Red India

Day 0 - India

The Indians believe we we have reached the Age of Kali, the final dice throw when,

If the radiance of a thousand suns
were to burst at once into the sky
that would be like the splendor of the mighty one
I am become death
the destroyer of worlds.

Shame, I rather like India.

An apocryphal epoch in which to visit this this vast wedge of land with a history all of its own. It has endlessly fascinated me since I first visited, indeed it may well be the impetus for this particular journey. I have endeavored to understand the people, the culture, the esprit du corps. I have thus far failed but wholly enjoyed the toil. The dubious British gift of bureaucracy lingers and we had come together as a small band of travelers in the Kandy visa office to collectively curse, pray and wonder at the process by which we'd earn our entry sticker. After what seemed like, and was, hours we had the approval we needed, a paltry three months but surely sufficient baring any mishaps. An Aussie named Patrick joined us on the evening bus back to Colombo and regaled us with his adventures around South America, mental itineraries subtly shifted eastwards. We bade farewell to Sri Lanka, our first stop, after an uncomfortable night at the airport. It's a country I should like to see again in a decade or so and I will be interested to see if the people have hardened along with the concrete of the highways and flyovers.
Though there was never any notion of a schedule I hate to feel i'm falling behind with this writing. Minor details slip from memory and it seems like such a chore to start up again and so retrogressively recount. But then again there was intended to be a more abstract theme to this than previous scribblings (abstraction is always a crowd pleaser....). Perhaps better that the pure literal is lost and what remains is the amorphous taste of experience. We shall see perhaps.
From our landing point of Trivandrum (not its official name but that is beyond the scope of this article) we caught the train up through Kerala to Kochi (one of, I believe, four alternative spellings). It's a tropical, palm-fringed part of the country with extensive backwaters and an agreeable calm. The European influence is evident in the Fort area as successive waves of Portuguese, Dutch and English assumed control. It's also hard not to notice the hammer & sickle icon plastering walls and structures and though denoting (or promoting) a democratically elected and seemingly well run communist government it brought to mind the many swastikas I saw in Sri Lanka and reinforced the power of symbolism on us as humans.

As I write now, looking out over Delhi and its sunrise it is clear how any linearity of travel or writing has been abandoned. With a tube putting fluid into my left arm and another tube drawing it from my right leg things, one could safely say, have taken an unexpected turn. Such turnings make me feel like a naive, hubristic fool. Ever championing life's wonderful, unpredictable danger and arguing against those people who resist it. Did I feel such a pioneer laying on my back in the rail ballast, the train's emergency brakes screeching in my ear, my right leg ripped asunder? I couldn't tell you, the actual memory of the event sits in some inaccessible part of my brain or is lost forever perhaps precipitated by the twin gashes on the back of my head. Certain though is the fact that the first couple of days afterwards followed the familiar pattern of cheery, self-consciously stoic denial of consequence. OK so I fell from a train (rarer event in India than one might suppose) but it wasn't far from the ground and the thing was slowing for a station, what real harm? A lower right leg near stripped of skin and a butchered heel that wasn't just going to snap back together. Such hospitalisations have been far too common over the last ten years, to screw up one leg is unfortunate, to screw up two looks like carelessness. I detest the tag 'accident prone' yet I cannot help applying it to myself as my body collects ever more scars and impediments from misadventure. This can't continue, this fleshy form, which I treat with no particular daily reverence anyway, will not recover from every injurious dare I put it to. In short I shall end up a broken, bittered fool. My days may be much like this, resting in my wheeled seat while a nurse affectionately pats me on the head and brings me another tea.
I haven't walked in a week, I've rarely missed anything so much as I've missed my mobility. Having to call someone to complete the most basic tasks for you is a terrible vision of elderly decrepitude. Still, the wheelchair was heaven sent, the first few days limited to the 3' x 7' space occupied by the bed in my room sent me to the very edge of my sanity. It wasn't long before hot, wet tears of frustration doused my face in an uncontrollable flurry that, I think, was reality making its firm grip known. My throat lumps now to think of the emotional nadir. But a certain balance has been reached between actuality and aspiration and I feel better for it. Perhaps that is why I feel able to open up to my leather bound counsellor. I'm wary of epiphanies and resist the presumption I'll ever be anything but a wanton knave but....I feel improved. So I can't tell you much of India, I can tell you of drip stands and drug cocktails, of bed baths and bed pans? Not delectable reading I suspect and likely to smack of more self pity than any of us could stomach. So maybe I shall leave it here, still looking out of my Delhi hospital window as the sun chases the morning shadows and the chorus of hoots starts up again. Stay safe.

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