Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Traveling Thoughts 4

Continued from Traveling Thoughts 3

Jheechin was in no mood of letting me go easily. Most nights these bars dont get more than one customer so they had to make the most of whatever whoever whichever opportunity comes. By now I was also in the mood of making the most of this visit (which was not planned if you remember). And this is where one gets stuck in his narrative. Should one write about what happened the way it happened or should one use some tricky words to make it sound great when in fact it wasn’t. In few words this is what happened. During the final play of the game I did end up in that corner with the sofa and curtains. I did buy jheechin the remaining two drinks. And there were indeed moments which I am at loss to describe. However after what seemed liked a really long time I was out of the bar. As I said earlier jheechin was in no mood to let me go easily. She rushed out of the bar as soon as I left and started walking along with me.

I opened my eyes to see gold colored mountains rising in front. It was early autumn and the tress has just started to change the colors and shed the leaves. It was beautiful. And the air was a lot cleaner as well. Another five minutes and I got the first glimpse of the great wall. Once we were parked I got three hours from my driver for conquering the wall.

Few days ago I happened to read an essay on the great wall of China. In his own very Kafka way he tells about his research into the history of the wall. It makes an interesting reading and infact adds to curiosity of watching the wonder. Over six centuries to build over 25 thousand miles of wall on top of the mountains over millions of lives as cost. It makes one wonder about the histories of all the wonders. After reaching the top of Eiffel tower I knew that I will never climb up again. After spending an hour on the wall I knew that but for the mountains I wont come up here again. Mountains are all that makes the wall worth a visit and of course the history. The history one can read anywhere but that one visit is still required to feed the curiosity.

Karnee was the first of the group to start a conversation. She could speak English pretty well. They were five in the group. Three of them sat on the opposite side on the cable car. The other two, a girl and a guy took the next cable car (“they are lovers” is what Karnee will tell me later when I ask why did not they come with us in the same cable car. Maybe they wanted some privacy or maybe they just didn’t want to sit on the same seat as some stranger I will never know). After a while I asked Karnee if they were afraid of me as they were three on one seat and I had the whole seat. They all said no and Karnee to prove her point jumped next to me. And after that for next one hour it was as if she forgot about her friends. We reached the base of the cable cars and we, me and Karnee, walked into the market.

Karnee is in 1st year of high school. There are three years in high school, she tells me. At the end of the three years is the big exam which decides what university or college one gets. She is already worried about the big exam as she wants to get into a good university so that she can travel out of China, most likely she wants to go Europe. Dreams are same all around the world it seems. Every time a non-Chinese guy, who are mostly western tourists, passes she shouts “how beautiful, how handsome”. According to her all Chinese have small eyes and are not as handsome. I agree but I did not say this to her. She likes big eyes and tall guys. She would like to make a boyfriend in Europe. She is very interested in the way I bargain with the shop owners. She thinks I am too good at it. Well I have learned the hard way. She is getting all the tips without spending anything. She is the only child of her parents, like most Chinese families. She gets 25 yuan per month from the government for being the only child, she tells me. There is a big crowd from her school today at the great wall. It’s a class trip. Everywhere we cross her class mates are surprised. “I will be a hero in my class”. Walking along with me can do that to someone, I never knew.

I (we, as jheechin is still tagging along) am walking back to the hotel. Out of no where a million girls have appeared are sitting outside all those bars. Jheechin was beside me trying to make the best use of her English. I was wondering how long she will tag along as I had stated clearly to her that I was not paying anymore. Maybe she had few charms still left to try. After clearing the bars and when we were away from the crowd she lost her patience and asked me for money or she will return. I said my byes and kept moving along.

If one thinks about the baby at the airport who kept playing hide and seek with me all the while we waited for the security check and kept laughing at an out of place bearded man, if one thinks about nearly thirty people (including both men and women) coming out laughing from men’s restroom when they had just blindly followed someone thinking this to be the way to immigration, when one thinks about clapping and cheering that little guy on the roller skates dodging the little paper cups, when one thinks about that little gift you left for Nana, when one think about all the people who wanted and took a picture with you there are chances that one finds some good around. For most part it is a loosing battle. But now the plane is landing, Beijing is behind, Shangai is yesterday, the wheels are touching the ground again, Delhi is now, Punjab is tomorrow, and there is still a long distance to go…

1 comment:

Anadi Misra said...

Like your writing style. Simple & effective. Reminds me of some books I have read :).

PS: I see there are gaps in the stories :D. We need to talk about that off-blog.


Sukhdev Singh is milking a buffalo when I call him. We are speaking after a long gap. His voice carries the same cheerful energy I remember....