Monday, August 13, 2007

Cat and the Cousin Brother

One of the things I did when I was in Sri Lanka was to visit relatives. I suspect most people who read this fully understand everything that is involved with visiting relatives when you're a Sri Lankan. There's no such thing as a simple pop in and a cup of tea in between two other things on your itinerary, a visit to relatives takes more planning and thought than the average fight scene in a Sri Lankan film.

I'd decided to turn up and surprise some cousins in Dehiwala. It was a cunnng move on my part as I knew that a surprise visit would mean that they'd only be able to offer me about twenty three meals and fourteen drinks. I love this branch of my family with a strangely guarded type of love. It's that type of love that accepts their kindness and hospitality unconditionally and often makes me realise how lucky I am. Many of this side of my family have little wealth or money but their kindness and warmth knows no bounds.

As in any good Muslim family, I have more cousins than I can count and their names are invariably different combinations of the same consonants; "F", "Z" and "R" with a selecton of vowels thrown in for good measure. After all these years I'd got to the stage of just about knowing all the names and then they upped the stakes by all marrying and having children. It's really not fair on a chap is it?

I arrived at the house and confronted the cousin whose place it is. My brothers and I are the only bunch in my Father's family who live in the UK, all our cousins live in the Motherland or in the Middle East with one poor fellow ensconced in the US, probably just for the sake of statistics or something. This means that we (myself and my siblings) are always treated a bit differently to the cousins that know each other far better and far more intimately. It's nice to get the "star" treatment but it makes me feel guilty sometimes and I occasionally yearn to be thought of as "one of them".

Within about two seconds of my arrival there were frantic phone calls being made to all other cousins and Aunts in the locality. I was given the usual soft drink and I settled myself down for a pleasantly long day of telling all my family that "Uncle and Aunty are fine" and other such standards. Then the carrom board made its appearance, something guaranteed to get my interest and enthusiasm. We settled down for some fun, I was on good form, which was handy, particularly as I had got soundly thrashed by academic bro last time I played, probably the first time in his life that he has beaten me at carrom, or maybe even at anything for that matter.

We played a bit of "winner stays on" and all the kids wanted to play against "Rhythmic Uncle". I lost a few games and won some. I was extremely pleased to beat one cousin as he's the master at the game and, when I got to my last piece, I made a big thing of playing the shot with my left hand and with my eyes closed. I potted it, won the game and could then boast that I beat R with my left hand with my eyes closed. He wasn't too pleased.

After some more of the same I was herded off towards a car, a term I use loosely, to be driven to another house to see more people. R, my cousin was the designated driver, another term I use loosely. As I walked towards the car I saw a couple of bricks underneath some of its tyres, of course I should have known that this was because the car had no handbrake. It was an old Nissan, in a rust with a hint of white finish. In fact it wasn't actually a Nissan, it was Datsun. Now R, out of all of my cousins is one of the most religious yet also one of the most fun. He prays devotedly and has the full beard and appearance of a devout Muslim, yet his sense of humour is puerile and childish. My type of bloke. We set off.

We turned onto the Galle Road and headed towards Colombo. R is clearly not a person who believes that driving requires any thought or foreward thinking and so his modus operandi consisted largely of sharp braking and sharp accelerating. There was every chance, come to think of it, that my Dad had taught him to drive. I relaxed, something I do a lot of in Sri Lankan cars, as I realised that the chances of an accident were high but the chances of any type of injury at such slow speeds were running at about the impossible level. It was all a bit surreal. There I was in this old Datsun, accompanied by what looked like every Sun reader's idea of an average terrorist, driving along the Galle Road. There was some particularly Islamic sounding music blasting out through the original stereo and my cousin was as happy as could be. As was I.

"You like this music Rhythmic?" he asked.

"Yes, it's nice no?" I lied. It wasn't really my thing but I didn't want to dampen R's obvious enthusiasm. So he turned the volume up to a level that would have got me arrested in most London streets. Of course the arrest would have been because we would have looked like terrorists on our way to drive into an airport or something. I was lucky. We were in Sri Lanka, one of the only countries in the world where the last things we looked like were terrorists.

"This is a fellow called Cat Stevens" said R.

