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Notes on This Thing We Call Nature, As Manifested in the Higher Altitudes of the Indian Subcontinent

Take one.  “They have a strange thing in these hills,” Mr. Subramanian’s companion informed him.  “They like to plant the same pear trees everywhere.  Locally, these are called ‘Wallberries,’ for reasons that may or may not have to do with walls. 

We seem to lack the natural imagination of the land, sir, of nature’s multifoliate spring.  We think in careful relation, in ones and twos.  We lace the eyes with our limited saliva.”

“To grow is to suppress, to cultivate is to lie,” said Subramanian aphoristically.

“Indeed. Us humans, always we are simply singing our sad lieder solo, sir.  How we like to make the land edible and positively peachy, no?  Then what?  Licking salt in earth wounds, mostly pervertedly.  And complaining of bad relations!   Complaining in verse, no less.  Mending walls, but generally shruggingly mending walls.” 

“Hmmm.”  Truth though it may have held, Mr. S. perhaps resented the reference. 

They walked on.  In these moderate hills spring lurks always round the next corner, ready to be sprung on the unsuspecting, ready to thrill or startle, to relate the very walker to geological time.  As a matter of fact, any moment now, he expects Auden, still cute, still young, to jump out, naked, with a canoodling dildo in his hands.

“The lounging older world, sir, is entirely capable of constructing and destructing itself.”

And yes, despite that peach-bloom glaze, this still triumph. Amazing, really, that beauty had managed to survive photoshop in this way. 

Take two. Chug-chugged, the little toy train, so emblematic and so utterly useless. 

Snort, snort, said the truck, importing gravel from the plains. 

Salt and chillies, said the man to his mound of rice. 

And the pear trees lined the wall; the fruit grew fatter and fatter while the summer rained on.

Take three.  Oh the hills, their cast of quirky characters, their simple phrases salting the morning talk, their work-song, their spring- and winter- song.  Their peach and pear trees, their unnaturally beautiful dogs.  Their insistence, almost by definition, of not progressing, as the plains do.  And the immense mind-work to keep this fantasy alive, to keep the crows (for they are plentiful) and the perverts (for they are continuous) from crowding out the frame.

Take four.  Beauty of speech in the evening air.  Sprung rhythm.  Relations with capitalism for sure, but perhaps a little less in your face. 

Take five.  Spit it out, the beautiful lie!

Take six.  Somehow, in answer to the question, “Are we happy here?”

the answer is usually, even in relentlessly gloomy weather: “Yes.


[Vivek Narayanan's first book of poems was Universal Beach (2006). He is Consulting Editor for the web journal Almost Island and he works in Delhi at Sarai-CSDS (but is currently spending a sabbatical year in Chennai).]

Copyright © 2009 by Vivek Narayanan, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.