Rain

Rain brings with her a mixture of emotions. My moods often vary as hers does.

A summer drizzle that tickles my nostrils with the scent of the parched earth soaking in rain drops fills me with joy. Summer is the season of mangoes and jackfruits and pomelos. The scattered showers accentuate the sweet scents of their blossoms. When I was a child, I watched many a summer shower from the shelter of the dense foliage of a tall pomelo tree.

In autumn, rain is a confusing concept, she makes me feel both hopeful and a little sad at the same time; sad that the summer has passed, and hopeful for the upcoming winter. Where I grew up, October showers are a spectacular occurrence. Rain falls in sheets, with the percussive accompaniment of thunder and a riveting lightning show. The purple sky splitting into shards of light is a sight one needs to see to believe. The thunder that rumbles in the mountains reverberates within you, deep within your soul.

In winter, rain  is a surprise,not always a pleasant one. She brings with her, a coat of fog that hides everything away. She darkens the sky and depresses me. Often the mood (mine and hers) lasts all day, and sometimes for several days, the whining wind, the cold drizzle, the mist … When it finally clears, the mornings dawn crisp and fresh and … heavenly.

Spring rain is a flighty creature. She arrives and departs in the blink of an eye, leaving the day light and airy. The only sign of her ever having been there, the tiny drops that glitter on the dancing petals. She is my favourite of them all, the enchantress who envelopes me in her hasty embrace before vanishing into the thin air …

The white room

It was one of those rare instances where reality matched up exactly with the imagination. This was exactly what Jonas had imagined a completely white room to look like. It was devoid of all furniture but for a table with two chairs (big surprise, they were also white!) facing each other at the exact centre of the room. Jonas couldn’t remember how he got here. He didn’t even know where here was or why he was here. He looked around again to see of he had missed anything. He felt a little unsettled, but he didn’t feel like he was in any immediate danger. There was nothing to do but wait, he thought to himself, as he walked over to the table and sat down on one of the chairs. For what ? A slightly squeaky voice at the very back of his mind asked. He didn’t have an answer to that.

Jonas had heard the expression about the silence being deafening, but he had never actually thought about it, nor had he ever understood it. But he was starting to now. The only sounds he could hear were his own periodic breaths and heartbeats. He strained his ears, listening for any other sounds, there were none. He sat back in the chair and decided to think this out rationally. He didn’t have any trouble breathing, so that’s good. But he didn’t know where he was, how he got here or why he was here – bad, bad, bad. Also, he was getting a little thirsty. He was looking around aimlessly as he thought this, and spotted a drinking fountain (also white, with white pipe fittings?) in one corner. His brow furrowed, it surely hadn’t been there when he looked around earlier. He walked tentatively towards it and held out his hand under it. He removed it hurriedly as a clear, odourless liquid streamed through it and fell into the basin underneath. It looked like water all right, he thought. He wet one of his fingers under the tap and tasted it. It tasted like water as well. He had never quite liked the idea of sticking his head under the tap at drinking fountains. Just as he thought he’d have to bow to the inevitable and drink directly from the tap, he spotted a glass right next to where he had rested his left hand at the basin. He could’ve sworn it wasn’t there a moment ago. He picked it up and examined it. It looked normal, and he was too thirsty for a closer inspection.

He drank a glass of water from the fountain, filled the glass again and brought it with him to the table. He sat back in the chair, and yet again, took stock of the situation. Well, it hadn’t really changed in the last hour, and there wasn’t anything he still could do. So he just sat there, listening, waiting, watching for any change in his surroundings.

Memories

The chamber had been her father’s study of old. It had a general air of neglect, cobwebs littered the tables and chairs, and the gentle pitter-patter of scurrying mice echoed in the silent corridor. Hers had been the first human feet to enter it in the last twenty years or so. Every one else who had known of its existence had perished long ago. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, not quite knowing how to feel about being back here. Her memories of her father were interlaced with a confused mixture of emotions. The man who played with her and the man who sang her to sleep was also the man who had abandoned her mother and herself. He was the man who caused the deaths of countless people, her mother and brother among them. He was the man who came to her in strange dreams and begged for her forgiveness while professing his unconditional love for her. She no longer knew how she felt about him.

