Winter

I just finished reading ‘The Lord of the Rings‘. I have posted on this blog rarely because I was really trying hard to finish the novels. It is cumbersome sometimes to concentrate on reading when you have so much of other work going on in your mind. I feel that the fact that our brains can multitask is sometimes a bane for us. For some nights, I used to have the book in front of me, and I knew I was reading it, yet my thoughts were focused on completely different paths. But anyway, the books are done, and so in eleven months of this year I have finished with A Dance With Dragons (the last part of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin), the entire Shiva Trilogy by Amish, A Prisoner Of Birth by Jeffrey Archer, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, Deception Point by Dan Brown, and Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien. That is a lot of reading, per se, and it perhaps explains why I have posted almost only half of what I posted last year, but to be fair, I had read only four books last year (the first four parts of A Song of Ice and Fire.) For now, I am done with the genre of fantasy for the time being, and I do not intend to return to it soon.

That being said, December is almost round the corner, and winter is slowing creeping its way up trees onto frosted leaves, spreading its fangs around snowy streets, and making ice flakes out of waterfalls in the misty mornings. I have written really less this year, and looking back, I think the write-up that is closest to my heart would be the most recent ‘Call of the Mountains‘. I had initially thought of naming it ‘And the Mountains Echoed‘, inspired by Hosseini’s poignant novel by the same name, but it seemed too much of a plagiarism more than an inspiration, and so I changed my mind, though I did include the title in a sentence, because it was too dear to let go off. That’s the problem with me; I cannot let go of things easily. But it is okay, I am learning, and this year has been a lot of learning for me. If you’ve followed me this year, you would have noticed I have repeatedly hovered around the idea of dreams in my posts. Though somewhere at the back of my mind I might have done that intentionally, I think it is just that I have been intrigued by them lately, and probably that is the reason I’ve been writing about it. I finished watching the last season of ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ this year, that was the only television show I followed apart from the regular ‘Game of Thrones‘. But then since the latter is slowly deviating from the novel, I am slightly disheartened and am not as excited about it as I used to be. For example, earlier this week they released their poster for next season, yet I had almost expected the exact thing to be. The show was about unexpected twists, but sadly it has failed to offer that of late.

Let me get back for a moment to the ‘Lord of the Rings‘. If any of you out here are yet to read the books, go grab a copy today. Tolkien has created a magnificent world, with extraordinary character development and spell-bounding chapters. At the end, I could only wish that there were yet another instalment of the book that I had yet to read. But then, all good things come to an end, and so with this. But now that I have done a lot of reading, and will probably read only a little more this year, I intend to write a little more in December. I am going on a one-month trip to Suwon, so the next time I post, it would be from Korea. I hope I can take out some time during the weekends to keep this blog updated, for the last thing I want is to kill this blog out of inactivity. I already have the next book on my mind. I am going to start reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird‘ soon, but not today, not just now. I need some time to absorb Frodo and Bilbo, and Sam and Pippin, and Aragorn and Gandalf, and the Fellowship, and Lothorien and Mount Doom, and Gondor and the Shire, and Saruman and Sauron. I wish there was more about Sauron in the text; I had expected at least half a chapter where he would be in first person or at least in third, so that was a little disappointment, but then, it is a classic book and is a legend, and probably I am not fit, not yet, to critique Tolkien, and would probably never be.

In verses, I have tried to go back to square one, spending time writing more of love tales than fantasy, and the last three poems do exactly that. When I wrote ‘For I Will Walk‘, I was not sure I was doing the correct thing; it felt as if undoing years of trying to overcome an obstacle and finally banging it head on, and not crossing it at all; but in the end it all turned out good. You have liked it, and that is all I care about. In case you’ve missed out on some of my latest posts, I did manage to wrap up with the ‘Return‘ series that I had started last year. It took me more than a year to finish it, owing to several distractions, but somehow I joined the strings at the end.

So much for now. Let’s join over a cup of coffee sometime later, when you and I can wrap ourselves in a quilt and sing a song of dreams and love. Good bye!

