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Toward their destination before they drown
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March 2024
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Saturday, 29. October 2011

India Notes - 2

[1] The gaze as a sepia photograph. A tracery of memory in everything the eye sees. That summer evening at the end of an year of sadness, when he escaped to these hills of black basalt with an empty sketchbook and a box of watercolors (nothing came of that experiment – excepts few washes of burnt brick and charcoal; few years later his sister threw away the watercolors), thinking of Arles, with the warm evening wind whistling among the straggly trees reminding him of the sirocco that made mad Vincent sever his ear as a gift. In this return to what is a crowded and much diminished landscape, that evening full of despairing rush at returns to mind.

[2] He slowly remembers that year as he looks out at a frenetic horizon of dust. That was when he was discovering art at college (where he was supposedly studying engineering), squirreled away in the dark and dusty stacks, form which books were last checked out in the late seventies, thumbing yellowing paper, starting with the Impressionists and going back to the old masters (the density of Breughel’s villages so much like those of his childhood) and going forward to the fractured beauty of Picasso’s bulls and horses.

[3] A decade or more in between – he has seen those paintings, which his eye hungered for in that library, since then in many great museums. But in the column of loss (there is always one, right next to that of gain), he has to post the missing years since he has seen those few (or should he say two) that kept his spirit alive in those striated, adolescent days. What are they now to him, once most beloved, now at the periphery of time but at the center of this longing? Between them now three countries, a marriage and two divorces, and more money than before to feed the great fires (“Everything is burning”, said the Enlightened one at Gaya).

[4] As he descends the (now dystopic) ancient temple hill, and walks away from the mounds of rubbish and troops of langurs cavorting with torn newspapers and plastic wrappers, few lines from Agha Shahid Ali’s poem “Farewell” surface:

“At a certain point I lost track of you. They make a desolation and call it peace.”

Perhaps that line should read: they make a desolation and call it progress.

Date: Dec 3, 2010

My Daily Notes

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