Monday, January 4, 2010

The art of memory making: The Diu-Gir-Chunagarh episodes

* Dinner at the end of an exhausting day, muscles aching with unresponsiveness. Order whatever's easier to gobble up, (tomato soup+idly sambhar+vanilla icecream, if you may) and slink back deep into the chair with just the head visible over the table. Play Chopin's etudes and watch the place turn mute, your own personal pantomime. Figures dressed in black and white moving around as if in rectangular grooves, trays being carted about with the precision of weighing balances, an outside world's moving traffic trapped in framed glass, alphabet being scribbled into little notepads, mirrors on the walls reflecting brown light off the wavy woodwork above, a kid in the corner smiling with his grandfather... The edge of the table is your own personal piano and your fingers start rendering Chopin's compositions along the crispy white cloth.

Now, close your eyes and enter the perspective of somebody else sitting opposite you, look at yourself for a good minute or two and see your own sheepish smile gradually unfurl as you realise what's happening, where you are and what you're doing.

* The sea under a full moon night. The yellow ball in the sky keeps smiling at you until you smile back at it, the occasional star reminds you of its lonely existence, the sand's moisture melts beneath your feet, there's a silent conversation writing itself on the palm, Radiohead's on in your ears... Your throat's drying up, the falsetto's too hard to even imitate, there don't even seem to be words there in the song to be sung, just shapeless voices, but you still sing, sing as loudly as you can into the sea, into the endless folds of foamy darkness.

* Sunset at 5 40 pm. There's an abandoned room on the rocks, and you slip inside. The window's half open, peering out into the wide evening sea. There's a beautiful stranger on the ledge, reflecting into the sunset. Some feet play football, some hands throw a frisbee around trying to catch it, some heads just stay still listening to themselves think. Kishore Kumar's alive in your ears, and there's an orange dog posing on a cement plinth, hiding in the guise of a dustbin, lolling its tongue out and rolling its eyes towards you. The old man at the edge of the shore walks along slowly, as if on water, his silhouette burnt into the sun's dying rays.

* 9950 steps to the hilltop, they say. You patiently take a few at a time, knowing you're not going the distance anyway, memorising the rocky greenery around with random music. Blur's Song 2 comes on, and you decide to take the stairs at a sprint, not to stop till the song ends. The valleys by the side get more menacing, the trees start waving around like flags, companions fall behind, monkeys by the side stop and stare, your feet seem to have a mind of their own that disagrees with yours, there are little spots before your eyes, images fade in and fade out in your vision like a worn-out videotape, there are rocks in your lungs drumming on your diaphragm... Then the song ends. You rest by the rocks, spinning for breath. After a while, you throw up.

But you have a story to tell.

* A 60 km drive through the country in an autorickshaw. You sit at the back, legs dangling out of the back door looking down on the road. Cars approach you, smile and disappear to your right, fields and villages pass you by amid rocks stacked up into dusty walls, trees grow up in lines as if disciplined by a headmaster. You stick your head out and grin into the heavy breeze with foamy clouds in the sky, straight at the afternoon sun. Sing out into the disappearing road, the perforated white lines extending forever into the vanishing trees and the cornered hills. Suggestions include U2's With or without you, Nirvana's The Man who sold the world, One Republic's All fall down, Oasis's The importance of being idle, Blue Man Group's Sing along, Keane's Spiralling, Ana's We are, Lifehouse's Hanging by a moment, Nada Surf's See these bones, Darren Hayes's Like it or not, R.E.M.'s The great beyond and oh, oh, U2's A beautiful day.

* Just past the stroke of a new year, fireworks and wishes done with, you walk away from the crowd in the beach to the end until the shore ends, climb up the hilly rocks in the moonlight until the point where it juts out into the sea, find a rock shaped like a pear, sit down facing the dark dark sea. Listen to the waves crash into the rocks down below, the occasional burst of foam rising up into the air, and watch the pale white crests of silent waves in the distance calmly approaching their inevitable destiny. Let Pink Floyd play Coming Back to Life. Do not sing. I repeat: Do not sing. Do not talk. Do not write. Be. Just be.

[Purely for the sheer intensity of emotion felt, the following two moments need to be mentioned in a different league from the others, so here's an invisible line separating them from the others]

* Earphones where they belong, hands dug deep into denim, the Amelie soundtrack playing, you walk down a sloping road in the midst of a crowd, letting go of yourself, dissolving your identity in the sea of faces around you, taking in the view of the hills by the side, the green trees winking in the distance and the town below squinting its eyes to look up, you hop along, swaying your head freely to the accordion and carving shapes in the air to the piano with your moving feet on the stony road... There are no words to describe the feeling, none.

* Parasailing at 5 pm. The guy's getting you ready, strapping on the harness, setting the parasail right, mumbling instructions in your ears. There's red movement in the distance, the ropes start to tighten and a few steps later you see your feet lift themselves off the ground, the air gushing into your face. Radiohead's Go Slowly is playing in your ears, that falsetto you shall forever associate with this moment, gradually sinking into your heart and taking you higher, higher than you've ever gone, the sand is fast weaving itself into brown paper under your floating feet, the green hills in the distance are waiting with their arms open as if you were a bird, the sea is expanding endlessly into the blue confines of the sky's blurring edges... There's a way out of this world, and you've just taken it.

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