Night in Slow Motion
The Tao of travel means that all night you can chase the moving flicker of lights on the zigzag pathways of distant, dark, dense mountain nights, and your eyes and mind are still aching for more. Distances here are not measured with the approximation of the gaze, moving across the landscape, from the remotest expanse of darkness to the kaleidoscope of unexplored light, with people inside little village homes, scattered among leaves and leaf-storms, hiding their tired, humble bodies in warm mud and stone homes, even as the wind howls, or moves in slow motion, softly rattling the windows.
The simple village homes move with the flicker of light and lightness in these undulating mountains, making you fragile and vulnerable and equally humble. They are at once static and floating, suspended in time’s spatial liquidity, like liquid lights, becoming forever nocturnal earth, and camouflaged cosmos, amidst a typically clear and lucid starry night, as sublime as each star marking its infinite self-identity.
Across the zigzag journey, the open-to-sky courtyard in a mountain home is not only meant for the crisp morning and afternoon sunshine in this ancient house full of memories, laughter, resilience and love; it acquires life and motion even in the night, like a ship sailing on moving waters looking for a lighthouse, even as the whole world sleeps, dreaming of warmth and sleep. And the creaking, faded blue doors are shut, the lock is in place on the main wooden door, with the house yet again open to the night. As open-ended as its friendly arms full of possibilities, like an open-air amphitheatre with neither audience nor actors, neither sound nor show, only this tangible lullaby of eternal silence moving into the flickering lights of night trucks far away on the mountain roads, hiding, emerging, halting, moving into the spaces of the mysterious journeys of light and dark.
This is an ‘animalic’ night, its density as tangible as a predator in the shadows. As invisible as trees, and the smell of the bark of the trees. As solitary as the little wild pink hill-river flowers. As athletic and detached as the soundless footsteps of singular movement. This is valley and forest, hearth and home, river and grassland, courtyard and sky, and you have nothing but the cold wind surrounding you, eyes moist with sharp relief and sensation, with the absence of desire, almost thoughtless, in harmony with the tangible touch of the dark.
This is a home night out in the home open, the fire is still flickering; it is almost like a forest night, when the forest speaks a million languages of broken twigs, falling leaves, sighs and moans, movements, shadows, raindrops and dewdrops. All the urban architecture inside my heart has already vanished into the blue, all the waters in the eyes have become softened and wet, all the fingers in the hands are warm, angular and slender, and the wind caresses my shirt like old friendships and old wine and forgotten loves.
This is valley and forest, hearth and home, river and grassland, courtyard and sky, and you have nothing but the cold wind surrounding you, eyes moist with sharp relief and sensation, with the absence of desire, almost thoughtless, in harmony with the tangible touch of the dark
Here you don’t need a standing ovation. You neither need a success story nor a power trip, nor fame or infamy, nor an ‘Indian of the year’ award. You don’t have to fight or defend. All the ritualistic banalities and stupidities of normalcy are lost in the plains where the slug-fest is on, the barbarians are celebrating, cannibalism flourishes like insatiable hunger, and a relentless blabbering and chatter runs its multiple half-marathons. They are relentless and untiring, and their faces are embedded in the meaningless legends of their own plastic sculptors. Like a pseudo caricature and a perverse desire, bloated with the photogenic discontents of success.
The more you have, the less you are.
So, here in this ship-night of darkness, all that is less becomes more. Your lips become cold but they are parched and it feels nice. Your hands become cold, but they are open and leafy, full of blue veins, and they are fine. Your eyes are moist, but these are neither tears nor saline waters.
Morning arrives with the gaze. Light spreads like honey and the smoke of old wood. The sun comes and creeps into the horizontal and vertical courtyard, moving into the valley without suspense or surprise. Some miracles are bound to happen. Even barbarians can’t touch them.
You light a cigarette. The tea is hot and sweet. Life is good.