Intro to "A Showing of the Palms"

15 Apr 2014

Included here is a section of an (envisioned) novel that I'd started but not completed 20 years ago. It was planned to be a fictionalized account of the journey my wife and I took through India and Sri Lanka in 1994. As such, it's a mixture of actual events as experienced through fictional characters loosely based on myself and my wife. For whatever reason, I never finished it, but it's nevertheless not entirely without merit. Most (but not all) of the events herein actually took place.

As for the title, I'll offer a bit more detail, as the unfinished section from which this phrase is pulled won't appear herein. "A Showing of the Palms" has numerous meanings. Most obviously, it would relate to my (or, rather, my character's) introduction to the country of India. The initial description of first seeing the country (having not yet even landed) reads, "By five a.m., the palm-fringed outline of Bombay’s hazy dawn emerged from the night." Beyond that, I like how the verb "showing" represents the gerund-form of "to show," as it reminds me of (in my opinion) common ways that English phrases are often structured / spoken by native Hindi speakers.

Those two items would be the most obvious meanings. However, the truest, ultimate representation would be two completely different concepts. First, the title was meant to be an exploration of the universality of certain gestures (a topic I'd been sort of privately fascinated by, as I'd never heard of any other books dedicated to the topic). Within the story, there is a scene (something I actually experienced), in which the characters visit a remote island on the Arabian Sea. It's a resort destination, but the island is also barely large enough to sustain a very small indigenous population. One day, while out exploring the island's interior, we followed a small trail that wound up running directly into a small encampment -- some family's private area. Unintentionally, we startled a woman there. As I'd written a recollection of that scene in my notes:

Clive remembered the frightened woman on the island in the Arabian Sea. He remembered extending to her a certain gesture, a showing of the palms: Don’t be frightened, We’re friendly.

Ultimately, the character would receive the same message -- the world telling him, via its own metaphorical gesture, to not be frightened.

For whatever reason, my fascination with gestures waned a bit -- not that the topic no longer merits a prolonged meditation, of course. Still, there are some entertaining moments herein, even looking back 20 years on much of this. For what it's worth, enjoy the tales.

The only final note I'd share here is that, at varying points in the development of this work, I'd switched between a first-person narrative (using my real name and my wife's real name, Wendi) and a third-person tale using the character names Clive and Maria as stand-ins for us. As 20 years have passed, I can't seem to determine which of the various backups represents where I'd left off, so the following may well hold some strange quirks.

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