- It paints a detailed picture, the reader can feel and experience the setting through the skillful use of the second person and personification - of the river on its journey from the Drakensberg to the sea; and so too the grass, it is active, alive, nurturing, it holds the mist and rains.
- The author’s use of poetic devices - Lovely beyond any singing of it, but then that’s what he proceeds to do exactly – gets as close to singing as anyone can in prose – extolling the primal nature of the land, something sacred, the experience of standing on it almost spiritual: stand unshod upon it. Note the repetition and the lyrical language. Scrumptious!
- Personally, I related on multiple levels - as an expat resident in Africa, where apartheid was a hot topic; as someone who came from a culture where mountains and rivers are revered as gods; and as a citizen of a country with a history of colonisation, segregation and inequality.
Now for another mountain range that blows my mind every time – the Himalayas. I am just back from a trip there, a place called Mussoorie in North India, a 'hill-station' built by the British to escape the harsh summers of the Indian plains. While I am no fan of what these sprawling towns have become now - with their galloping urbanisation and overcrowding and consumerism and tacky touristy shops and hotels, still no trip to India is complete for me without a view of the mountains, or some other rural heartland of India. Venture a few miles outside the main towns and it is quiet and secluded on the hill roads and utterly, utterly beautiful; birdsong and lush greenery and rushing, seasonal waterfalls and a stillness to die for. Couple photos from my travels there, this time and earlier.
|View from my room, Gangtok, Sikkim. Monsoons 2013.|
The car ground to a complete halt
behind a snaking line of vehicles. Laval looked up from fiddling with the
phone, these hilly places one never got any signal worth speaking
of. The driver tapped nonchalantly with his fingers on the steering,
in time to some tune that he hummed soundlessly. It was stuffy with the
ignition switched off, Laval wound the window down.
A fresh landslide had opened up a huge
gash of reddish mud on the mountainside. Small, ominous dribbles
of soil and gravel trickled down on the verge even as Laval peered out. Thick
greenery dipped drunkenly into the wound from its edges. A line of
labourers, mostly women, he noted in an irrelevant aside, ferried loads of
fallen soil on woven cane baskets, the bands balanced on their foreheads like bandanas. Their line moved across the road, along the queue of
cars for some time, and then down till the last figures became tiny dots of
bright colours. An ordinary lorry stood by to receive the debris, it too
made toy-size by the distance. It must be all these slopes, the gradient
does things to one’s perspective, distorts stuff into looking smaller than it
should, he thought.
“Why don’t they use proper equipment,
speed things up?” Laval muttered to himself, then raised his voice and asked.
“How long do you think?”
The cab-driver kept on with the percussion, he did not miss a beat as he said,
“Can’t say for sure, Sir. Rained real heavy this time. The
equipment makes it worse, too heavy for these roads. The women do a
steadier job, it takes longer but it’s safer.”
More delays. Laval put down his
phone - the signal remained stubbornly elusive - and opened a file on his
tablet. A stream of vendors of mineral water, diced coconut, chips, tea,
cola, and various street foods filed slowly past his window. A pineapple
seller came and perched a bamboo tray on a stand, took out a sharp knife and
peeled two of the fruits, then diced them into a pyramid shaped, serrated
"Do you want me badly then? to
skin you and chop up some? this golden-sweet pineapple?" he called to the
waiting line of cars.
The driver halloed to a boy selling tea
and asked for some served in small terracotta khullars, urging one
onto Laval. Laval frowned and refused. He turned back to his files,
sorting out his presentation, flicking over facts and figures, looking up
impatiently at intervals. A young labourer was approaching his window,
holding a basket heavy with moisture-laden soil atop her head. Her blouse
hitched up with every movement, her bare midriff showed a flash of deep navel,
her skin where it curved into her waist was as rich in colour as the mud she
carried. She caught him eyeing her appreciatively and smiled a knowing
smile, frank and delighted at an urban man’s attention.
“How much more time?” Laval asked,
reluctant to be thought just gawking.
“Who can tell, mister?” she shrugged
with her eyebrows and walked on fluidly, her shoulder blades and hips swinging
under her bright orange, mud-spattered clothes.
Laval switched off his device and
called to the pineapple-seller across the space of the opposite lane, “Dice me
some fresh pieces.”
The man cleaved the top of a fruit with
an air of an animal sacrifice being made; then swiftly peeled and chopped it up
bite-sized into a Styrofoam dish. Laval pierced a chunk with a toothpick
and put it in his mouth. As he chewed, he could still see the girl’s
jaunty skirts swaying down the road, getting tinier and tinier.
a terracotta drinking cup without a handle
WC: ~600 (flash only) ~1200 (excerpt+flash)
All feedback welcome!
This is a scheduled post, as I am travelling back
from India this week, so I might be a bit late in coming round to read...but
I'll get there. Thanks all WEP-ers!
The cab-driver kept on with the percussion, he did not miss a beat as he said, “Can’t say for sure, Sir. Rained real heavy this time. The equipment makes it worse, too heavy for these roads. The women do a steadier job, it takes longer but it’s safer.”