When I first met her, she was in search of someone who would take her around and help her explore the oldest houses in town. So I took her to mansions, the insides of which I myself had not seen, even though I was a local. Invariably she would ask the patriarch, matriarch or the caretaker of the house, “Where is the snake shrine?”
Now this, came as a shock to me. I had a morbid fear of snakes. She was from another country, but yet I was less informed than her. She was right, in one corner of all these mansions there stood a snake shrine with two or three hooded idols, turmeric smeared, where they placed a lighted lamp every evening. It was eerie.
Seeing her off that first day, I casually asked her, “Are you not afraid of snakes?” She shot back cheerfully, “I come from the land of anacondas!” That did not cheer me up much. In fact, it sort of scared me. I saw her as a snake woman.
We met again the next day and visited more mansions with snake shrines. Over the first shock, of her serpentine interests, I discovered she wasn’t interested in snakes as such, but in the architecture. She made several sketches while I stood around disinterestedly until I was needed to intervene as an interpreter.
I saw her now as a smart young lady taking her research work seriously. When the breeze passed by her, I smelled sweat and no perfume.
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Work finished, we were walking on a road when some pigs ran across, barely escaping a car speeding by. I had hardly taken a few steps when I heard a strange sound coming from behind. I turned around to see her standing there, watching the pigs, and calling out to them in their language, “Oink Oink.” People were watching, it was a village in Kerala, and she made quite a sight. I tried to stop her. But, she was way too into it. She went on calling out “Oink Oink.”
Even when I managed to pry her away from the pigs and dropped her at the hotel, she burst out with another “Oink.” I laughed. She too laughed. “Where did you learn that?” I asked. She clarified, “I used to work in a dubbing studio and gave voices to animated pigs.”What about snakes,” I asked. “Snakes too. And monkeys. Orang Utans. Bonobos.”
That night, she came to me with a horde of animals. An anaconda led the bunch. A pig oinked a lullaby. I woke up in the arms of a Bonobo.
I sat up and opened my laptop, checking for Bonobos. What I read drew my breath away. I read, “Bonobos are primates and closest cousins to the human race and perhaps a species that have come much closer to ideals of love that our philosophers profess than humans themselves. Their belief in conflict resolution through the medium of love (or, more precisely, making love) has a singular existence in this world of strife, rifts and unimaginable misery. The Bonobo is capable of altruism, compassion, empathy, kindness, patience, and sensitivity.”
Months later, we were in bed and she tried to wrap herself around me like an anaconda. I was in death throes and oinked helplessly like a pig. We giggled a lot.
“We are Bonobos, aren’t we?” she asked.
I kissed her,” Yes, Bono.”
She kissed me, “Yes, Obo!”