Flee From This World

The night was old, the sky was grey,
Yet I kept walking through the fields of hay.
The sky turned red, the dawn was here,
Yet I kept walking, my end was near.
The birds came out, and chirped out loud,
I kept walking, face hidden under a shroud.
For hours I walked at a stretch,
None to talk with, none to walk with,
None to break bread with,
None to share mead with.
The meadows were green, and yellow were its flowers,
Yet I kept walking, I had to reach the towers.
The meadows ended, and I swam across a river,
My clothes wet now, and I felt a shiver,
Yet I kept walking, my end was near,
And everything that I held so dear,
Was stolen from me, never to return,
Yet even so I walked, never taking a turn.
The day was old now, the sun overhead,
Not a place to rest, straight my path led,
Me to roads yet untraveled, yet undiscovered,
Yet I kept walking.

For I had not a destination,
But a wish deep within,
To flee from this world as far as I could go,
And so I kept walking, even so.
By night and day, and day and night,
I kept walking, knew I did right,
By leaving all behind, whatever I had,
Did not care if it made me happy or sad.
Now the sun was behind the hills,
I walked across farms, away from the windmills,
I knew not where I’d reach,
I cared not about it either,
And death did not scare me,
Nor hunger neither.

The night draped the skies,
In a blanket of stars,
And only then did I sleep for a while.
Tomorrow I’ll walk again,
Cover many more miles yet,
Until I reach a world,
Where people are happier,
Where love is in plenty,
And where life is full,
As it should be,
No killings, no fights, no bombs, no terror,
For that is where I dream to be,
But I know that for now,
Such places exist only in my dreams,
But I know that sooner or later,
Such places I will come across,
And such things I will see,
That’ll make me believe,
That humanity still exists,
Somewhere.
Maybe not in this world,
But someday soon, I’ll find a home,
Where I’d love to live.

For I Will Walk

For I will walk those paths again,
Only this time you won’t be there,
And can you blame me?
Yes, you could, but deep within,
You’d cry for you know,
How much you’ve wronged me,
Day and night,
And the cycle continues,
A vicious one,
Engulfing one and all into it,
I was probably just another prey,
But you hunted me down well,
And that made all the difference.

For I will walk those paths again,
Though I really don’t know,
Where they will take me,
For the last time I walked,
You had blindfolded me,
And I knew you’d take me right,
That faith, that mistake,
But now I know,
I must go,
Come what may.

For I will walk those paths again,
And hope to find,
Another lost soul,
Looking out to find her way,
And maybe we’d hold hands,
And comfort each other,
For we both know how it feels,
To be stranded in a desert,
Knowing you’ll die soon,
And nonetheless striving,
To see it to its end,
Or at the least reach an oasis,
And that is not tough,
And I promise you,
I can do that.

For I will walk those paths again,
Paths which you can never walk,
For you might know the ways,
But you don’t have the keys,
To the gate that lies,
At the other end,
The gate to solace,
And freedom and happiness.

For you’re a captive,
Of emotions such as hate,
One that’ll pull you back,
Much like a spring,
The more you go,
The harder you come back,
And it serves you right,
For love you I not,
And I pray to the gods,
Those that might listen to me,
That you stay so forever,
And slowly forget that love even exists,
For you are not meant,
To love or be loved.

A Brighter Color

I sit in a dark room, silence all around,
No one knows the pain deep within,
I have kept it to myself,
Not wanting you to know,
For fear of troubling you,
With my baseless fears.
I fear, and do you know that?
I fear, that I might lose you again,
For my life has for sheer luck,
Given me another chance to be with you.
But the rose that had withered off,
The black rose that you’d last seen,
It’s still the same,
And will be, forever.

For love you I not anymore,
But I cannot ignore you either,
Such is the trauma in the lives of lovers,
Who can think all they wish,
That they have moved on,
Yet only a sentence,
Or sometimes only a song,
Is enough to rekindle,
All that was lost,
And much is not lost,
For you are still there, and so am I.

But let bygones be bygones,
Let a new rose bloom,
Let us let luck decide its color,
For when the night is blue,
And full of stars,
When we’d be drinking,
To wash away our scars,
We’d probably lie in one another’s arms,
For you are still there, and so am I.

