February 2013

between our arrivals and our Departures,
it is a strangely guiltless territory 
– Marne L. Kilates

With my wife in her usual high-altitude slump,
seat-belt fastened, the cabin lights dimmed
and bad comedy on the movie channel, I slip
into what one poet has termed the blameless country
of air travel. I’ve ploughed through several novels
this way, unperturbed, felt the heart-surge
when a particularly rousing phrase of Beethoven’s
coincides with the exact moment of take-off. Sometimes (more…)

The story of Bombay is the story of struggle and sacrifice. Perhaps there is no other city in the world where the struggle spills so vividly and unabashedly out onto the streets, for that’s what people are here for: to make the journey, to realize their dreams – and the outward anarchy is only a reflection of their deep inner struggle, the churning that leads to a finer, more realised self. People here are not ashamed to be seen toiling and slaving out in the open. The barber does it. The cobbler does it. The chawalla does it. The bhajiyawalla does it. The vada-pavwalla does it. The vegetable vendor does it. The fruitwalla does it. The fisherwoman does it. The ragpicker does it. The hawker does it. The encroacher does it. The eunuch does it. The beggar does it. The cop does it. The tout does it. The dhobi does it. The maalishwalla does it. The victorianawalla does it. The taxiwalla does it. How many trades? How many dreams? How many journeys can a single city take and deliver? … Bombay, leaving me breathless with all that it has in store.

Will localizes us, thought universalizes us.

I arrived in New York on a Monday. Same day as I was born on – which was a good omen. Nobody expected me. Everything awaited me … Then, I walked down 2nd Avenue, Frank O’Hara territory, absorbed in my own condition … one of the new immigrants invading the east village … It was the summer I met Robert Mablethorpe.

Le voyager me semble un exercice profitable. L’âme y a une continuelle excitation à remarquer les choses inconnues et nouvelles ; et je ne connais pas de meilleure école à former la vie que de lui proposer incessamment la diversité de tant d’autres vies, fantaisies et usages, et lui faire goûter une si perpétuelle variété de forme de notre nature. Le corps n’y est ni oisif ni travaillé et cette modérée agitation le met en haleine.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunckless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Do not be misled by the fact that you are at liberty and relatively free; that for the moment you are not under lock and key: you have simply been granted a reprieve.

Polish journalist. “A Warsaw Diary,” Granta, no. 15 (Cambridge, England, 1985).

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