Yet another journey in the Western Ghats, August 2017

 

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Waiting for the language I trust wholly to tell me, to inform me of what I am feeling, I walk, breathing into the misty morning in these ghats. A few hours after sunrise, these mountain songs, although full of luminous ache, don’t struggle in stuttering syllables like the ones in my heart. This allure of these forests is divine and I am only allowed to observe, assimilate – there’s no meddling with it any other way.

When I emerge from the depths of these paths into an unexpected clearing, I see more green mountains on the other side waning away wistfully into the horizon like the waves of a grieving sea. The laughter of my friends walking behind me is one detail that connects me to reality and I somehow want it to linger on to save me from the melancholy rippling through my body. There are dandelion fluffs in between, catching the glint of the sun.

There is also high grass here, sometimes green and sometimes swaying with its aurous aura and raintime sheen.  We decide to get back to our car and continue our journey, and a few hundred metres later, I see a swamp that begins abruptly just as it ends hastily. As we drive further, rising above the grassland gradually leading to blank trees, we see a moving form in ebonies and greys, and it’s a cow.

I wonder if we can possibly, when our eyes are locked with these animals of great innocence, discern what this gaze means. How they look right through us, like we had turned into ghosts. Perhaps it’s worth being reduced so beautifully before these creatures.

We are on our way to an old Jain temple known to be standing quietly for centuries in one of the gentle folds of these rainforests, our beloved Western Ghats. They say there’s a green pond in front of it and my feet are already longing for the calm touch of its waters.

Somewhere along the way, between the dense forests and the bareness of the skies, we suddenly see some colours bow: one melting into another, or one appearing from another? And I think to myself that we belong where we belong, somewhere in the in-betweens of our own continual conflicting emotions, waiting for moments of equilibrium, of equanimity such as this. I bow slightly to this spectacle, like that rainbow that seems to brush the sky and kiss the ground softly.

There is love in submission and submission in this love, this earth-love… the kind of love that only begins and knows no leaving…

 

(Thanks to Anushaa for the pictures; she has captured some of the most special moments of our journey for me)

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in the momentary meanings you bring me
rampaging and disquieting my otherwise unruffled nights
I take fierce, insensible delight
a sinful, solitary joy

and the same sun and the same moon
and the earth and the ether
become new in my eyes
but tell me they remain the same
even as we’re about to part ways

and so, dear one,
the miles between us will be forgiving

But we try

My young love,

It has been a day abounded in fragrances, colours, and some alluring intrigues. I wish to share with you all the nice experiences that come my way but I abstain from interrupting your solitude. I have already talked nineteen to the dozen and have noticed your responses reducing from sentences to phrases to monosyllables in the past few days. These words that yearn to reach you die at my throat and thus, I write.

I know you are best left to yourself right now but I worry about the cocoon you seem to have woven around yourself. My silkworm, my interest in your well-being is perhaps dramatic in your eyes but I promise you, it isn’t indecent. To be in love with loving itself is pain, and the delight and torment of being in love with you has been affecting my composure. I grow tired of feigning self-control when I struggle with the mad beating of my heart thinking of you. But please don’t rob me of this untamed love, and someday, accept at least my gratitude for making me capable and conscious of it. I thank you for this privilege.

Trawling through the depths of my own desolation over the years, I’d like to believe that I have learned a thing or two about enduring it. And this has led to my own vague understanding of the benefits of solitude. There’s nothing really new to say – how many of our favourite poets and writers have inked their elixiric thoughts about it – however, I shall still make an effort hoping you will one day read this.

How keenly you had spoken to me of evolution and the bigger questions of life only days after surviving a series of heartbreaking events. There was earnestness in your voice that still moves me, and a level-headedness far superior than your years. You are not one to give in to self-pity, and there are all those things you yourself recollected to be thankful for, without even giving me an opportunity to suggest that one ought not to forget to be grateful. You have a wonderful mother, siblings who you adore and friends who care a great deal for you. When your frame of mind seeks company, thieve those moments of love and care and make them your little eternities. Life, I reckon, is much about these small joys we somehow tend to ignore in the now, waiting for some magnanimous faraway tomorrows that are, as a matter of fact, nonexistent.

Perhaps everyone has their own ways of emotional survival. Time and again, I plunge into poetry, literature, music, and art. I also travel a lot when my senses fail to discern new meanings for me in the familiarity of the place I live in. Have you, my young friend, stopped writing? By far, you are one of the best wordsmiths I know and the anguish you have given me by sending your whodunit stories in installments about a year ago comes back to me and fills me with warmth.

How quick and receptive you are to the truth, to the sublime, to the sensual, too, darling one. How preposterous a joy I feel when I look at your frank expressions and your unguided young energy that seems to question everything, that is always willing to know more, to always feel more. You are fire that brings light to my own solitude from a distance. How do I tell you more convincingly than letting you know that we make our paths as we walk on, unhurriedly, with an unwavering hope and faith in the force of life itself?

Yes, we do visit those dark, scary, forlorn places within ourselves but, my love, those are places we can certainly return from; changed as we may, but this arrival softens us infinitely. This softening is powerful in its patience. And though we may have been wronged repeatedly, we can keep our ability to trust still intact, and learn not to part with promises that we make – first to ourselves and then to the others and to life itself. Hadn’t you spoken to me of certain welcoming changes you wanted to allow yourself? Let the eruption of those possibilities urge you into respecting the time we have for ourselves better than I had in my days of misery. Take a word of advice from the one who has lost – you can always learn a lot, as they say, from others’ mistakes.

For now, may all these festive, combative, restful, poised and passionate silences inhabit you as they wish to, dearest. As Rilke reminds us in his letters, live the questions for now, with as much love as you long with for the answers. Until all those silences become a unitive spirit that will bring you peace, be calm, my gorgeous one. Even as I write with the inhibition of not being helpful at all, there is one thing I can tell you with all my soul – you are not alone.

These are winter nights and you have to sleep alone. I understand the wistfulness that can sometimes overpower you. But if you can tell me joys are short-lived, I will tell you that so are miseries. May you find a middle ground that doesn’t quake beneath your feet when you are in doubt. May the seldom-visiting moments of equanimity constellate to become more peaceful days. May these experiences – profound and plethoric, and sometimes vague and contradictory, too – only enrich your being, even if they seem foggy at present. Rest within for a while, my joy. Rest within.

Ever yours,
S

The Himalayan Mountains (Kashmir, India, September 2016)

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In the blink of an eye, you are intoxicated by the kind of quietude that stays unruffled when the clouds clash with the mighty mountains – a valley to contain a cloud and a peak to pierce another. A few lakes here and there to reflect the world around them, without swallowing it to their shallowness. Narrow paths test a traveller’s endurance with their ruggedness, and mountain passes lead to more breathtaking views – more mountains stretching out to the horizon. Sometimes pale light butters the tarmac paths that go winding into the depths you can only discern by following them. All the din in your head float away with clouds, these fluffy things speckling a sky that’s a loud blue. In these great heights, what exists beyond what the light shows and what it hides? What lies beneath what meets the eye? What lies between light and shadow when they are at play on a nonchalant day?

Jaguar in the Pantanal

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this isn’t a place where wisterias weep and still look pretty
this is where changing seasons can turn heavy greens into savage browns
this isn’t the tale of the terrain alone
this is also about those who inhabit it
who make even the rugged paths look alluring
all in their owning as they tread them
if you are fortunate, you will see

and then, in artful hiding
his presence almost anarchic amidst all the stillness
his movement, fluid-like
he is radiance — light that dribbles through the flesh of you
stirring your presence to harmony
in the same land you share with him