I sit in a dark room, silence all around,
But will you fill it,
With lights and noise?
I hear clamors, yet only in my mind,
And the light through the windows,
Come warily at those times,
When I think of you the most,
And light my lap,
Does that ring a bell?

For now I must stop,
Yet I pray you, come back,
Forget what can yet be forgotten,
And let us turn our lives,
Into a merry affair,
For when all is said and done,
The black rose will still be,
Hidden in a pocket deep somewhere,
Wishing it met another of its kind,
Only a brighter color.

Return – Chapter 8 – Finale

Losses are what make us what we are. A lost cause this was. There could be no good ending to this, not even a satisfactory one. For I had thought of something and it turned out completely different, though in a way it had all been my fault. But so be it. I had learned to cope with myself, with the problems that I created for myself, and then never solved them for I was ever too afraid to face them. As I sat silently at Irtiqa’s grave, someone patted me on my back. I turned around. It was Shaena. I looked at her teary-eyed. She looked at me silently. No words were exchanged. But we did speak. Our silence had given words to thoughts in our minds. And we both knew what the other was thinking. And yet we kept quiet, waiting for the other to start speaking. I knew I should have begun, but somehow I had made up my mind to never strike a conversation by starting it on my own. And so I pretended to be dumb, looking at one’s grave now, while the other stood behind me.

When I turned back to look at her, I was spellbound for a moment. For it was not Shaena who stood, but Irtiqa. And she looked poignantly at me. “Irtiqa,” I gasped for words. But none came. For now was not the time for words. “Do not make a decision in haste,” she said. I asked, “What do you mean?” but by then the moment was gone. The face had now changed. Now stood my mother in front of me. It was as if someone had plotted to show me my entire past through her. “Come back, home,” she whispered. I knew it was a lie, a dream, a manifestation of my wishes and a by-product of my dreams, for the same woman had shut her doors on me only a while back. I rubbed my eyes. It was Shaena again.

“Here’s the key,” she said, “to your home. It’s yours now.”

For a while, I stared blankly at her. Only when it hit me like a rock on the head that I fumbled on the ground. “You do not mean what I understand, right?” I asked. I felt like shouting loud and hitting my head against the ground, but now was not the time for foolishness. “Give speech to tongue,” I shouted, “What do you mean?” She looked at me teary-eyed now. “She said you should come back home. Those were her last words.” And throwing the key at me, she ran across the street and I saw her changing into a silhouette and then only a shadow of the past. No, another death was not something I could handle at this moment. Not now. What had happened of my life? Was this the way it was supposed to end? Hadn’t I better plans when I first started? My head was throbbing now, and I fell to the ground. As the world around me started to fade, there was only one thing I repented about. This return.

Return – Chapter 7

Life goes on. It must, and it will. I had already known what the result of my feat would be, and was well aware of the consequences, or at least the end product. So it did not come as a surprise, much like how the breeze blows through trees, making a whisper, but never staying for long. I thought about the day when Irtiqa and I talked about seasons. ‘Autumn is for leaves what spring is for flowers’, she had said. The things were different, the work was the same. God works in mysterious ways, he does the same things to different entities, and yet we love one and don’t like the other; without any reason actually, because we have no reason to like one over the other, or do we? Such silly questions went on in my mind, for now I had nothing to think about, and more importantly, nowhere to go. My family was gone, and Shaena was gone. And Irtiqa, well, she was there, I knew it for sure somewhere deep in my heart, but it couldn’t become of me to look for her and go back to her and tell her all what happened and tell her the truth and that I loved her as much as I had ever loved Shaena, probably more, and that all this was a mistake that I should never have done. I knew already what would have happened. She would smile, as she always did, then go back to her life and leave me to my own. She would never ask me to go away, but somehow she’d keep herself away from me, to the point that her being or not being did not matter to me anymore, and that was okay, for that was exactly what she had wanted to do. And the other people in my life, oh, where were they now? How were they? I had no clue, and yet here I was, in a land far away, with no clue of where I would sleep that night, or who I would talk to, or what I would do, or what I could think. Life was just so.

