The Lofty look…The Great Wall of China[/caption]
APRIL: My daily cups of black coffee (11 am) keep me fresh and clued to world happenings. I flip through my albums and travel blogs re-imagining places visited from different angles and perspectives. My initial presentations loitered on streets, markets, tourist landmarks, cities and it was with time I appreciated that travel writing is not brochure writing but snuggling presentations in warm glow of experiences and sensitivities. That inanimate bricks and mortar have a history of travails and smiles; the stream is more than spontaneous gurgling waters but an elixir for tired souls; A monument is an edifice of hate, romance, corruption, power….straddling the area with invisibility. I look at The ‘Great Wall of China’ (photograph from my 2009 visit to Beijing) and envision a ‘snake’ hissing away at its enemies or on a prosaic level, a resilient thread to weave China’s greatness as a centering power. Another recurring WALL image is of US President Barak Obama posing alone on its ramparts lending credence to the premise that social or physical importance is minuscule in front of historical impositions. China’s thumb stomping has continued over centuries and no matter how much we hate or love it, we cannot ignore the country. In the present, Covid 19 has seen to it.
Back to present….April was Covid oriented with increasing fatalities and discomfiture. Pune is designated Red Zone, we are living in a safe area, and basic amenities are allowed by Societies. My walks, within the compound, are confined to early morning sunrise time in sync with fewer footsteps. I am still avoiding the evening ‘laughter and chatter’ of other residents taking their evening strolls. Few follow the ‘distance’ mantra while others forget in heat of socializing. How time flies or is it ‘how we fly’ flitting from thought to thought, action to action…seldom stopping to reflect, to suss out till forced to pause. Covid -19 is the pause button majority of us needed to halt in our tracks. Now, we are procrastinating, blaming the virus for Time wasted when we could have achieved so much. The intuitive and the motivated, amongst us, are making use of this ‘wasted time’ to twirl ideas non-stop, throwing suggestions, verbal and media, on how to utilise talent and knowledge. We are born again painters, cooks, writers, gardeners, potters, needlewomen, story tellers…the list is endless. I have scrolled through dozens of cooking sites in the past 45 days…. to drool at culinary delights. Tried few recipes but cooking is not my forte.
Travel plans on hold I turn to books and magazines online. I am not enthusiastic about digital books but with no choice, because of Lockdown, I turn to Kindle and download Isabel Allende’s A Long Petal of the Sea. An appropriate choice given that it is my first Allende book and also my first literary exposure to a South American country. A Chilean family saga, the book chronicles lives shaped by the devastating heart wrenching effects of the Spanish Civil War, displacement of Spaniards and their journey to France, the travails of French concentration camps, the ultimate escape to Chile on ships and adapting to the cultural, social and political climate of the host country. I am familiar with the Spanish Civil War (Ernest Hemingway) and Allende’s narrative linking two zones adds to the interest.
Isabel Allende has woven character storyline with historical facts of 1930s Spain in the grip of a Civil War (1936 – 1939) and moving on to Chile and its political brouhaha. The use of Pablo Neruda’s definition of Chile, A LONG PETAL OF THE SEA as the title of the novel and reference to his help in getting the family to Chile on cargo ship Winnipeg, of persuading Chile’s President to give asylum to Spanish refugees and further using his verses as title and chapter epigrams helps add lyrical authencity to the novel. It is a story about one Victor Dalmau, a Spanish doctor, who is forced to flee Spain with his pregnant sister-in-law, a pianist named Roser. Their long journey involves internment in French concentration camps, of survival against odds and finally sailing to freedom to an unknown land. Victor Dalmau looks back over his 80 years… “My life has been a series of journeys. I’ve travelled from one side of the world to the other. I’ve been a foreigner without realising I had deep roots”.
The story resonates with the ongoing immigration crisis of re-location, adjustments and where is home amidst the meglomanic political struggles.
May Covid Cover: It is first week of May and Covid 19 is in full stride. Pune is still in Red Zone though in certain areas restrictions were lifted on May 3. As it happens once you open the gates there is a flood. People just moved out, to work or purchase, unmindful of social distancing especially at liquor stores.
Another Lockdown First was getting a hair trim from husband. It is not salon-perfect but surprise-perfect.
It is mid May and still a long way to go. The next book I plan to read is An Yu’s debut novel Braised Pork, a surreal tale of contemporary China. Going by reviews the novel sounds promising.
A big If…I will wait for Amazon to begin delivery of non-essentials in India. I prefer to shuffle paper than my tablet screen.
Meanwhile the pandemic graph is rising with more than 75,000 active cases and over 2000 deaths. We hope and pray that we stay sensible in these traumatic times. The Government of India has announced extension of Lockdown-4 but with lesser restrictions. The onus is on us to be healthy and safe