Delhi, early morning

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Another night in an airport, coffee fuelled, insomniac, my head restless upon rucksack, awaiting the first metro. The hours crawl upon the functional sterility of the concourse; all night coffee shops offering comfortable chairs for the price of a cup, and, beyond, the gun guarded exits. A dystopian doorway, an airlock between worlds, (the organic city and this artificial place upon its edge); another step upon the way back to Varanasi. Here, under the passing gazes and occasional smiles of security, the slow night passes. Outside, winter hangs upon the concrete, forms mists upon the rising breath of each temporary congregation, waiting, as taxis shuffle between the airport and the city. Continue reading “Delhi, early morning”

Wien, December 5.

Stefansdom. 0045. Pretty much any year.

The cathedral doors are closing now, the orchestra disbanded, audience spreading across Stefansplatz, gathering in small groups or walking homeward. Figures emerge from shadows, dissipate again beyond the pools of sprinkled streetlight. Passing, turning into Schulerstrasse,  past the Mozarthaus and through these quietening hours, we walk with ghosts. The stones around Stefansdom still seem to reflect the last notes of the Requiem, unheeding of our passage, as we drift by, brief shadows in the life of the city.

In the warmth of the Alt Wien we sit, in an alcove, and order wine. Here, under old photographs and posters, stained by age and nicotine, cloaked in the perfumes of beer and smoke, the night moves beyond windows brightened with mortality.

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We offer a toast, “Freundschaft!” Sipping in this moment, we recall the concert, the living history of this place. Our voices combine with others, build the indefinable symphony of an early morning bar. And the clock moves, glasses empty, fill and in the ebbing blood of the last glass a moments silence, and, a call for schnapps for the road. Warmed we return to the street, less steady, louder, we wind our strand into the fabric of Wien’s night, setting off for Bane’s. Continue reading “Wien, December 5.”

misty morning, varanasi

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Today, the early light rises upon breezes snaking up from the Ganges, bringing a coverlet of haar to the morning ghats, opaque air cloaks the unseen water. From the balcony, disembodied voices shape sounds, reach our ears and pass; the clunk of boats splashing, paddles and bells, a soundscape upon the heavy air. From these possibilities and their shadows the obscurity of the morning; the living city continuing in the cocoon of mists. Continue reading “misty morning, varanasi”

night train to Chennai

 

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The night train from Kochi to Chennai winds it’s way through the city, passes through the early evening traffic, casts echoes upon the boundaries of the guiding walls. Upon these tracks merging with roads and yet, already, partially freed from the gathering humidity, the sudden twilight falls; the traffic become points of dusty light, the streets haze into darker shadows. Sitting by a window, darkness falling, listen as the rails beat out their siren song: the rhythm of departure and arrival. Continue reading “night train to Chennai”

McLeod Ganj

Here, the cold road leading from Srinigar climbs slowly out of Kashmir and falls into the heated humidity of a passing night in Jammu. Returning south this road has felt longer, twisting slowly, passing; twelve hours through lingering mountains and an early start. Another bus, left instinctively at a roadside dhaba on the edge of an unknown town, which led to a short cut through the flatlands of the Punjab, to a twisting climb returning into rising hills. And, here, 33 hours after the engine spluttered into life in Srinigar, we step onto a final bus in Dharamsala, to wind the last ten kilometers to the destination, Mcleod Ganj, as I sit watching the lower valleys collect themselves in a sequence of misted ridges leading to an uncertain horizon.

In youth we dreamed such places; formed their images from worn pages, brief glimpses upon film screened as occasional news items; the empire and the monk. And we expect? Images of an old monk’s smiling face, the cult of personality: echoes of Shangri la and the mythology of the inaccessible, the dreams of ages past drowning in the requisite romance of the road.

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The reality, bright temples perched above the ragged streets, the subsistence of  a bedraggled mountain town, perched upon a ledge between two cultures, two countries; a place of exile. Monks passing by, unseeing, unsmiling, too much seeking after karmic credit, too fixed a vision on another world, the next incarnation: Another viewpoint for sure and no less valid than mine, but I keep coming back to the Presbyterian here, “There’ll be cake in the next world.” Robes are accessorised by the latest, knocked off, fashions of the outdoor type, a latent practicality. Momos for sale, steamed or fried, amidst a sequence of similar stalls, selling handicrafts, symbols of heritage, icons of a distant place. Monks wandering with serious faces, a collation of ethnicities under saffron robes, few smiles. I think of a painting, I think, the vinegar drinkers. Continue reading “McLeod Ganj”

Kolkata I

An unexpected detour found upon a railway platform, the dark warmth of a late train, an invitation. It’s India, the unexpected becomes part of the routine; only the trains are reliably late. And upon the platform, dreams shimmering each train in arrival or departure, I find from an echo of an echo the sounds of travel.

Nepal flickering upon the distances of platform five; my train, an hour and a bit late…after ten now, the station full of blankets in their nightly gathering, poor faces drifting together, huddled against the chill of night. And on a platform a chance meeting, Yuliu, a German carrying drums. Two hours later the train arrives. We’re in different coaches but arrange coffee in the morning somewhere on the coaches between. Sleep. The train to Kolkata, no road to Kathmandu. Yet. Sleep. Continue reading “Kolkata I”

Rewalsar Lake

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Trees flicker between shadow and silhouette upon temporary slopes, lost in the impression of a Chinese landscape, brushstrokes upon the opaque air. Somewhere below, punctuated by prayer wheels and the occasional car, pilgrims still circle the lake, bells are rung. Here, the path almost silent, sounds become disembodied, drifting upon cloud, as footsteps climb further into the quieted landscape. Continue reading “Rewalsar Lake”