I walked down to a tavern and the kind lady filled my mug with a fresh draught of wine. I gulped it down and banged the mug on the table. She filled it again. This happened for a couple more times when I realized that I did not really have the money to pay for my drinks. I looked on both sides, and suddenly ran out. I needed to run as fast as my legs would take me, for I had not enough to pay. But the wine made me stagger, and I could not run properly. I fell, bam on the ground, mud on my face, and I lay there. I don’t know how long I lay there, but I was sure I fell asleep. Because I dreamed. Irtiqa came around. She was now sitting beside me bandaging my head. It hurt. I held her hand and she held mine, looking deep into my eyes. And then she hugged me. It was almost as if I had forgot the effect it had on me. I grasped her with both my hands, and I was crying, I knew I was crying, probably wailing loud enough, but I couldn’t hear my voice, and that was when I knew I was dreaming, because Irtiqa, she would never see me again, nor would I. For that I would have to wait unto death. For she was dead.

I wondered how long I would stay alive now. I had no one to go to, no money to spend, I had wasted myself on the last drink, and now I had nothing to do, and the night was still young. There was only one thing I could do, and do that did I. I walked back to the tavern. The old lady looked at me with disgust, then spat on my face. I did not move. I looked at her, and perhaps she noticed my eyes, or maybe she saw through me, saw what my heart felt at that moment. For even so at that moment, a tear dropped simultaneously from both our eyes. I walked up to her, and held my ears as a sign of apology. And I waited for her reaction.

She smiled. Perhaps this return was worth it.

Call of the Mountains – [4]

Read the previous part in Part 3.

[7]

After a long drive that seemed to go on forever, we finally reached Chandratal. Among lush green fields we walked bare-footed, and shouted loud and clear and there was no reply, for there were only us there. We lied down on the grass now, which was slightly moist with last night’s dew, yet it felt refreshing to lie down, the sun’s rays beaming upon my face, a warmth long wished for, and the breeze slowly making its way across the valley, streaming through my hair, I could have fallen asleep and never got up again. A bit later, we walked down towards the lake. On my left was a cirque, going on for miles and miles. On the right loomed high mountains. And in front stood magnificently the Moon Lake. A crescent shaped lake, half of it reflected green of the mountains and the other half reflected the blue of the sky. It was one of the most picturesque moments I have ever had in my life. It was enthralling to imagine that we would be here the entire day, though I had no clue what we would do, since there was absolutely nothing else to do here. We climbed up a hill and walked down a dale, and then we lay flat for a while again. High above in the sky a lark made rounds, persistent enough, yet never swooping down.

Earphones in my ears, the song now playing was ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin. The guy said, ‘There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold’, and I dreamt of her again. She came ever so frequently in my dreams in this trip. Never had I known that she would overpower my thoughts so much, but there she was again, clinging to my dreams, like a spider to its web. “There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure, ’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” As I lay there thinking about the times I had misinterpreted what she said, as she my words, thoughts took shape of reality. It was as if each incident re-enacted itself in my mind, with ever so slightly a change, showing alternate endings. Yet the line that has always gripped me would be, “there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” How many times must I change my road? How many times must I switch between the two alternates, never able to see where it takes me, the end forever taking different forms and figures, such that I must always be in darkness, never knowing which path I should have always stuck to.

We started walking back now. Ahead lay our tents, though we had to look for them awhile. The rest of the day went pretty much uneventful. We had a meagre lunch of rice, pulses and some boiled potatoes. I slept for a while but it was too cold. I came out. My friend had gone down to the river beside. I did not feel like going, not even laze about there. I went and sat in the bigger tent, the one which was warm, but only because the guy constantly burned some coal in there. Already I could see the sun hiding behind the clouds. It would rain soon, I thought. No, the guy in the tent replied. It never rains here. Too cold. Only snows. Great, I thought. That was probably the last thing I wanted on this trip. It had been great till now, but now I was a bit frustrated. Probably it was the lack of communication, perhaps it was just sheer homesickness, or perhaps the wind was too cold and my brain had stopped working. The latter seemed the most plausible, because my head was already bursting, as if someone hammered on it from the inside. I was told it was because at this height, oxygen does not reach the brains sufficiently, causing the excruciating pain and also a numbness. Great again, I thought. Exactly what I needed to top my anxieties.

