The winds abate and the clouds rise and a gentle flurry of snow drifts with a lazy abandon, often not bothered with gravity's grip. The sea laps instead of rages. The air has that crisp taste to it that comes with stillness. It pinches the inside of your nostrils, but doesn't hurt. The snowflakes move so slowly you can follow one for a good few seconds. I watch from the window, looking up from my notebook and scrawling script.
I've been thinking about India quite a bit of late.
It was a bit more than six months ago now, though it seems closer. Sometimes much closer. That's not a bad thing, really. I'm still writing it up. I don't know why it's taken so long. It's a peculiar project, writing about India. I can't make that move from pen and paper to the laptop. I'm still scribbling in the Moleskin I bought for the trip - a last minute purchase in Terminal 3 at Heathrow (along with some plug adapters and a couple of pens). I've lost the pens. The plug adapters turned out to be the wrong ones (India has two different plug standards - sometimes more) - I only bought them because I worried adapters I bought earlier might be wrong. Both claimed to be standard in 'Parts of India' and both failed to stipulate which parts.
Anyway, I'm still writing about India. I took notes while I was there, but never really got round to updating the journal during the trip. The notes I tapped into my (then) new iPhone or wrote in block caps on journal pages, marked by asterisks to separate them from my attempt at travel narrative. I have trouble with tense on travel narrative - I slip from past to present often, losing track and often shrugging my shoulders and scribbling onwards. Pen and ink make regret pointless; going back is not an option. It's something I can fix when I type it up, I tell myself.
And I tell myself to keep writing, keep remembering. That's why I cannot abandon my India notebook for the clatter of the keyboard. Something about the pen on paper, something about that curious scratching, keeps my memory sharp, keeps the detail from being lost. The banks of the Gomti in Lucknow, the stench of the Ganges, my constant sense of thrilled unease and total displacement all return as the pen pours.
My tense slips into the past. I'm wary of some of my memories, wondering idly if my mind's eye created a touch of filler for the gaps, writing only the details I'm sure of, leaving the odd question mark. Self-doubt in recollection isn't so uncommon - it gets worse as time goes on, as those brilliant days in July fall further back. Insight's worrisome. Often it's hindsight, something garnered on further reflection as the tense continues to slip. Most of my epiphanies on the trip were simple and probably came to many a traveller before me, if not all of them.
So I keep scribbling. I'm in Lucknow at the moment, touring a school along the banks of the river Gomti. The building amazes me. It seems of no continent: simply a testament to grandeur. It was to be a residence, apparently, but the owner died before completion and willed it to be turned into a school. Bamboo scaffolding adorns one of the wings in some attempt at restoration. There's a permeating damp from the river and the threatening, omnipresent monsoon. The morning began in Delhi and now I'm at the La Martiniere. After that we'll head to the famous Residency, landmark to the Mutiny of 1857. The tour guide drones on and does his best to bore the shit out of me. It's only the second day of the trip and there's so much to do.
I breathe deep and look up from the notebook.
I'm sitting at my table in the flat. It's darker out, but the odd flake drifts by, catching the light. It swirls and twirls and bounces about before disappearing on its course. The flat's empty and my tea's cold. It's not masala chai. I lose India and for a moment all the things of now come back to me and my breath shortens.
Another cup of tea and a glance down at the blue ink scrawled between the thin brown lines. I reread my last page or two.
I've lost track of tense again.