I wrote these pieces during my first fortnight in Lonavala. Wrote them on bits of paper because my internet connection isn’t activated yet and walking to the cyber café in the pouring rain just to write blog posts did not seem worthwhile. Found these pieces of paper strewn all around my room and now that I too have developed amphibian characteristics like the rest of them Lonavalans, and now that I do everything I want to do, anytime (only I remember to carry an umbrella all the time)…and now that Jitu threatens to get me disinherited from the family fortune unless I publish something……I have walked to the cyber café tonight ….and here they are.
11 August 2008
When the transfer order came last month…. "You're getting posted to Lonavala? Oh WOW. I’ve been there …It’s such a beautiful place."
"I've lived there. It’s awful. Your clothes will never dry"
"Oh, you lucky thing. You'll walk in clouds every day..."
"Oh, you poor thing...You'll have fungus growing in your car..."
"Sometimes when you drive, you can't see more than two feet ahead; it’s so foggy...You'll be driving with hazard lights all the time."
It was all true. I have been here five days and I feel like I'm drowning in fog. I don't remember what the sun looks like. That shiny yellow ball….doesn’t it make everything look colorful, unlike these shades of blue and grey all the time? Doesn’t it dry things up?
I have never lusted for the sun like this before. The rain absolutely DOES NOT STOP. It simply doesn't. And I do have fungus growing in my car. And begging forgiveness for being crude, I would like to inform the world that fungus in a car smells like shit. Literally. It smells like the products of defecation. In fact, it’s a lot like the smell in restrooms at petrol pumps. The kind of petrol pumps where the managers don't believe in flushes and take care never to use the loos themselves.
Ok, enough on that. I just needed to get that out of my system(!).... It isn’t that bad. Have given my car to be cleaned, against all well meaning advice to wait till the end of the monsoons.
And I have walked among the clouds. This defies description. It has to be experienced. I could write pages and it wouldn't touch the magic this place is. Yesterday I carried a book (The Last Lecture, awesome book) to the lakeside and settled down comfortably to read. Breathtakingly beautiful view - think moss covered hills all around, then think silvery, shimmering lake in the centre....surreal. Fifteen pages later I looked up and I could see - NOTHING. I was sitting in clouds. Surrounded on all sides, it seemed impossible to know where I had parked the car! I could actually have started walking and stepped into the lake....
But although the fog and the rain follow absolutely no timetable, although some days it pours for hours together, the interesting thing is how life goes on. Here in Lonavala, people live as people in other parts of the world do – only they carry raincoats and umbrellas ALL THE TIME. No longer do I smile in disbelief if I see people going for walks in perfectly clear weather with umbrellas tucked under their arms. They know they might need them and they always do. People in Lonavala will never say – Hey, it’s raining cats and dogs, let’s not go out tonight. They just get up and go – to shop, to jog, to party, to eat out, whatever.
12 August 2008
I spent my fourth afternoon in Lonavala today getting some rain gear in place. Bought a pair of floaters and, as happens so often when I shop alone, I hate them now; I chose function over form and now I feel I should have bought the prettier looking ones ; they were only slightly uncomfortable…this pair makes my feet look so ugly!! Anyway, also bought the largest umbrella ever manufactured (what WAS I thinking? Did I plan to have picnics with friends under it?). A room heater- to dry clothes and shoes, lots of socks and chocolates – to keep me warm and happy. All I need is to develop gills and no longer will the nonstop rain bother me.
I decided to celebrate this new resolve to thumb my nose at the weather by walking to Mahima’s house for dinner. She’s an old acquaintance, rediscovered here, and she had invited me over for some rasam and rice to cheer me up. In my new floaters and my lovely new umbrella, I started my walk to her home. Mahima had given me the clearest possible directions, which I had promptly forgotten. I walked around in circles until I got bored of the scenery and then called her up to come pick me up. Had the most pleasurable meal in a long time. And after as much girl talk we both needed, I got up to go at about eleven in the night. She asked me if I wanted to be dropped back and I said I would rather walk. So once again, Mahima gave me detailed directions and I assured her I wouldn’t get lost again. Really should have known better, given my record. The walk back was like a dream. Or do I mean nightmare?
12 August 2008. 11.30 p.m. The walk back.
This is the stuff stories are made of. Ghost stories I mean...
The shadow walking in front of me does not look like mine at all. Seriously.
Halfway through my way back, all the streetlights go out. The world looks like the blackest of black holes. The sense of being in a Ruskin Bond story deepens.
(To imagine the darkness - close your eyes really tight; then cover your face with your hands. That’s how it was. And I was walking through it.)
There MUST be other people in this world. There always have been. But somehow I cannot convince myself of this. I have no doubt, that I'm the only human in this dark, dark city.
The light from my mobile display shows me about half a meter of road ahead; so that is what I concentrate on - hoping all the while that I am walking on the right road. There is absolutely no way to tell. I've been here less than a week so I have no clue about any landmarks; I have no roadmaps in my head - though fat lot of help landmarks and roadmaps would be if you can't see beyond your own arm.
After maybe about a year and a half of walking in the darkness - convinced that I'm walking in circles - I see a small light up ahead. It looks like another mobile, attached to, I hope, a person, although there’s no way to tell. One burst of hope, also fear. I vividly remember that Ruskin Bond story in which another solitary, scared walker on dark night meets two watchmen carrying lanterns….he asks them for directions and they raise their lanterns to show unbroken, unmarked flesh where there should be faces. No eyes, no nose, no mouth…just smooth white, pale skin. It takes me all of my courage to remind myself that it was only a story, these things don't really happen. The voice in my head says-"Really? You're sure? You really want to ask this person for help?”
I'm not terribly sure actually.
...to be continued......