On the shelf in one corner of the room stood the harp he used to play to her, the silver harp of the Silver Harper. It was a wonder it hadn’t fallen to pieces in all this time. She hesitantly plucked a string. Its plangent note almost startled her. She hadn’t expected it to still be in tune. She gently picked it up and held it to her breast. It was the first time she had ever held it. She had been too young and too small to do so without dropping it the last time she was here. She walked back to the door, still hugging the harp close to her heart. As the door shut close behind her, disappearing once more into obscurity, it symbolised more than anything, her feelings for her father. Perhaps unconsciously, she had decided to keep the good memories and discard the bad ones. She might never actually forgive him for the transgressions that had hurt her mother and given her severe abandonment issues, but she may have made peace with the fact that he did, in fact, love her.

  • I’ve been binge (re)reading and binge (re)watching Game of Thrones for the past week, so maybe this counts as some sort of obscure fan fiction. Any guesses as to which character I’m talking about ? Hint: She’s already dead in canon.

Presence

When the musty smells of Winter move over for the freshness of early Spring, I always think of you. When the dewy snow drops melt into nothingness, and trees stand proud wearing their crowns of new leaves and tiny yellow flowers, I feel your presence. I don’t know why this particular change of seasons reminds me of you, there are others during the year that do not. When I walk the empty roads, thinking about anything and everything in the light, refreshing rain, I often feel like you are watching me. Are you really, or is it just an echo of a wishful thought? As every new spring day dawns, I tell myself that I’m being silly, conjuring up these thoughts and moments and feelings, while I should be living out in the world rather than inside my head. And yet, and yet, I just can’t help thinking them and feeling you, all day, all around.

The simple life

The sunset sky as seen from one side of our paddy fields. 

As a habitual city dweller, I have never ever been a good village guest. This point was brought home with a bang when my parents bought some farm land and built a house of sorts some three hundred kilometres from my hometown. It is a village in the most basic sense of the word. The nearest town is some ten kilometres away,the nearest city about fifty. Houses are few and far between, mobile network is patchy at best, the mountains are close enough to touch, surrounded by a forest teeming with wild boar, deer, peacocks and an occasional elephant. The only saving graces are uninterrupted electricity and running water. This is where I agreed to spend a couple of days of my vacation with my parents.

I’ve only been here a couple of times before. Then it was just a couple of paddy fields and the erstwhile overgrown plot where the house stands now. I’ve seen a lot of pictures from when everyone else in my family visited here and I’ve heard stories of the neighbour’s dog who steals footwear. But it is my first time seeing it all by myself. 

View of the mountains from our front yard, the paddy plants are bent slightly in the wind.

The place is quite beautiful, something even the uppity urbanite in me cannot deny. It is very green and bright, smells and looks fresh even in the scorching all day long sunshine. There are trees and plants of all varieties around, with the Nelliyampathy mountains lending some relief to the otherwise flat countryside. The dragonflies and drongos and mynahs and colourful parrots make up the less exotic wildlife around. Today I even saw a peacock accompanied by three peahens out on a leisurely afternoon stroll around the paddy fields. 

The house itself is rather small and quaint, with only a couple of rooms, a kitchen and two bathrooms, suited more as an occasional getaway rather than as a long term habitat. It is pleasantly cool, owing to the tiles and wooden thatch. There is a breeze almost all day long, perhaps due to the proximity to the mountains. I quite enjoy the noises of the night around, the crickets and frogs and I don’t know what else. At some point I heard very loud howling from the other side of the paddy fields. Apparently that’s how they scare away the wild boars from getting into the crops. The same noises of the night unnerve me a little later at night. There are no lights anywhere around, save from my room. It is like I am the last person on Earth !

It is true that I have been somewhat charmed by the rustic village air and the unpretentious people around me, but it is very unlikely that I will ever live in one for a long period of time (although I do rather like the idea of living like a hermit in a place such as this, whiling my days away, writing and doing yoga). But I do understand the appeal of living in a place like this. I understanding the overwhelming sense of being at peace with your surroundings, the overall sense of well being that comes from being so close to nature.  Perhaps there is something of that early forefather in all of us, the one who exults at the sight of a sky full of stars, who gets excited at the prospect of clean air, who sheds an involuntary tear at the thought of food that hasn’t been sprayed with every toxic substance known to man … 

Evening thoughts

I would sometimes sit out in the benches in my balcony with a cup of tea in summer. It is a very peaceful place most of the time, though too cold to be in winter. Beyond the garden I can see the mountains of the North chain in the Austrian Alps. I don’t generally watch sunrises, they insist on coming too early in the day. But the sunsets, absolutely marvellous. My favourites are the late summer sunsets.

