Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cleaning up

Closet cleaning is tiring work. In spite of a conscious effort to live lightly, life clings. Things too pretty to be thrown away, old business cards belonging to people I can’t put faces to, contacts that were once important, now mercifully not. I unearthed this morning one card that says Sundeep Sikand! Could this really be the TV honcho? I had no idea I had ever met the man.

I found a bundle of letters, one from a friend telling me she’d fallen in love – she sounds ecstatic, borderline disbelief that she should be so lucky. I was about to remind her of it: ‘Hey, look! A slice of your life recorded, a leaf still fluttering in my shelf,’ and then drew back, hesitating. Would it be tactful? She could hardly be in the same state of mind, and if she saw this now, would she be indulgent, or cynical, or wistful? Second thoughts, as always, blunting that first exuberant impulse.

From another letter, I remembered with a start, a forgotten nickname; I’d forgotten school-friends used to called me Shells. All of us dispersed and adrift now, we have carelessly let go of threads that held us loosely together.

Recipes! Always gathered, hardly ever used. Credit card statements – a few years’ worth. Notepads full of notes for stories long done. Notes with more detail than I put into the articles – I can’t bear to burn those. Phone numbers are a journalist’s lifeline, but am I a journalist? I find the tag burdensome, and shrug it off, with the numbers. They’re probably too old to be of use anyway.

Then considerably more grimy than when I started, I open a fresh bar of rose soap and bathe away the past. What washes away goes, and the rest, I carry anyway.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A tweak

A new quote, a new mood, a slant for this blog: Henry David Thoreau, who says, 'What men call social virtues, good fellowship, is commonly but the virtue of pigs in a litter, which lie close together to keep each other warm.'

It strikes a chord particularly because I’ve come across that quite a lot recently, one way or the other. People banding together, physically, emotionally, and disappointingly, because it so goes against the spirit of the thing, intellectually. Banding together, not necessarily from genuine kinship, but because it gives them security. Not a thing wrong with that – smart fellows, pigs, but I do think it a bit chicken in people (I’ve got the animal kingdom awfully mixed up but you know what I mean).

So to Henry David, who knew a thing or two about walking alone… salut!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Madhya Pradesh account

It's a been a longish while. What have I been upto? Some travel I can plead, but that was just this last month; the fact is I've been moody and self indulgent in this grand all-negating manner.

After I got back from Kurnool, Shweta and I took ourselves off to Jabalpur to trek with the YHAI. It wasn't an altogether fun experience - the organisers misunderstood the concept of trekking and put us into a rickety rattrap of a bus and carted us all over three districts, Jabalpur, Seoni and Chhindwara. We passed through some magnificent landscapes, though - through the Satpura ranges, touching the wonderfully soothing hot springs of Anhoni, the elegance of Pachmarhi and finally the mecca for tiger spotters, Pench, where, no, before you ask, we did not spot the tiger or the leopard.

My own troubles on the trip started on day one, when I discovered to my horror that a fellow traveller had managed to give me conjunctivitis. I was already in Jabalpur and there was no help for it but to mop up and hope everyone else wasn’t susceptible. I had nightmarish visions of a busload of red-eyed people pointing accusatory fingers at me.

The trip included three nights on the bus and this was truly horrible, more horrible than I can say. The bus tended to hurl its occupants out of their very cramped seats, the driver was fond of loud grating sounds banging through the night, and we stopped roughly every hour, when all the lights would come on and 70 people would get off and then try and fit themselves in again. Looking back, now that I have spent every available minute of the past three days sleeping, it looks better. Some views will stay forever, some people will never be forgotten and the long descent into Patalkot is a story I’ll be telling around campfires.