Literary Yard

Search for meaning

Journeys: “McLeodganj”, “Bhutan”, and “Jilling Estate”

By: Anannya Uberoi

I. McLeodganj

McLeodganj does not know the nature of
wounds within these displaced men, and
to what degree their pacific smiles
justify their cause. It is humbled with
the rumble of words that rush from the
bursting clouds, spelled with syllables
sprouting from the turbid soil for the
season’s rains have touched the land
and the petrichor unites books with
draining cups, men with forgotten
laughter, grandmothers with distant
memory. It is riddled with Hindi,
Punjabi, English, Tibetan signages and
music from all four languages in a
cosmopolitan incongruity, as a
congregation of maroon-clad monks walks
past the main square leaving behind a
trail of oneness, slowly dispelled by
lifeless continuum and questions. I
spend my daylight searching for the
Women’s Association, my evening at
Illiterati, handpicking dog ears from
Namgyal and rolling prayer wheels in
the hours between. I read and re-read
the signs, every third shop after a
city in Tibet – Lhasa is now synonymous
with reconstruction, curiosity, and
sporadic howls of longing. McLeodganj
is Tibet, charted masterfully in local
businesses, hotels and solitary
monasteries, a throbbing territory of a
map far north of the vigilant Himalayas
that fractionate reality and reverie.
McLeodganj is Tibet, registered
truthfully in poems, essays, and museum
walls that outlast leaky roofs,
rain-floods, and daily scuffles with a
drunken landlord who does not exist.
McLeodganj is a town of lost belonging
and re-belonging. All poems go

II. Bhutan

Wee hours like these, when poets
reappear in carousels of love, loss and
worship churning around the streets of
a town of temples; I am here. My
friends feast upon red rice with
chillis in melted cheese; I am fond of
neither in this generous truinity –
the flat-mouthed cupful of yak butter
tea warms my heart. Tomorrow, we dance
again to the songs of the Divine
Madman, the belly of the Thunder
Dragon, we walk upon neatly paven
roads surrounded with houses serving
warm chocolate and hot spice, under
abundant Christmas trees. The street
lamps are drunk in starlight, the night
sky flecked with every light in the
cosmos gently gracing midnight markets
bunched with wooden phalluses and bells
of time. Wee hours like these, we
remember the green of the terraced rice
fields and sunlight spiking through old
Bhutan pines to make up for the loss of
fire at nighttime. We remember formless
clouds, wintering branches breathing
fire into the golden sky; and
accidental birds bearing the news of
the Druk to forgotten Dzongs and nests
of tigers far away.

III. Jilling Estate

It is a long, determined trek to the
summit but there is no peak – this is
the last house of the traveller,
sprouting forth a million tiny journeys
from the sod that surrounds it. It is
here that I have known the orchards and
plucked plums fresh off their stalks
with a basket in hand waiting to be
bled with scarlet, jam and wine in
intermissions of bright peach. It is
here I have loved the hills not for
their grandeur or majesty but for their
vegetation and herbage that coexists
with their harmonious gift to the
earth – all of life, living solitary,
content, complete I am part of now. The
forest is teaching me to learn how to
walk, to breathe, to meditate and how
to struggle, to sustain, to grow – I am
a firstborn in its wilderness. Home is
now made of wood, not concrete and food
is fresh off trees and grass and
evenings made of uphill treks to
Steve’s cottage, with bottled old
whiskey and herbal tea, the 60’s
playing on the tape to compliment the
hearty laughter that follows mentions
from distant chronicles, as time bends
and warps to accommodate stories from
then and today with equal richness
within a single, flowing conversation.
It is here that I have been one with
the forgiving earth, and have known the
comradely eyes of a dog, the freshness
of a laughingthrush, and the leisurely
disposition of cattle not by
observation, but quaint colloquy. The
silence has stiffened its hold over the
walls – pictures of rare Himalayan
birds hanging in the dining area, and
on some lax afternoon I am lost in the
shelves of books outside my room,
falling asleep to words and vapors of
dreams that materialize as I read. It
is here I have built myself a home, not
bound to walls or box stacked
buildings, but beyond wood and stone,
beyond trees and hills, beyond the
ridge that is now gold from the sun
that dips into the valley before the
day is done.

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