Camp

The first metaphor lesson I received discussed houses. They come to represent their inhabitants, I learned, their architecture and mood reflections of the individual, internal dramas of the characters. At this time I was reading a lot of Dark Romantics ,though, so there were a lot of internal dramas and excessive number of people to be prone to them. These things just tend to happen when you marry your cousin and you are a bastard child and you also contract TB.

But if I myself was ever suffering the torment of buildings, it was upon my arrival in Hyderabad. I experienced a very negative, visceral reaction to this place once we slept off the fatigues. We are cloistered here in this university, away from main campus and even further from the city. I hadn’t come to like this city yet because I hadn’t had the opportunity to hate it. I am not fond of it in the way I am fond of Delhi, and I am only fond of Delhi because I survived it. I hated the raw sores of human suffering that it exposed to me, but I don’t regret my time there.  Hyderabad, however, felt like a wasteland for new reasons, and just like camp.

Our hostel is the newest building in a future student housing complex. It contains all the passivity of a place not taken in any memories. The road in front is unpaved.  Outside no foliage yet adorns the natural red rock and dirt, except one median of electric green grass. In the middle a small sapling reigns with its diminutive shadow. I imagine this is maintained with a kind of insane maintenance.

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Inside, generic thin-framed drawings slouch on the wall. The recreation room has the charm of a dentist’s waiting room – full of singular chairs and an end table I use as a footrest. I pad down the slate grey concrete tiles in the middle of the night to use the restroom, where I wash with usually cold bucket water in the mornings.

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There are only 16 of us in the whole big marrow of this place. When it rains, the roof leaks near the staircase, and the locks of doors rattle when you walk past. “It is like a mental hospital!” Anne said the first evening right before we turned out the light to go to bed.

We put up mosquito nets the second night after a rainstorm ushered in insects of every shape, size, color, and crunch into the hostel. They covered the walls and floor of the lobby. In the morning, thousands of insect corpses littered the floor having died from their brief lifespans or in a blazing glory encounter with the Pest-o-Matic in the corner.

We saw one lone mosquito in our room the whole night, but we have kept the nets up anyway. The gauzy divide provides false fortification. Siphoning off personal space in a building full of it seems foolish, reclusive. Yet, it etches relief out of the biting solitude of this huge building – this space is mine, my retreat, a self-imposed confine.

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On my provided bulletin board I have tacked the only three reminders of home I managed to shove in my backpack that weren’t prevention for tropical diseases. They’re all short notes, one placed surreptitiously in my journal by my mom, two given to me by my friends Brenna and Paul. My computer troubles cut me off regularly form the people who could give me the most reassurance in my homesickness. The monsoon rains cut us all off completely with the power. In the still nights without A/C I sweat sleeping fitfully, pushing off the covers, tangling myself in the mosquito net.

In the first days, I took bike-rides to quell the restless deracination. I rented a bike from the hostel for 1000 rupees. Mine is a brambling oleo of parts attempting to hide it behind an absurdly cursive script on the side that says Miss India Emerald. It has no gears, barely brakes, and the tires are bound to blow before I leave. But, it gets me to and from campus with a little breeze and little effort.

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Eventually, my indirection transformed from distraction to a deflated false solitude. As punctuation, when I rode back up the desreted hill in the pregnant twilight on evening, I saw bats as huge as a hawk twirling through the sky as if tethered to steady pendulums. C’mon metaphor, I thought. Really, now? The giant terrors swooped so low I seriously thought one might carry me off, which is premium motivation to pedal faster, even if it is back to an empty, dark concrete block resisting attachment.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Camp

  1. Mom

    Ten years from now I wonder what your memories of Hyderabad will be?

  2. Aubrey

    Question (and perhaps a stupid one): this is the second time I’ve noticed you using the word “oleo”, so not knowing its meaning, I looked it up, both in my dictionary and on the internet. All I can come up with for a definition is “synonymous with margarine”, or at best “an oil (used in margarine)”. What does it mean to you?

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