Thursday, February 19, 2009

The mishap

Feb 12

Last night there was sound of distant thunder and lightning beyond the hills. This morning there is a dark cloud cover on the eastern horizon and there is a light drizzle. I am supposed to leave Utopia this morning for Phnom Penh and then another bus to Kampong Chnanag, which is near the lake Tonle Sap. After that it is still uncertain. I wanted to go to Veal Veng, but they say there is drug resistant malaria and security situation may not be good. Another possibility is to go to Battambang, not too far from the Thai Border before returning to Bangkok, but Francis (Furachan) has already warned that Battambang is dismal, not really worth going. So I leave Utopia reluctantly. Why am I leaving this paradise of quiet waters and lush vegetation?

Max and his family says goodbye. I climb on the back of the motodupe. I say that I can easily carry the backpack on my back, but the driver is insistent that it will be ok to keep this huge bag between him and me on the seat. I sit awkwardly, with my legs splayed on both sides. The motorbike starts, then skids a few times on wet sand before reaching the road. The road is wet, with red slush; construction trucks have taken most of the center and on the two sides there are two narrow dirt trails where motorbikes run. We go about three kilometers, then the road gets slightly better, and the motorbike picks up speed. As it passes a little village, it lurches sharply through a pothole and my right foot slips so that my sneaker gets caught in the rear wheel and I feel a violent pull towards it. As I try to wrench it away my heel gets banged sharply and repeatedly by the spokes; I scream at the driver to stop. I clamber out of the seat; my foot is still encased in the sneaker, which the driver takes out by pushing the sneaker off. I limp to the road side. The sock is torn at the heel and it is red and blue, with roughly two square inches of skin gone. I feel a dull pain on my ankle. The heel looks terrible but I am more worried about the ankle—is any bone broken. I decide on the spot to return to Utopia. There must be doctors in town.

We are back to Utopia in less than 15 minutes. Max quickly washes off the wound with mineral water, then puts antiseptic on. Then he puts ice into a tumbler and orders my right foot into it for 2 hours. After two hours he pats the wound dry and sprays Hansaplast liquid bandage on. Then he fixes me a stiff gin and tonic. The pain is already much less. I push the ankle around and flex and rotate my foot. There was no obvious problem, except for the burning sensation due to laceration. I decide to stay in Utopia for the remainder of my Cambodia visit. Why run after a mirage when I am in Utopia.

I shuffle around whole day on the deck, working over my photos. In the evening I meet Peter, a young fellow from Brisbane who has been traveling in Scotland and now in Asia for the past ~ two years. A quiet chap, who likes Camu, Sartre and Kafka. I tell him to look up Bruce Chatwin and also Coetzee. Peter swims in the river. I dare not in fear of infecting my wound.

The cloud disperses by the day’s end. Peter and I eat Gao’s fish soup. Max puts on an eclectic collection of music that even has a little segment that sounds like Lata Mangeshker in a jazzy beat. There was another female Hindi singer who did nice assimilation of Latin into Hindi. There was a Baul, singing in Bengali.

Before bed, Max sprays another shot of Hansaplast on the wound. I sleep fitfully, with my foot raised on a pillow.

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