a literary analysis from various books in a short time. : On the other side of the river, the steep mud banks changed abruptly into low mud walls of shanty hutments. Children hung their bottoms over the edge and defecated directly onto the squelchy, sucking mud of the exposed riverbed. The smaller ones left their dribbling mustard streaks to find their own way down. Eventually, by evening, the river would rouse itself to accept the day’s offerings and sludge off to the sea, leaving wavy lines of thick white scum in its wake. Upstream, clean mothers washed clothes and pots in unadulterated factory effluents. People bathed. Severed torsos soaping themselves, arranged like dark busts on a thin, rocking, ribbon lawn. On warm days the smell of shit lifted off the river and hovered over Ayemenem like a hat. Further inland, and still across, a five-star hotel chain had bought the Heart of Darkness. The History House (where map-breath’d ancestors with tough toe-nails once whispered) could no longer be approached from the river. It had turned its back on Ayemenem. The hotel guests were ferried across the backwaters, straight from Cochin. They arrived by speedboat, opening up a V of foam on the water, leaving behind a rainbow film of gasoline. The view from the hotel was beautiful, but here too the water was thick and toxic. No Swimming signs had been put up in stylish calligraphy. They had built a tall wall to screen off the slum and prevent it from encroaching on Kari Saipu’s estate. There wasn’t much they could do about the smell. But they had a swimming pool for swimming. And fresh tandoori pomfret and crepe suzette on their menu. The trees were still green, the sky still blue, which counted for something. So they went ahead and plugged their smelly paradise–God’s Own Country they called it in their brochures–because they knew, those clever Hotel People, that smelliness, like other peoples’ poverty was merely a matter of getting used to. A question of discipline. Of Rigor and Air-conditioning. Nothing more. Kari Saipu’s house had been renovated and painted. It had become the centerpiece of an elaborate complex, crisscrossed with artificial canals and connecting bridges. Small boats bobbed in the water. The old colonial bungalow with its deep verandah and Doric columns, was surrounded by smaller, older, wooden houses-ancestral homes-that the hotel chain had bought from old families and transplanted in the Heart of Darkness. Toy Histories for rich tourists to play in. Like the sheaves of rice in Joseph’s dream, like a press of eager natives petitioning an English magistrate, the old houses had been arranged around the History House in attitudes of deference. “Heritage,” the hotel was called. The Hotel People liked to tell their guests that the oldest of the wooden houses, with its airtight, paneled storeroom which could hold enough rice to feed an army for a year, had been the ancestral home of Comrade E. M. S. Namboodiripad, “Kerala’s Mao Tsetung,” they explained to the uninitiated. The furniture and knickknacks that came with the house were on display. A reed umbrella, a wicker couch. A wooden dowry box. They were labeled with edifying placards that said Traditional Kerala Umbrella and Traditional Bridal Dowry–box. So there it was then, History and Literature enlisted by commerce. Kurtz and Karl Marx joining palms to greet rich guests as they stepped off the boat. Comrade Namboodiripad’s house functioned as the hotel’s dining room, where semi-suntanned tourists in bathing suits sipped tender coconut water (served in the shell), and old Communists, who now worked as fawning bearers in colorful ethnic clothes, stooped slightly behind their trays of drinks. In the evenings (for that Regional Flavor) the tourists were treated to truncated kathakali performances (“S
Such a cheap price for your free time and healthy sleep
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