Tuesday, June 24, 2008

River Of Fire by Qurratulain Hyder

Time flows with the words,sentences and sometimes between the lines too, in this epoch novel. If you could see the passage of time in a dry leaf floating away in a stream, then there are many streams and many leaves representing lives in this book. It transcends time and makes you think how insignificant we are (when placed in that big picture) and especially of what we think are the significant actions.

The book spans across 25 centuries and the interlacing of the stories is done very well.Though the partition of the Indian subcontinent is the backdrop for the last quarter of the book, it never details the blood-bathed incidents. Instead the essence is translated into the lives of protagonists which gently stirs you and moves you.In a dynamic setting, such as this , death loses it's meaning and is often substituted by a more telling story.

Monday, June 9, 2008

In the clouds

The last weekend was fun. We went for a small but beautiful trek at the Sinhgad fort, roughly thirty kilometers away from Pune. We got up around 6 in the morning and equipped ourselves for the trek. (with snacks, water and fuel in the bike). Then we went to a friends place to start as a group from there. Like always, few of them were in deep sleep when we broke their doors open. Each fellow then got up and lazily finished the morning chores rather quickly I should say. I was half expecting that the trek would be canceled as the clouds had invaded the sky and there was slight drizzle. But we started anyway. The ride was lot of fun and more so because I was a pillion rider who was shielded from the drizzle and the cutting wind on the NH4 highway. We fumbled a bit with the route in a couple of places but finally managed to get on to the right road and met with the earlier group. As we took the road off the high way in the direction of the hills the air was totally dank and we could see the fresh green leaves sprouting from the branches which must have dry till the arrival of monsoon. We walked a bit and then we were on the up slope towards the fort.

The fort itself was not visible from the foot of the hill. It was blanketed by a thick cloud. We started on a stony path whose gaps were filled with water marks. Little trickle of water started flowing along them. In the drizzle we went for a little while and the rain started to increase its pace forcing us to put on rain coats and walk. An experienced trekker among us kept us in the right spirit, by telling us each time what beauty lay ahead. So we were constantly on the move. There were few points on the path where I kept thinking, how we would climb down on such slippery mounds. The rain made it even more slippery. The best thing about trekking in a fairly large crowd is the group mentality. The lack in the individual confidence is often compensated by the group’s confidence as a whole. So we made our way ahead and reached a thatched roof where lemonade was sold. We realized we needed some instant glucose and ate some of the snacks we got from home. There was more than half way to go and the path got steeper, bit by bit.

The rocks became sparse now but still were enough to serve as foot holds when required. I climbed placing my foot carefully against the rocks and climbed slowly. We reached more than half way now and we could here distant howls and screams of another trek party which had supposedly reached the fort on the top of the hill. We shouted, whistled, did some pre-nomadic communication and got along with our ascent. We reached a place from where we could see the clouded fort from near. The path got steeper and again we took rest for some time. The rain had stopped now and we were feeling stuffy in our jackets and raincoats. So we removed them and felt the cool breeze which occasionally wafted across the hills.

Finally we reached the steps of the fort and were completely tired. We ate and drank whatever we could spot-mangoes, boiled pea nut, cucumber, hill fruits and provided some good business for the stalls that waited just for us. Then we started the slow tour of the 16th century fort (or rather what was remaining of the fort) . It was indeed a spectacular view from the top and we were in clouds now. The clouds came in batches and screened our view of the valley and we waited patiently till they skirted away and had the view again. We went to a wind point where the chill wind was cutting through the cloud to reach us.

Few of us chatted away the time. Few contemplated and few just kept framing the view in their memory. After a while no one talked. We were absorbing the images, the nature, everything there.