During a visit to Kerala when I was 5, my parents bought five gorgeous white chickens. They walked around like the hottest chickens on the block.
I was afraid to go outside by myself because they were hunting for me.
In their pack, they were unstoppable. I tried to act cool, but they smelled my fear. When I bravely attempted to play in the yard, they came and pecked me in the foot. I cried and ran inside, shaking my fist at them.
And then the five chickens became four chickens.
They were still a threatening pack but toned it down a notch. When it came down to three chickens, I think they had a clue about where their feathered friends had gone.
Finally I could wander the yard. They gave me threatening looks but didn’t venture too close. When there were two chickens, they gave up the hot-to-trot act.
Dinner each day that week had never been more satisfying — the chicken curry in particular.
Vengeance was sweet. No — spicy.
Kerala is a radically different place today than from my first visit in the early 80’s. Bullock carts and transport trucks ruled the streets. Then motorcycles started butting in. Cars were few and far between. It was no surprise to see the occasional elephant hauling lumber.
We awoke to roosters crowing in the morning and headed outside to brush our teeth on the front porch and spit into the gravelly earth. We relieved ourselves in a hole on the bathroom floor with with the pop-a-squat method. Forget about toilet paper. My mom said Indians thought it was gross how we used toilet paper anyway. A good splash of water gives a deeper clean. But once you go toilet paper, you never go back.
Just outside the house was the cow. I always wished I could hug it and tug at its horns but was never allowed to get too close. They said the cow might gore me. I couldn’t understand why our helper lady could lead it around on a rope, while I couldn’t even give it a little pat.
Chickens owned the yard. My cousins could catch them with no qualms. I was too scared of their beaks, claws and screams.
I loved prancing among the rubber trees when the ground wasn’t too muddy from the rains.