17 July 2008

notes ii

Some of the older buildings... walking inside seems like walking into an old photograph. The heat, the damp, saps the colour here. Outside is where it shines bright. But I guess its fleeting. The sun fades it quickly. The colour is incredible,; the light is hazy though, lazy.

Two nights in one place for the first time since I slept on my friend's couch in St Andrews. It feels odd, but nice.

I just wish the beer in hotels wasn't so fucking expensive.

I just wish they had a bar in Gwalior.

Never have I seen so much marble.

Khajuraho's temples look as though they've erupted from the earth. There's something organic about them, though they're obviously man-made. It's some manner of architectural optical illusion. Apparently, when they were built, the 85 temples were set in 60-odd man-made lakes, and travel between them was by skiff. Seeing them I couldn't have imagined how they could be more striking.

Then, imagining them set on mirrored water, under a clear sky...

travel notes

The fort in Gwalior is over 3km long and sits atop a plateau, its read stone wall rising from the cliffs, extending them. It's had 300 different rulers since its founding in the sixth century, only 187 of them native. It stands sentinel over the city, though the fort used to hold the city within it. Now it houses a school, a small settlement, two ruinous palaces and the remains of the British garrison. There's a Sikh temple. There are Hindu temples the Mughals defaced in the wake of their conquest. The cliffs that protect it have carved in them over 1500 images of (the?) Jain. They look kind of like the Buddha but with a diamond in the centre of their chest. They too were defaced, though several have been restored.

It looks impregnable, though history's proved otherwise - over and over again.

The late Maharajah of Gwalior was a big train buff. His palace boasts the largest chandelier set in the world.

The main dining table in the banquet hall has a miniature train track, on which travels a solid silver train carrying decanters of wine, spirits, and ice buckets. Lifting one of these from the back of it stops the train, allowing guests to serve themselves.

There were five stuffed tigers on display. Trophies from a bygone time. They upset me a bit.

This city saw action during the mutiny; brutality and war plagued it for more than a thousand years.

And I get upset at five stuffed tigers.

16 July 2008


My software can't deal with the colour. I import my photos and the computer thinks the camera's made a mistake. It evens the levels automatically. Tones everything down. Dulls it.

The rich, burnt ochre of the river beds, the luminous green from the jungle that grows everywhere in the monsoon. The blinding beauty of even the most simple sari. Sandstone temples, a thousand years old yet rich with saffron, red and sometimes stained; dank, dark green of damp.

All muted. Toned down.

Before I figure out the technical aspects of fixing this without having to edit every single picture, I'll ponder the subjective, literary points. Throw metaphors with abandon, read meaning where I make it, that sort of thing.

15 July 2008

light shows

Flying over the Czech Republic the clouds beneath lit up. Lightning storms far below - occasionally a rumble rose above the roar of the engine. Mostly though, it was just a light show.

I walked among still-burning funeral pyres today. The heat was unbearable but the smell bore no hint of the fire's duty. It was aromatic and heady, hiding the reek of the waste strewn throughout the back streets of Varanasi. I felt honoured and intrusive. Though there was nothing left of those I intruded on.

I tipped the pyre-tender - the price of honour and intrusion. Somewhat shell-shocked by all the life around me in this place, the spot of death shook me hard. I walked away quickly and felt tired. It wasn't yet seven in the morning, and there was much more to do in the day.

14 July 2008


I've just been to the spot where the Buddha first preached after reaching Nirvana.

I'm not a Buddhist. I don't really think you need to be. Those rare intersections exist, where myth, legend and history all meet. Intertwine. It's all blurred; the archaeology, the philosophy, the practice. I didn't come here to find.

Just to see.

I have two minutes left online, and nothing clever to say.

13 July 2008

In India... which is rather splendid. I will write a more substantial amount soon, I assure you.