Snapshots In My Mind's Eye
“For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils”
How brilliantly evocative. I don’t think anyone could have put it better than William Wordsworth. Perhaps it was this poem in my subconscious that did it. There are these snapshots through the years of travel that come into my mind’s eye, unbidden and silent, whenever I need the “bliss of solitude”. I am happy to share them with you.
Lightning and a Cloud
I am driving by myself in my old Ambassador car. The journey from Nagpur to Jabalpur has taken over four hours and I can see the lights of the town twinkling in the dusk. Jabalpur is a town near the geographical heart of India, famous mainly for the Marble Rocks on its outskirts. I stop the car and as is my wont, gaze skywards. Beautiful and clear late evening. A few stars are out but it isn't dark enough to make out the constellations just yet. I see a lone cloud. Fluffy and white. Suddenly there is a flash of lightning within the cloud. Followed by another. And another. I am filled with wonderment. There isn't another cloud to be seen. Just this single one. Surrounded by a darkening sky. One cloud with an ongoing, silent fireworks display. Was I ever so happy I stopped. Never seen one since. Doubt that I ever will. Never will forget it either.
Tribal Women Bathing in a Hot Spring
Driving one morning on a family picnic. The Nayar family and the Singh family. Maybe 50 km out of Jabalpur. I see a small, nondescript sign saying “Hot Springs”. Hot Springs here? Unheard of. Slam go the brakes. Forcing Sudhir’s driver Raghu to go down hard on his brakes too. The families wait while Raghu and I kind of speed walk down the dirt track to investigate. Some 50 metres below, I see a smallish, natural pool. On closer examination, two young women are discernible. Not wearing anything visible to the naked eye. Both of us race back to the cars to collect towels. Before anyone can realize, we are down to our underwear and in the little pool. With two pretty, young tribal women, giggling at this intrusion into their beautiful, natural, unspoilt world. That’s where the memory is and that’s where it stays.
Woman on the Road from Bailadilla
Ketan and I are returning in his jeep after a business visit to the iron ore rich country of Bailadilla. The scenery in the Bastar District is absolutely stunning. Huge Sal forests in different shades of green, fresh clean air, an open road and the occasional group of women going about their daily chores, topless in their wraparounds. This is as natural and beautiful a countryside as you will find anywhere in India. A stream runs alongside the road. Suddenly I see a beautiful young woman. She is naked and her youthful beauty is quite unbelievable. She is just getting out of the water and gazes soulfully at me, I think, as we go past. If I wasn't already married, I would have perhaps, just kissed my existing world goodbye for that lovely apparition.
Early morning near Malanjkhand
Leaving Malanjkhand early, the countryside is incredibly fresh and green. It has rained a little while ago and there is a rainbow across virtually the entire sky. With a fainter double. The road is deserted and some tillers of the land wave as I drive past. I wave back unable to decide who is the luckier – they or me?
Women in the Sea at Goa
It is uncommon to see topless women in India. Even if it is Goa and the women are foreigners. The monsoon is already on us so the women cannot go too far out to sea. I am pushing a motorcycle through the sandy beach after the engine stalled. Dark, threatening clouds are gathering over the ocean. My eyes are drawn suddenly to two foreign women, splashing around in the water near the shore. Close enough to make out their bikini tops are far away from their precious cargo. I take a break and drink in the unexpected reward, my heart thumping more from the sight than from pushing the motorcycle.