We also met some other travellers out here. A French who had been here for a couple of days now wanted tips whether to go to Kaza or Kalpa. He had started the trip in the opposite direction, and so we knew what he anticipated and he knew where we were going. He was a friendly guy, though he talked really less. He had a map where he had marked all the places he wanted to visit and all those he had already been to. As we sat around the heater warming ourselves and sipping tea in plastic cups, the manager-cum-cook narrated the famous Spitian folklore about Chandratal. The story goes back to more than a hundred years ago, when a lazy shepherd in the village of Rangrik decided to go to Chandratal as he had heard a lot about its beauty. It was far from where he lived and a difficult trek but he thought it would be excellent to escape his wife and her nagging. So he left and walked for many days over mountains and passes. Finally when he was almost worn out he caught sight of the lake. It was indeed beautiful and he was so moved he sat down to play his flute and was soon lost in its music. When he opened his eyes a fairy stood before him. She said, “Hello, Gangrup, I am the Chandra Tal fairy.” She told him how his music drew her to the shores of the lake, and that she had fallen in love with him. She asked him to come and live with her in her kingdom under the lake. “I will love you and keep you happy, if you play your flute for me and love me,” she said. So Gangrup went with her to her underwater kingdom and they were very happy there through summer. Then as winter came the fairy asked Gangrup to go back home. He was unhappy and didn’t want to go as he knew he would miss her. The love he had received was everything for him, and he knew his life would never be the same at home. But she said he would have to go, but he could come back next summer. She would miss him too and await his return. But she warned him not to tell anyone about them else they would never be able to be together again.

Gangrup’s family was overjoyed to see him as they had thought he had perished on the way when he did not return for months. Winter set in and Gangrup drank and slept as always, doing nothing else. One night when he was really drunk his wife was nagging him about some work she wanted done, he turned to her and said: “Shut up woman, don’t nag me else I will go away to the Chandratal fairy. She loves me.” Saying so, he downed his drink and passed out. The next morning he remembered what had happened and started to wail out loud. Everyone was concerned and kept asking him what happened but he just kept weeping. He passed the rest of the winter in mad grief and as soon as summer set in he left for the lake.

When he finally got there he took out his flute and started to play. Soon enough the fairy emerged. She said, “Good bye Gangrup. You’ve broken your promise, and in doing so, my heart.” So saying she left. Gangrup fell to his knees and called after her. A while later she emerged holding a bundle. Gangrup was overjoyed thinking she had forgiven him, but she said “This is our daughter, born of our love. Take her back with you.” Gangrup looked down at his daughter and gasped. She was the ugliest thing he had ever set eyes on, covered in warts and boils and was very ill. He didn’t want to touch her but then filial love won and he took her along. However she died on the way. Broken hearted, Gangrup took her all the way home. His family was stunned when he told them she was his daughter from the Chandratal fairy. He buried her and built a memorial for her in the house. From then on his luck changed and his family became rich. After all, the little girl was also a Nortin (fairy). His line is still alive today though they have moved to a new house (the old house still stands in ruins). They moved the memorial to the new house too and it can be still seen today.

As he finished narrating the folklore, the cook slowly stood up, and now we went back to our tents to sleep. The night was cold. Minus five degrees was the temperature and we were almost freezing. My head was pounding ever more and to sleep was very difficult. Still somehow we snatched a few hours of sleep for tomorrow our going would be tougher. When I woke up next, it was early in the morning and the clock had just struck four. We packed our bags and got ready to leave. We were going to have a long day ahead, and hopefully we would reach home if we could somehow make good time. But our journey had not seen its end, and more places lay ahead before we’d finally sleep comfortably on our beds.

[8]

We started our descent now. The road was bad, and our car moved slowly. At many places we had to get out and push the car so that it reached level ground. At many places, the waterfalls intersected the roads, and being early morning, we stepped over ice-flakes made by the waterfalls. My socks were wet, and I had to remove them, and they instantaneously became numb because of the cold. After a long while, we finally came to the intersection of the Chandratal route with the Kaza-Keylong route. Here we took a U-turn just before the Kunzum pass. Our next destination – Lahaul Valley.

