Notes from El Dorado

Well to be honest, not yet a year, and not in solitude as well. Atleast not the Wordsworthian solitude, obvious from the fact that the blog has been so dormant for so long.  However, the time away doing whatever I had been doing has been worthwhile.

Right now, sitting in Aeropuerto Eldorado, waiting for my delayed flight to my first vacation from work. Teh airport doesnt seem so alien any more. No longer am I looking around for suspicious people/ objects, no longer am I worried that I will miss my flight (I used to be paranoid about missing flights, but having taken so many, and missed quite a few, that feeling is no more), and surprisingly, it is the tourists here who stand out in my eyes. Has been a long time here, thats what I keep thinking.

I didnt take many photographs, as is my wont, I didnt record my experiences in any journal. All is locked in the crystal of memory: deceptive, kaliedoscopic, and involtuntarily fulsome. But then, as Gabo says, “Life is not how you live it, but how you remember it!”. And I keep remembering how dramatically this same man shaped a part of my life. Or maybe, I make it more dramatic in my recollections when in fact it was just an impulsive call. I will never know. Memories play their tricks!

So through the prism of my memory, I believe, the time in Colombia was all about learning about life. Life, not in a philosphical way, but in the way one lives it. There have been so many paradigm shifts, that one learnt the futilty of it all. The luminous simplicity of it . It explodes into you slowly, surreptitiously, till one fine day when you wake up, and discover that it is has been with you all along, and you never knew it.

I meander too much. I do. I know. I dont like it.ut I always do.

I want to write about Bogota, the same-same red buildings that line the streets, the empanadas for breakfast, the pick-up trucks covered in red dust, of Villavo, colourful people, of insanity of mortals, of fallacies and truth about money and love, of Casarane, and Corazon de Casanare, Yopal, of the lust for oil, black gold they say, I dont know. I want to write about the wonderful fascination of seeing something for the first time, of being completely new, the freshness, the joy of being ignorant. I want to write about strong men, hard with sweat, who find joy in the simplest of things. About people who share the conviction, so much resonated in movies of my land, that eventually all will turn out fine.

But all that later. I have a flight to catch.

P.S. Latest realisation: I really do not like iPods. Tragic that i realised it six months after buying the most expensive iPod in the store, and using it just a couple of times. Too much in love with the sights and sounds of life.

Another one goes by

Well, its not so depressing as the title suggests.

The year hasnt been the worst I have seen, but i am optimistic enough to dare to think there will be better ones to come.Traveled around. Met new people. And yes, learnt new tricks.

Apart from that, as the inactivity of this blog suggests, it has been a tad busy. No complains though.

Signing off from the Savanahs in Colombia.

Forest Park, St Louis, MO.

We planned to go down to Chicago actually. But on the Friday morning, when we were about to rent the car and drive the 10 hour drive, we chickened out. It was just too far – undriveably far. Then came out the laptops and maps, and we looked around for places which werent undriveably far. Maybe Dallas, maybe Kansas City (again?), maybe Rock Springs, why not Austin, or Denver? St. Louis?  After  a few hurried phone calls and look-ups on travel and weather websites we made up our mind. I guess what tilted it in favour of St Louis was the baseball game between Cardinals and Dodgers: the game I didnt go to finally. I dont like baseball much.

So again we set out on the road, this time on a 4X4 pick-up. Hell, it was weekend and nothing else was there. Thankfully they almost halved their price to convince us to take the black monster all the four hundred miles up. We, frankly, didnt needed the incentive but welcomed it nonetheless. The road, as always, didnt fail to charm me. It was way colder for my liking though, the temperature hovering around 5 degree centigrade. Stopping twice, once for a new maps and brochures, and again for lunch, we reached The Land Where the West Began.

Taking a quick shower at the hotel, we decided we needed to walk around a bit.  We went to the place they call The Loop over there. We ate Thai (which would to be the biggest mistake I made in that trip, as it almost paralysed me chest-down till next morning) and then went over to listen to some jazz. Now, I had three Latinos (2 Mexicans and 1 Venezuelan), and they would have rather been to any club they could dance to than to listen to jazz. Being Bad Economy season, most of the places in The Loop (which is supposed to be the hot spot in St. Louis) were down with flu, so they had no choice, but listen to Gypsy Brown and her band. I could just find a decent bookstore (actually more than decent, I quite liked the place, it called The Subterraneans) where I bought my The Original Scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. And then, we realized it was almost midnight, and we headed back.

