Felt the glare of mortality during a Sunday lunch. I’d like to think this flicker of an experience might be a stepping stone to a greater understanding. Most likely I have been staring too long into my Elephant Ginger Beer (EGB)).
The crowd is a bunch of “recently marrieds” (not newly). Practically everyone knows each other either from school or university. This is after-all Sri Lanka. We are all too closely related to even consider a 4th degree of separation.
The guys amble out to the veranda with their Nth beer for a smoke. I tag along with my Elephant House Ginger Beer and try to stay upwind. It would be awkward for Mrs C and the girls to switch to full “gos” (gossip) mode if I hung around. I catch the start of an update on the latest conservative lesbian office romance as I leave the room.
Outside the talk was about chariots. Something about the power of horses and litres of engine valves. I avoid bring up the strange aircraft designs of Blom & Voss to discussion. No need to paint myself as an eccentric. As the talk sloshes around the veranda a coconut tree in the garden periodically tries to hit something by dropping a part of itself. I think it is frustrated and is trying to say something – but as a vegetarian I don’t talk to plants.
Eventually we are allowed inside to feed. The meal is gut stuffing delicious. Over desert old pictures are passed around. One in particular gives me a shock. It is a photo of a school sports team – a grinning group of chiselled featured ridiculously fit young men. I can’t believe that the lean athletic faces in the picture belong to the rotund teddy bears around the table.
Everyone else seems to have the same reaction and think its all quite funny. As they lapse into reminisces, I can’t help but be rattled by the change the guys have gone through in a handful of years.
I was never an athlete and my level of “exercise” isn’t going to make me a supermodel. But what has happened to these “athletes” is crazy. How could people who used to run multiple Ks as a “warm up” for training end up looking like jelly teddy bears? Physically some of them already resemble my parent’s “batch mates”. With mannerisms are already confirm these guys into “uncle hood”.
Their social lives a well mapped by a chain of dinner dances and annual sporting events. Attended by their friends Johnny Walker, Bacardi, Smirnoff, Absolut, and plates of deep fried “bites” with whom they hang out with a on most weekends. Usually at SPORTS club where walking to the chariot (in a cloud of cigarette smoke) is considered an athletic achievement. Luckily their wives are good chauffeurs. It is shocking what a few years of such a life can do to people.
I suppose that is how we “decay”. Some time back a north Indian prince had a slightly more expanded encounter that prompted him to give up a life of luxury to search for a way out. I am of course no prince. Just a vain insular pile of faeces. Who when getting home took a careful look in the mirror and compared it with old pictures. My rate of decay isn’t as apparent as the guys at the lunch. And they are younger than me by an year or two.
But who am I (smug with reassurance) to judge what other people do with their time, money and health? They are fundamentally good people. Easy going, generous and fun to hang out with. They make me feel normal. I’m at peace with the fact of being ephemeral as a bottle of EGB. Newly born from the fridge. I don’t taste as good but I’m O.K with that too.