.............Rajma is red kidney beans cooked with spices and tomatoes to make a thick gravy which is usually eaten with rice (Chawal)


  1. Are you at some point going to move permanently to Chile?

  2. I'm not sure Marlene. It depends on many factors that are not very certain at this moment.

  3. Ah! I need to read more. I thought the move was permanent.

  4. Thanks for reading Ken. You know, even I thought my move would be permanent too !!! I guess the previous pages will tell you more about my Chile days.