Next morning, we went to the famous Gateway Arch, and the City Museum. Just as the brochures and travel websites said.

Lunch of familiar chocolate shake and steak. The gang decided to head to the ball game. I, on the other hand, took the Metro from Union Station to Forest Park. I wanted to visit the Art Museum and the History Museum, and maybe cycle a bit. Now this being my lucky day, by the time I reached the Museum, it was already shutters-down. So I decided to walk around in the park.

This was possibly one of my better walks. It was green and a little cold, polished off by the last vermilion rays of a setting sun.  There were a couple of cyclist going down the circuitous bike trails, while a few joggers ran on with their earplugs. I felt alone and happy. It was like being home, in the green and orange, and the light breeze, tucked up in my jacket and walking without any plan, without any destination and not knowing where the road led to. And pretty sure, no one cared that I was around. I saw a Subcontinental couple engaged in the familiar comedy of taking photograph with every piece of man-made block: fountains, stairs, pillars, some random house, some random car. I walked on. I saw the familiar sight of pretty ladies panting back to their cars and vrooming away. I saw all this, but it didnt register. Maybe at that point of time, I didnt notice anything. I was too busy with myself. Walking. What was going on through my mind at that point, I tried hard to recall, but I cant remember at all.

I walked for almost two and a half hour in Forest Park when i came out and headed to a store to buy some water. The shop keeper was from Kandahar, Afghanistan. Seeing a Subcontinental face, he guessed I must be Indian, and tried to find common thread binding us. Well, to do that he had to go back almost five hundred years to tell me about Babur and Akbar and Prince Salim. I listened patiently, as i didnt want to discuss the more recent Flight-814 with him.

By the time I took the metro back to Union Station to meet up with my friends, i was rejuvenated and ready to face life again: with its tangles and twists, catharsis and challenges. I was back on the road again.

On the way back, we were pulled over by the cops on the freeway. But thats another story. And i have a foreboding that it one of those stories that would not be told.

El Dorado

The legend was true. They said El Dorado lay hidden in the jungles deep of Cudinamarca, or Boyaca was it.  But they never found it even though it was right in front of their eyes. Maybe they were busy hunting, and not looking carefully.

For me it was different. It was as obvious as the writing on the board in the airport: El Dorado.

It has been quite some time I have been here. And ‘here’ is somewhere right on the diametrically opposite side of the globe I was born in. And it never felt like i am far away. Truth be told, maybe subconsciously, was prepared for whatever comes my way, and adapt to it. But notwithstanding that, I am sure i would have loved this anyway.  The moments have been lived.

I remember talking to a freind of mine in Park Street last winter that all i crave for is a culture-shock. A place where poeple wont be the way i have known all along, where life and living would be different from what i am used to. And he said, sure (maybe because he was drunk), why i will never know.

I have done a few things which i would have never done otherwise. Since i am not in a mood for brutal honesty, i wont say what. Thing which could have only been possible in Latin America.

For example, playing football with a bunch of Latinos. I have always considered myself a little better than abominable at football, by Indian standards. However, i realised that i cant play the game at all, when these guys, some of who were almost 10 years older than dribbled past me with effortless ease. And the long shots, and yes the sprints. One would easily mistake the field for a grassy dance floor. Being the central midfielder, it was a real embarassment. However, after 4 goals down, i realised that one thing these guys dont do much is pass the ball. Thats when i decided to be the decoy guy, who runs away with a couple of defenders to make way for the others. This continued for some time, till the other team understood i was not worth marking since no one was passing the ball to me. So they started leaving me alone. However, when the ball finally came, i did score, from 5 yards albeit, but scored nevertheless. One of those priceless moments!

Also, i remember going to this place called Alimentarte, which is like a food festival, where we get to taste food from different parts. I had a good juicy steak and an amazing dessert, the name of which i cannot remember now. It was quite like the Book Fair we had in Maidan in Calcutta. Instead of books, its food and music and dance. The music and dance are like bhanrer cha of Calcutta, here, there and everywhere! The ubiquity though, doesnt mean one is satiated with it.