Across the Lahaul Valley we sped, though the road was still stony and the going was nonetheless difficult. It would be so until the next mountain pass, after which the road would get better. Lahaul is greener than Spiti, and a bit more populated. Now and then we spotted travellers. These travellers usually preferred cycling on these routes, and all of them either had high-tech bicycles or heavy motorbikes. After a couple of hours or more, we finally reached the Rohtang Pass. The road would be better here onwards, they said. I could hardly have wished for anything else in the world. Rohtang actually means a pile of corpses in the local language, and the name was so given due to the number of people dying in bad weather trying to cross the pass. The pass provides a natural divide between the humid Kullu Valley with a primarily Hindu culture (in the south), and the arid high-altitude Lahaul and Spiti valleys with a Buddhist culture (in the north). The pass lies on the watershed between the Chenab and Beas basins. We had now left the Sutlej in its course and had joined to follow the course of the Beas. It is said that the Mahabharata, a great Indian epic, was written on the banks of the Beas river. A diversion of the road takes one to Leh, though that was not the road that any of us save one really sought to pursue. And pursue it we didn’t. We would now make our way down to Manali, pass through Kulu and finally cross Chandigarh on our way back home to Delhi.

At Manali, we stopped finally, because no more could we stay hungry. Nestled in the Beas River Valley, which had followed us all the way from the Rohtang, this small town is the beginning of an ancient trade route to Ladakh and from there over the Karakoram Pass on to Yarkand and Khotan in the Tarim Basin. Once we were full and I had got back into the car, instantaneously I fell asleep. The journey had been tiring and we were ever so close to the end, and yet my eyes would not stay open for it had now not rested for over a day. I slept and dreams clouded my mind. I was now in a shackle, legs and hands tied. A hookah lay in front of me, but it appeared to have been used up long ago; the coal was not burning anymore. I looked up to see a small window, which allowed a tiny amount of light to come in, but only enough that I could see the walls of my room. It was a tiny one, the walls of broken cement, and the floor was only dust. I tried to stand up, but the weight of the cuffs held me down. I appeared to be hungry, and there was some food in a plate beside, but flies hovered on it, it seemed the plate had been here for a long time. I tried dozing off, but sleep would not come. I heard shouts outside, some ceremony was being held, or maybe a battle-cry? I did not know what it was, for I had no idea where I was. Then I heard the sounds of my door opening. Looking up, I saw his face. It was him. All these years I had been looking for him, and here he was. So he wasn’t dead after all. In this strange country, I finally found him again. “Where are we?” I asked him. “Hell,” he said. I smiled. The years had turned his sense of humor to a sour satirical one. The day was growing old now, and we sat inside the cell. He had brought some pieces of coal, and we smoked the hookah until we were both very high. I knew he was dead, I saw him dying, seven years ago it was, but he was here, maybe I was dreaming? I pinched myself and it did not hurt, so I knew I was. But I could not get out of the dream. My eyes would not open. What kind of sorcery was this? I asked him, and he only smiled. “You’ve been defeated,” he said. “You have been defeated, my friend”. I did not understand, and he did not want to explain, so I just let it be. Then the doors opened again and two soldiers came in. Now they held me tight, and asked me how I came here. I told them I did not know, and one of them held me tight and started shaking me with all his might. Bam, the dream was gone. I was awake now, and we had crossed Kulu already.

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful, we stopped once for tea, and another time for dinner. It was late night when we finally reached Chandigarh. Here we changed our cab, and hailed one for Delhi. Home would be a reality soon. Only yesterday it seemed a distant possibility. It was four in the morning when I finally reached home. I laid eyes on my precious. It had been waiting all this while for me. I jumped upon it, my precious bed. For years now, I would remember this trip. Sometimes moments are created when you least expect them to. I honestly had far lesser expectations from this trip than what it provided. The walk-man was playing ‘Leaving on a Jet-plane’ now, and I welcomed the lullaby as I dozed off to sleep.

Well that was all about my trip. I did overshoot the length I had thought I would limit it to, but sometimes less is not enough. I will be back with more posts soon, and till then, keep reading! Bye.