Changed my mind. Time to shut down nomadclature. EL FIN.
Necessary to forget certain haunts that I can’t rid myself of, completely.
Let the cleanse begin!
Much love to LL and the few dear friends that have been loyal readers (even through all the haphazard posts) and have always reminded of the good & pure. I’m forever yours.
My dear LL, Happy 25th —
You are and always will be one of the best people I know.
There’s a green and pink hippo sitting on my desk as I write this. You gave it to me for my 16th, before we both left for college, saying that you would always be there for me even if you couldn’t be there. It’s traveled from CR to IC to India to Antigua. It’s habit now to bring it with me everywhere, but it’s not necessary because you have always, always been there for me. In all the moments. In all the feels.
What I love is that you know me so well that you see what I’m seeing. Sometimes with better clarity. How beautiful it is, to have such a dear and old friend stand by you and soak in all the sights - regardless of whether it’s beautiful or difficult or gloomy or quiet or inspiring. There’s nothing to hide, no pretenses, no insecurity. You mean the world to me and I love you so much, thank you for everything we’ve seen together this last year.
May this next year be filled with love and curiosity and a NYT bestseller ;) But seriously. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store and I can’t wait to be near you.
Last month, we paid ten rupees for a rickshaw
to the fortuneteller. We passed the market,
the school where S spent her childhood learning
sentences in Telegu. I was leaving
in the morning, and we longed to feel future
in our bones. Explore new things, Leo. Make way,
Scorpio, for good to come into your life.
Tonight in Hyderabad, men and women flock
to the fruit market, feet weaving among booths
of mangoes, baby bananas, pears. A girl
drops chapatti into hot oil. Beside
an alley dumpster, a man duct tapes a bomb
to his handlebars and inhales—as hopeful
somehow, as we’d been, preparing to make way.
LL is sleeping and I am sitting on the edge of the bed, wide awake, because I am all of a sudden struck with this immense sadness that we have reached the halfway point of our trip and LL will leave in 8 days and I will be alone again, very soon. I haven’t felt this.. myself in many days. In more than a year, almost. The comfort of being with someone that knows you in so many different facets and understands and loves you for everything that you are — it’s home. I am so blessed to have had this time with her. I need to remember that blessing and not be concerned with anything thereafter. It’s really hard
I wish I could remember everything about this trip vividly enough to sustain me for these next six months. I want to remember this about right now: the sound of waves crashing on the shore just steps away from our door, the waiter with a British accent talking to the elderly patrons in the restaurant next door, the top 40 hits playing on the radio, the white noise of cicadas soon to turn into the morning call of the seaside roosters & one of my closest friends nestled in blankets and fast asleep right beside me.
We can see our breaths on the walk toward the Taj Mahal. Passing camel carts and monkeys and “rowdies” and kids selling Taj snow globes, I stuff my hands further into my pockets. The morning fog is thick; we can barely see twenty feet ahead of us, and already I know that the mausoleum will look like a ghost in the haze.
Last night we watched a documentary on Youtube that described the secrets of the Taj Mahal. The history is rich. It is said that the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan confined himself in a dark room for two years following the death of his favorite wife, his soul mate, the ravishing Muntaj Mahal. To prove his love and immortalize the memory of his wife, Shah Jahan called the world’s best archtiects, engineers and craftsmen to Agra to construct a masoleum matchless in size and grandeur.
As we enter the gates, I hug my purse to my chest for safety and warmth. As expected, when we peer through the door leading to the gardens, there is only a thick white fog. People disappear with their cameras. We walk closer until the long row of blue fountains becomes visible, and then we see it - the first wonder of the world.
Words fail. The building is gigantic, regal, unparalleled. Inside holds the tombs of Shah Jahan and Muntaj Mahal. I find myself thinking of love, death, and time. Has one person ever felt as much for another? Surely. Just maybe not someone with the power and resources as an emperor. I will tell S on the way out, our feet dodging piles of camel dung, that this must be the closest anyone has ever come to immortality, but I’m probably wrong. Four centuries is nothing in the wide span of human history. Four more centuries, and it’s doubtful the Taj will still stand.
But it stands today. Always my eyes looking upward. I ask if it’s possible to go up in the minerets, the four tall towers on each corner of the mausoleum originally used for call to prayer. Our guide tells us no one is allowed inside after a person committed suicide by flinging himself from the top of one twenty years back.
I imagine a man, dark hair and skin. I imagine a Muslim, someone who reveres the sacredness of this place. I imagine desperation, or peace, or both. I imagine someone conscious of the way their time spent on earth will fail to produce a love or a legacy as magnificent as this. I imagine the man stepping barefoot onto the edge, his toes curling against marble and precious stone, his eyes open as his body falls.