The best part however were the late night parties on weekends. When i took up this job i am doing right now, i never though i would have time for all of this. But how wrong was i. Cometh  the weekend, cometh the parties. Everytime a new one. Though i have never been much of a party goer myself, but i must say i didnt dislike much the ones i went to here. However, it is to be kept in mind, unlike back at home, the parties are for all in here, not just for the son-of-the-rich. Given, the universal nature, one gets a glimpse into the private lives of these people.

However, the best part of my soujourn has been learning a new language. Espanol. Frankly, though, i cant speak much, and my grammar is totally awry, but i do understand most of it. These days, when my friends speak in Spanish, i listen intently, and say whatever i have to i chip in my bit in English. With the waiters, and taxi drivers, and poeple who dont speak English at all, i beleive i can communicate what i need to. Perhaps, this has been the single most important thing i have learnt so far, during my stay here.

More later.

Dis-Strings

On weekends, they play music on the street just outside my window in my office. Now they are playing Imagine of Lennon. And I feel like writing after some time. The work can wait.

Long long ago, I had this vision of the world where I imagined thing would be like they write in story books. Story books I snuggled up in bed with, the classic like The Count of Monte Cristo, The Prince, Robin Hood or Chander Pahar. And I thought the world is really like it, brave, loyal, and fresh forever, like these classics. A world where we would love to live forever. A world where we could have friends forever, who would die for us, and make us proud to die for them. It was a little strange, for money didnt matter except as means of adventure. I mean all you needed was fifteen men on a dead man’s chest and a bottle of rum. Or Heathcliffe or Edmond Dantes or Sankar. I never believed they did anything more than just enjoy the moment, and the journey to their heroic pinnacle. I imagined all those, but.

Then came the time when I finished the classics shelf of my home, and moved on to move ‘adult’ stuff. Of Camus, Kafka and Milan Kundera. All along I played the cynic to the cynics, I wanted my romanticism back. However, the world around me was made of what these latter guys wrote of, cruel, indifferent and sepia hued. No, I wanted my Long John Silver, I wanted my Robinson Crusoe. But K persisted, so did the strangest or Strangers. I struggled to force myself to believe it is just an illusion, maybe very persistant, but still an illusion. It was just a bad day, or simply blues.

 

But friends cant be friends forever. Relationships can be quantified. Emails, chats and coffee. (Diego Alvarez RIP) Floating notes of meaningless conversation over wooden tables and plastic chairs. Things can be repaired, things can be replaced. So can people. So can memories. So can all of us that make us. For we are the hollow men.

 

I have never liked cellular phones, nowadays i only use it for business communications. Like I pompously say, I cant speak to a person without seeing their eyes. Even now.

 

It is not so good for things(for things and people are same) not to change. For their own sake.

The darkness is not a rebillion against light. For you fools, there is no light. The darkness is the rebellion against the darkness. The darkness within darkness, which is best left alone, best quickly forgotten.

Villavicencio

It is pronounced Bijabisensio, and in short called Villao (Bijau). And it was my honeymoon destination, without a wife, that is.

Possibly one of the most beautiful towns i have seen in my life, it stands right in the edge of the Llano plains, bordered by the Peidimont de Llanero. The hills are green, the weather is sultry, the houses are red and low, the roads far far less crowded than i am used to. And the poeple are mostly relaxed, living upto the Latin spirit, enjoying a beer in the afternoon, or partying hard at night.

My weekend there was quite a refreshing one. Wake up, swim, eat at some beautiful restaurant, enjoy the cool breeze in the late evening, and go out at the night. I have been back a couple of days, and i miss it already, which is something unexpected.

Well, aah, this is turning out much better than i expected. Touchwood!

4am
Work or play?
Apprehension, anxiety and maybe a little bit of excitement
The superman feeling that we crave for
Strength or stamina
5000 pound square inch
Gamma rays and fast neutrons
RDX
Vigilance Task
Music: loud
Friends
Comrades
Brothers
And then the hot sun and the strong windy rain, and cold chilly night
Life at the core of it
Or walking the line that separates it from death
Or why life is better than death
Or why life can be so much more
And why is it worth making it so much more
Smile
Covered with dust and grime and sweat
But no tears
But no regrets
And no feelings
Of good or bad
Of beautiful or ugly
Breathe
And be alive
Like a man and not an insect.
11 am (next day)