"He used to be Cat Stevens and then he embraced Islam and this is him now" he added.

"Mmmmmkay" I said, fully aware that I sounded like my eleven year old. It just wasn't my musical cup of tea.

We turned off the Galle Road a little while later, we went right, landside and headed inland. After a couple of minutes R pulled over and made some big sighing noises as if he'd just heard a secret radio announcement that someone dear to him had died. He looked upset, there had been no radio announcement, so I asked him what was wrong.

His head was in his hands and it looked important as he sighed and sounded exasperrated.

"My gosh Rhythmic I totally forgot something I was supposed to pick up. Terrible"

"What were we supposed to collect?"

"It was A, my brother" he said.

"You forgot him?" I checked.

"Yurrrss" he answered.

We swung round and headed back the way we had come, to find A casually waiting at the corner for us. He hopped in the car and sniffed, he does a lot of sniffing, and off we went again. R had wisely opted against the telling his older brother that we had driven past him once already and I decided to let it go too. I can always grass him up another time. After a short drive we came to their sister's house, where a small welcoming party had assembled. I went in and did the greetings and Salaams, I then sat down and told them all my news.

A drink was brought out and some watermelon was served. The drink was a strange thing, although I think I have tried most Sri Lankan food and drink this was a new one on me; belli fruit. It was orange and bitter and it had the texture and consistency of sperm. It tasted far worse though. We sat around sipping our belli fruit juice and eating watermelon, my Aunt asked me Aunt type questions, my cousins crossed their legs and shook their feet and made noises through their teeth. A sniffed frequently and I was quite content in the bosom of my family.

At some point I made my exit, I bade them farewell and found myself a tri shaw to head over to Majestic City. It's always a bit poignant to say goodbye to them as their kindness really is overwhelming and they want nothng more than my company for a few minutes. They waved me off and I waved back. A quick browse round Majestic City always makes me smile and a Diet Coke in the garden of a little shop I know a short walk from there was on the agenda.

Happy days!


Theena said...

"It was an old Nissan, in a rust with a hint of white finish. In fact it wasn't actually a Nissan, it was Datsun. Now R, out of all of my cousins is one of the most religious yet also one of the most fun. He prays devotedly and has the full beard and appearance of a devout Muslim, yet his sense of humour is puerile and childish."

What the...? I swear that I know a Muslim man - and his family - that suit this description. And they live in Dehiwela too.

poojitha said...

cool writing style,

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Not that K family Theena

Java Jones said...

"It was orange and bitter and it had the texture and consistency of sperm. It tasted far worse though."

Sheet maan! I never knew that part about yo ass!!!

Indyana said...

I really enjoyed this of your sweetest in my eyes! And,btw, my kids are also named with an F,R and Z!Haha! :)

confab said...

"It was orange and bitter and it had the texture and consistency of sperm. It tasted far worse though."

Now what will your good muslim family say if they ever heard of what you've tasted? tsk tsk...and pls tell me it was someone else's rather than ur own. belli fruit drink that is. hmm

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Thanks for the nice words guys. As for the whole sperm thing I just knew as I typed that sentence that it would rebound on me.

T said...

Are we allowed to call you the SPERMINATOR in future????

R said...

"F, Z, and R."

I've been wondering what makes Muslim names feel so similar. Thanks for sharing.

(Btw, I'm not the same R in this story.)

Tanya J. said...

Good one :-) What I hate about family re-unions is the way the old aunties 'kiss' you. They lean in and then sort of inhale your cheeks, instead of the regular peck! (possibly just a burgher thing though.)

confab said...

ah tanya j, that is exactly what has come to be known as the "grandma kiss", where they sniff u rather than kiss u. possibly to check whether u shower or what ur smokin or both. i can confirm that it's definitely not 'just a burgher thing'

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Tanya J - I must agree with confab, that's definitely not just a Burgher thing, I think it's a Sri Lankan Aunt thing.

N said...

I so want to make a comment on that sperm description but I see confab beat me to it...bugger..

Anonymous said...

12.53pm in SL... I was googling 'scientific name for Belli' and came across your post... Good mid day entertainment at work! Thankx