My imaginations are unfair. His is not my story. But the Taj makes you wonder, somehow, what your story is. It makes you question, like so much has during our travels so far, the nature of legacy. The endurance of love. How you find either, or how, maybe, they find you.
Later, we will leave Agra behind. We will ride on the back of a camel cart through the desert and laugh at the absurdity of it all, listening to the man cluck his tongue to make the camel move. We’ll sit on buckets in a dark market, our left arms outstretched, two young men painting the curling designs of ancient mahendi on our skin. We will bow down as an old man presses his finger to our foreheads, brandishing us with the bindi. We will stand among a field of yellow wildflowers and smile into the sunshine.
But now I am smoothing my fingers on marble, tracing them over calligraphy and jewels, hoping for a life defined by love.
Still too tired to write a proper entry so I will just share this fan fiction Lacy wrote about Shah Jahan —
Shah Jahan’s eyes are dark tonight. There is something in them that calls to the deep recesses, to the bottom of the sea, and I am afraid.
"Shah," I say, moving my hand to his arm. "Shah?"
In the candlelight, the jewels around his neck look like the sky’s brightest stars.
"My love," he says finally, moving his eyes to me slowly.
"You are troubled," I say.
"My baby is in you again," he says. He rounds his palm over my stomach. "Something stirs."
I say nothing. He is right, though I have not told him I carry our fourteenth child. Many things we do not have to say. We feel.
"The moon barely shines," he says. His fingers on my skin like silk.
"The moon will shine forever," I say.
Well we’ve had about two hours sleep in the past thirty six hours, oops. Life is an interesting mix of delirious and euphoric (c/o hot showers) in the Delhi hotel room this evening. Michael Jackson’s on Vh1. We have a space heater. It was foggy half the day, domes of the mosques disappearing into a hazy gray sky. I didn’t expect any of these things when I imagined India back home, but I’m finding India too grandiose to dream up. Today a man pedaled us through Chadini Chowk on a bicycle rickshaw. The roads are narrow as hallways but there is too much happening for the senses to absorb: the smells of the world’s oldest spices, men urinating on the side of the row, donkey dung, gasoline and fried food and rotten bananas. So many people packed into such a small area, so much poverty next to the vibrant roar of life. The only thing it reminds me of is Kampala, Uganda, but even there, the colors weren’t as bright.
Delhi is a holy city. We visited and saw many holy buildings today, places crafted with an eye for beauty and architecture, for the intricate and for strength: they all still stand, centuries later. And how did they know to dig the moat and filter the water through just so? And how did they know to build every mosque facing Mecca? Standing in front of the buildings, I feel my eyes drawn upward, and it cannot be coincidence. Holiness leads to wonder.
WILL WRITE LATER. SO TIRED. FLIGHT IN THE MORN.
Several firsts today: rickshaw ride, Indian haircut (not advisable), purchase of Indian kurtas (matching), Indian Italian food (tiramisu not advisable; bruschetta delicious), spotted a dahkma (Zorastrian mountain for exposure of the dead), hot water bath, L crying at every meal thanks to spicy foods and/or general hysteria.
We walked along the road after dark tonight trying to catch an auto (rickshaw). We were wearing wedges inappropriate for the terrain. Groups of men in trousers and button-downs stroll alongside the road and I say to S, it would be so easy for them to overpower us, and she says of course it wouldn’t.
Over pasta, we talk about the people in our lives we maybe should forget but can’t, and isn’t that always true? S gives me a limit on how many times we can say their names. We’re laughing too loudly and making a scene. Saying is different than thinking.
Last night, New Year’s Eve 2012, we stood on the rooftop of S’s grandparents’ home in Hyderabad and watched fireworks explode through a frame of palm trees. I wrapped my arms around S and smiled and laughed because we made it here, this far, through 2012 and through all the years, and it was touch and go at times. Earlier I’d sat on the bed next to S’s 91-year-old great grandfather and he took my hand firmly in his as S told him I was her oldest friend. The ceiling fan rotated above all of us, her great grandmother and grandmother looking on. I sometimes wonder what it feels like being in the presence of history - or maybe something grander, maybe legacy - and I think I felt it then. Or perhaps I felt it on the balcony of the shopping mall as we looked out over the city, its white high-rises piercing the smoggy air, a dirty flowing river. Then we saw it in the background: a dakhma, protruding from the earth. Dakhma, the Zorastrian raised cylindrical structure for exposure of the dead, the same one I wrote a poem about in the springtime:
We discover the dakhmas
by accident. You’re back in India
for med school, glove-deep in cadavers
when you hear of them. After class
we Google, as we often do, linking
ourselves together transcontinentally,
talking about how some things, more fragile
than bodies, persist.
Tomorrow we will visit the Faluknama Palace, legacy of royals. Tonight we will sleep side by side, fan circling over our heads, and I will dream of vultures.