Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Journey's End

"the indians stood watching him. He could see that none of them spoke among themselves or commented on his riding there nor did they raise a hand in greeting or call out to him. They had no curiosity at all. As if they knew all that they needed to know. They stood and watched him pass and watched him vanish upon that landscape solely because he was passing. Solely because he would vanish." Cornac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

One day I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me I am not mistaken in mine.

India was affecting, and that's about all I'm able to say by way of conclusion. Call it writer's block, or the seemingly innate ability of this place to defeat you and leave you smiling at the same time, but my numerous attempts over the past week to write a final post have been a failure. There's no point dropping wack shit just for the sake of it. Like other planned pieces on Rajasthan, Indian sexuality, and Islam in India, lengthier summaries will have to wait for some other time, some moment of clarity. Instead, I'll leave you with choice excerpts from bits and bobs I've been reading over the last few months, which will hopefully give you some insight into this crazy journey. West Asia awaits. Wandering Satlan is stop.

“The sole country under the sun that is endowed with imperishable interest…the one land all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world.” Mark Twain

“If there is a place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.” Romain Rolland
“A kind of India happens everywhere, that’s the truth too; everywhere is terrible and wonder-filled and overwhelming if you open your sense to the actual pulsating beat.” Salman Rushdie

“I believe that a nation is happy that has no history.” Gandhi

“Azadi [Liberty] is coming, India will soon be free.” I laughed and said, “Babuji, what is that to me? I am carrying loads now and shall continue carrying them then.” Bhisham Sahi, Tamas

“The Ganga, especially, is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her racial memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol of India’s age-long culture and civilization, ever-changing, ever-flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga. She reminds me of the sun-covered peaks and the deep valleys of the Himalayas, which I have loved so much, and of the rich and vast plains below, where my life and work have been cast. Smiling and dancing in the morning sunlight, and dark and gloomy and full of mystery as the evening shadows fall, a narrow, slow and graceful stream in winter and a vast, roaring thing during the monsoon, broad-bosomed almost as the sea, and with something of the sea’s power to destroy, the Ganga has been to me a symbol and a memory of the past of India, running into the present, and flowing on to the great ocean of the future. And though I have discarded much of past religion and custom, and am anxious that India should rid herself of all shackles that bind and constrain her and divide her people…I do not wish to cut myself off from the past completely. I am proud of that great inheritance that has been, and is, ours, and I am conscious that I too, like all of us, am a link in that unbroken chain which goes back to the dawn of history in the immemorial past of India.” Nehru

“Why are you doing this work [on the dam]? Nehru asked one; Sahib bahadur, that man tells me to take these stones over there. At the end of the week he gives me money. That is why I do it.”

“for an Indian, superior and subordinate relationships have the character of eternal verity and moral imperative – [and the] automatic reverence for superiors is a near universal psycho-social fact.” Sudhir Kakar

“There is an India expression and, like others, quite impossible to adequately translate: jugaad. People are encouraged to use some jugaard when faced with a blank wall, or a difficult problem. Jugaard is creative improvisation, a tool to somehow find a solution, ingenuity, a refusal to accept defeat, initiative, quick thinking, cunning, resolve, and all of the above.” Pavan K Varma

“Saying the Indians are a gentle, dreamy, fatalistic people, detached from the world, only describes the effect, not the cause. ‘Strange’ is the word, for spontaneously, in their very physical substance, without the least ‘thought’ or even ‘faith’, Indians plunge their roots deep into other worlds; they do not exclusively belong here. And in them, these other worlds rise constantly to the surface - at the least touch the veil is rent, remarks Sri Aurobindi. This physical world, which for us is so real, and absolute and unique, seems to them but one way of living among many others; in short, a small, chaotic, agitated, and rather painful frontier on the margin of immense continents which lie behind unexplored.” Satprem, Sri Aurobindi or The Adventure of Consciousness

“I am of 56 [years] and forcibly exiled from my home I am wandering disappointed. Will you kindly advise me what to do and where to [go] in this critical moment of my life.” Congress Worker and Refugee from NWFP, 1948

“Everything I have loved and lost has been in India.” Sonia Gandhi

“Of the many ideals of Gandhi which the Indians didn’t accept, ahimsa, non-violence, stands out most.” Bengali Marxist

“The [Indians] are gentle and benevolent, more susceptible of gratitude for kindness shown them, and less prompted to vengeance for wrongs inflicted than any people on the face of the earth.” Warren Hastings

“By our bad habits we spoil our sacred river banks and furnish excellent breeding grounds for flies…A small spade is the means of salvation from a great nuisance. Leaving night-soil, cleaning the nose, or spitting on the road is a sin against God as well as humanity; and betrays a sad want of consideration for others. The man who does not cover his waste deserves a heavy penalty even if he lives in a forest.” Gandhi

“slapping and moaning are no matter for lists or tables of contents. For when the wheels of sexual ecstasy is in full motion, there is no textbook at all, and no order.” Kama Sutra

“The very idea of beggary…precious to Hindus as religious theatre, a demonstration of the workings of karma, a reminder of one’s duty to oneself and one’s future lives, has been devalued…The beggars themselves, forgetting their Hindu function, also pester tourists; and the tourists misinterpret the whole business, seeing in the beggary of the few the beggary of all. The beggars have become a nuisance and a disgrace.” V.S. Naipaul, A Wounded Civilisation

“Well, India is a country of nonsense.” Gandhi


Hagay Hacohen said...

Hey Alex,

Good to read a final post on satlan, just so you know, old Sri Aurobindo was a convicted terrorist. He had a religous turn of heart in prison when he realized that even the English judge and prison wardens are a part of the divine.

See you home soon! Apna Jugaad Hai !:)


Michael said...

guess who's back? stein is back...

Anonymous said...

so alex finally ur journey has ended
reached back home?


Alex Stein said...

Yep = am now back in Zion!