My balcony faces west, so I don’t actually see the sun, but I can see the light pass over the mountains, range by range. On clear days, the contrast the light makes with the blue sky is beautiful, not to forget the white clouds reflecting the golden light. Right before the sun goes down, it’s like they cluster around for that last bout of warmth before the chilly night. The golden light becomes amplified in their white nebulous bodies. I have seldom seen a more beautiful sight.

From my seat, I can vaguely see the spires of the church nearby. I have to strain my neck a little bit to see it, there is a rather large pine tree and a few buildings in between. I mostly just hear the church clock, striking the hour. The church stands at one end of the park that I go for my walks to. The park itself is notorious as the main drug park of this little city, but I largely ignore its reputation in summer and spring. It is only in fall and winter when it becomes dark earlier that I adjust my schedule so that I’m not inside the park too late. Perhaps it is the most basic of all human conditions that prompts such an action, fear of the dark.

This morning, the mountains were covered in a thick film of mist. It almost seemed as if it had snowed up there already. I don’t see it anymore. Even if it had, the relatively warm day has melted it away. Their heads are bare and Grey now, as it usually is, except in winter. To be surrounded by mountains is a strange feeling, especially if you are not used to it. There are lots of hills and mountains where I grew up, but my hometown is primarily characterised by its coast and proximity to the sea. You have to travel outside the city in order to wander in the mountains. In the places I’ve lived since, mountains were always something you travelled to see. Nowhere else, but in Innsbruck, were they a constant presence. Here they are close enough to see all the time, to touch, to climb. They are real in the realest possible way.

I’m leaving Innsbruck in three weeks, for the forseeable future, perhaps forever. I’m taking a long holiday at home, and then me and my panoply of random things are moving to France, to the landlocked city of Clermont-Ferrand. I didn’t have an easy relationship with Innsbruck. After almost five years, I suppose a few squabbles are the norm. But I do believe that I will miss it terribly. I will miss the mountains that I never embraced, the office room in which I never felt at home, the people whom I will forget and the home that was never mine. I will miss them all.

P.S – I’ve written about missing Innsbruck once before, but the melancholy of this golden sunset prompted another of those.

I (maybe) <3 Innsbruck

inn
My favourite picture of Innsbruck that I ever took. The river is Inn, the mountain peaks are part of the Nordkette (northern chain) mountain ranges of the Austrian Alps and the structure seen far away is the city station of the funicular railway that ascends the mountain.

I still remember with perfect clarity what my first impressions of Innsbruck were. It was six years ago, and I was moving yet again, to a different country, to a different city. It was a long flight from my coastal Kochi to mountainous Innsbruck. I had stopovers at Doha and then Vienna. The flight from Vienna to Innsbruck was unforgettable. A tiny Austrian airlines plane manoeuvring above ranges upon ranges of Austrian Alps which were already wearing sparse snowy crowns in September, and finally setting down inside a mountain ring that hosted a small city and a smaller airport. That was a truly magnificent spectacle.

panorama
An Innsbruck panorama from atop the Hafelekar peak of the Nordkette mountain range.

Another distinct memory is of my first snow here. For a person from a coastal city in a tropical country, snow isn’t exactly commonplace. My first encounter with it had been in London three years before. But London snows are, well, weird. It only snows for about ten days from Christmas to the new year. In most of the city area, it doesn’t settle at all, the foot traffic just crushes it into disgusting sludge. So it was quite an experience to see settled snow, literally overnight (I kid you not, it was cold when I went to sleep, and when I woke up, all was white !), its carpet stretching as far as the eye can see, and as high as you can look. The mountains around Innsbruck in snow is a sight worth seeing.

colouses
The colourful houses of Innsbruck by the river Inn near Marktplatz. This is one of those images that most people (especially tourists) associate with Innsbruck.

