It seems like too long ago now, but for the sake of form, I must begin at the beginning. Why did I come to India? For six weeks I have in vain tried to remember the answer to this deeply metaphysical puzzle. It has always eluded me, amorphous and formless in my the backwaters of my mind, something like a sign lying just beyong the line at which I can no longer make out the words. So I have resolved to go over my time in India; that I might remember, that my friends might know what's going on...
Fucked. I've never been able to sleep for any worthwhile length of time on an aeroplane. Its too much of a vacuum; coming out the other end, seeing the faces I last saw thirteen hours ago, and us spatially together all that time, yet strangely distant now,quietly far removed; I dunno, seems like the transit is a vacuum. It wasin this spaced-outframe of mind thatI entered thehot chaos of Delhi: I was fucked. 4 5 6 in the morning, still trapped in the sleepful-wakefulness paradox, I'm somehowsure insomniacs feel at home in this city. Impatient and restive, I stumble before sleep. Stewing in sweat. Longsince hung my shirtup to dry; but things don't dry here, they get wetter. Cold shower: three or four to the hour.Dreaming of colder climes (or at least, I would be if I could get some sleep)... fucked. The first thing I did upon arrivalin Delhi was make arrangaments for my departure.
GUNGABAL, KASHMIR. 01.07.06-08.07.06
Let me explain: Ahmadin Delhi fixed me up with Ayub in Srinigar who sends people to the Gungabal with Bashir. Bashir is a dear old lady of a black-bearded Muslim. Heproved a fine mouthpiece for my sentiments on the city - "we must to leave... Srinigar [the city] always the pollution, the noise, the people, too much people... people make too much business, not enough happy" - and a fine companion for my time in the country. The mountains. They call Kashmir the Switzerland of the East, and with some justification. Up up up and out of the valley, into an expanse of pastures the very green of life; cows goats horses and sheep roam and graze freely under the watcful eyes of nomadic gypsie herders; from the snowcappedstegosaurus platesof ahigh and afar, tumbling streams replenish sweeping rivers and vast rocky moraines remind remains of yore; somwhere in the bosom of all this,four tiny dots lead another anotherfour (slightly less tiny) dots! to water. "Phrhrhrh-cheeee" we tell the horses. "Ka-ka-ka-ka, HO-HO-HO-HO." I'm not sure exactly how it translates, but it has the same effect on themas a walking stick brought firmly into contact their rear. The othertwo human dots are Aslam and Ashribar, brothers, the horsemen. They speak more horse than English (in fact, as I recall Ashribar now, I invariably recall the only two words he ever really spoke to me: "good good?" grinning like a cheshire cat, "good good?" me throwing up in the middle of the night and he still shining like the moon, "good good?") But then again, no-one speaks English in Naran-nag. A barnacle on the Eastern front of the great Gungabal range, the village is a picturesque collection of simple gypsie hutsafoot pine valleys. Log stone and bamboo-thatch behold fireplace stable and blanket-strewn floor. Here is where the woman children and flies while away the days, laying heads down to sleep in the single room which ser! ves as living room/dining room/bedroom/kitchen. (O simple ! beautifu l life, swallow me up! Is thiswhy? Is this the reason Ijourneyedfour-and-a-half-thousand miles from the little pocket of the West I call home: to live the simple life, beautiful life, the dream...? O swallow me up!)
And it swallowed me whole, but for a morsel of curiostiy lodged firmly in the village throat: the white man. Ever have the feeling you're being watched? Theweight of innumerable pairs of eyes gazing upon you? At the time, I thought this shameless staring was unique to this isolated village; but I have since come to realize that it's common to the whole of this culture (or at least to all the parts I've encountered). You see, India is a zoo. Oh yes, I'm sure you've heard it all before - the cows monkeys elephants and pigs thatpeople the streets, the endless supply of attractions around every corner, etc etc - but no, India is a zoo in an altogether different sense; in the sense that you are the main attraction. You, the foreign traveller, (in my case) the white man,