Saturday, May 21, 2016

In the toddy tavern just outside of Jaffna

We sat at the toddy tavern outside of Jaffna, low on a concrete berm, carefully, (unconsciously?) designed as part of a square structure with a smaller square, the vendors' space, inside and to one side. A simple roof, pillars for support and no walls, a parking space in the sand. 

One dose was enough we agreed so for your sixty rupees you were given an orange plastic measuring cup, no handle, just a pourable vessel to be rinsed in a barrel of water out front. The cleaned cup was proffered back to the vendor and toddy was meted out to the appropriate measure. Maybe it was half a liter. 

We drank the toddy like you drink everything here, not touching rim to lips. It went down as smooth as it smelled bad. Fresh toddy at the end of a long work day. We talked about architecture and space, vernacular spaces and vernacular buildings. The chatter and echo of other men was all around us. 

What are they talking about? I asked. Some are talking about politics, some are talking about philosophy, and some are talking about nothing you said. We listened to the music of the voices, in between you explaining who I was and me taking gram that was offered from a tiny packet from a gent to my left and passing it to you. 

In the space the voices were not quiet. They were loud and they were unharnessed and they were the voices of men inebriated or slightly inebriated but free to talk and argue. A men's space, a space with air, a place of repose and relaxation. I noted, these sounds are part of the space too, aren't they? Part of the character of the place. And you took down a note. 

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