I left Innsbruck after six months, lived in Italy and then in Serbia, for six months each. When I came back here in February 2014, nothing much had changed. Yes, 2014 was a strange year, weatherwise. It was already quite warm in February. There wasn’t much snow that Winter. But Innsbruck remained as I remembered her.

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The river Sill near which I live.

I have a difficult relationship with Innsbruck. I love looking at the mountains, I admit I’m not much of a hiker or a skier. But I hate that it is so land locked. My only consolations were the rivers Inn (after which Innsbruck is named, Inn-brücke means bridge upon the Inn, which became Innsbruck) and Sill (near which I live). I love watching water flow, there is something so calming about it. I love the fierce beauty of the swollen Inn when she carries the snowmelt from the mountains. I love the placid currents of the Sill as she gurgles along. And I love my flat, which is pretty great, not to mention the great location, which is in the heart of the city, but removed from all the hubbub (such as it is) . It is almost my perfect space. And I absolutely adore my backyard, especially when it snows. But I hate that Innsbruck is such a tiny town (I don’t consider it a city, not really, it is minuscule, with a population of a little over 100,000 people) and is pretty much dead after 7 p.m. It experiences a brief awakening over the weekend, but even that is nothing to write home about.

backyard
My ‘winter wonderland’ of a backyard 🙂

So like I said, I have a difficult relationship with Innsbruck.  But, now that it is almost time to leave it, I’m feeling a little sad. It may be my Stockholm syndrome talking, but she and I did have some good times together. I did meet some great people, do some interesting things, and got on a little further on my quest to come into my own. Those are things that will stay with me, if not forever, still for a long time. Innsbruck was after all, my home for almost five years. I do believe that once I have moved, I will miss this itty bitty city. Therefore, I will not say Goodbye, Innsbruck, I will simply say, Auf Wiedersehen !

 

 

She spent every summer vacation at her great aunt’s place in the countryside, a respite from the city and it’s pervasive loneliness. There, among the mango trees and the paddy fields, she felt truly alive. There were other children to play with, and oodles of open ground just to laze around in. The sky was blue all day everyday, the sun bright and the landscape inviting.

That was the first time ever they had done anything wayward, so to speak. It wasn’t exactly a risky endeavour, since they weren’t even leaving the property. But it felt exhilarating just the same, the thrill of doing something forbidden no matter how tame it was. They stole away at night after the grown ups were asleep, and walked to the stream past the fields. The night was a little chilly, though not unusually so. The strips dividing the fields were so narrow that they had to walk in a single file, like ants treading a line, while the moonlight streamed over them in a silvery cascade. They walked by the palm trees, past  the small fishing pond in the centre and beyond the line of trees at the edge whose names she did not know.

Someone had swiped a bottle of whiskey from her uncle’s bar. They passed it around, each taking a swallow, shuddering and handing off the offending item to the next person. She gently lowered herself on to the grass and stared at the pinpricks in the inky sky. She could feel the alcohol traversing her body, all the way to her bones.  Someone had started singing, in a voice that should never be raised in song. The stream flowed on and on, its melody uninterrupted and serene.

Pointlessness and all his friends – part 2

Sometimes it feels like the human body is such an Inefficient design. It smarts at every outrage, it repairs itself at very slow rates, doesn’t regenerate organs (don’t throw liver at my face, it is only one organ, we have 50 others which can’t replicate to save their skins, pun intended) and lives only a fixed number of years. Perhaps an earthworm is a superior species.

The reason for this pointless meander about the human body is an article titled MPG of a human on a website called Do the Math  I randomly came across today. It is an older article, published in 2011 by a bloke called Tom Murphy who also maintains the website (I think). It compares the human body to automobiles based on calories consumed. The conclusion is that our bodies are at about 25% efficiency in converting the food that we consume into energy and that they are more efficient than most cars and an Iowa cornfield (?). While not suggesting that we replace walking/biking for cars, the article concludes with a proposal to choose more energy efficient cultivation and eating methods. I may have missed the whole point of the article.

P.S : I’m completely stalled at writing my thesis and am therefore ranting pointlessly while overdosing on Korean dramas, period ones in particular. Reminds me a little of the Mandarin ones I used to watch on TCS 8 while growing up.