Happy to have arrived safely in Chennai, ensconced in a comfortable, 8th floor room looking out at the Marina Beach. I’m renting an Air B&B room with bath in a family home with access to their simple kitchen. It’s nice to be with a friendly hostess and her daughter and maid.
But your sleuth is lonely! The “informant” contacts I came with have been elusive. However, it is a long holiday season for many, especially families with students, so folks are traveling and otherwise occupied. My law student contact is ill and “under observation”, she said. I wasn’t able to determine from her school’s website when the new semester begins. A former friend and college professor, Romila, has rushed to Madurai because her granddad is ill. The well-known journalist I located through an article of hers I read hasn’t responded to my WhatsApp texts. I imagine she is busy with work or holiday gatherings? And my old friend Srini is also out of town.
Not surprisingly, I’ve not received any responses to my several emails to gay advocacy groups and to individual queer writers I found on the internet. Is it the result of homophobia? Perhaps they haven’t trusted my queries? Or I just haven’t found the right contacts yet.
But I have accomplished a few things! Got over jet lag with lots of sleep over a period of days. Bought a few Western groceries to supplement the Indian diet, which I can’t seem to handle three times a day: purchased unsatisfying bread, questionable cheese, peanut butter, but delicious fruits. Enjoyed several delicious vegetarian meals of dosai, idli, sambar, and coconut chutney- a vegetarian’s heaven. Re-learned how to take a satisfying bath with a bucket (the shower doesn’t work). Found my way to a classical flute concert. Navigated both “auto rickshaws” and Uber vehicles to get around town, closing my eyes frequently to avoid panic as the vehicles weave wildly in and out of the crowded river of traffic. Walked the paved beach path three times so far for a one-hour, sweaty walk with other walkers and joggers, noting how many Indians have become overweight with Western lifestyles and foods. The walk involved dodging cows, stray dogs, vendors, beggars, youngsters with headphones, elders with their ears covered due to the “cold” of winter, and lots of feces on the ground.
Perhaps the most important lesson here is the importance of patience, especially in India! I am not the center of the universe. I chose to arrive during a holiday season. And I have plenty of time to find my interviewees. So many topics to discuss: law education, LGBT rights, rural life, death rituals in the case of suicide, etc. I did finally sit down to edit a short story yesterday and submit it to an Indian literary journal- and made a list of others to consider.
The lonely sleuth is practicing patience today!