As H. puts it; it's as if nothing I do here has any consequence, as if one were visiting somewhere else and seeing, for a moment, how different and autonomous and operative everything is. I am reminded of traveling in cities that, when you step into them, barely turn their face towards you, that are so caught up in their operation that you can take the time to stare at the profile of their face unabashedly, taking in pock-marks and scars and centuries' worth of character, built up and up. The casual sound of anonymous activity off of the street mixing up with paths of people going straight like self-directed arrows, flows without hesitation, movement vectors that come from a conviction borne from habit and ease. As a traveler you step into such a city and you wonder a little; you're the only one holding a map and standing still but you're also the only one listening at that very moment, feeling your own being ebb and flow in response to the knowledge that you are here, and not in all the other places you could have been in.
Straightforwardly put the lingering question that is applied on to everything is; why is this important? How does this matter to me? Where am I? Where could I be going? What choices constitute who I am? Casually put at a gathering of dear friends it's an existential crisis, and more easily attributed to experiencing income inequality or something, but it's more than that.
In Chandigarh, a vivid memory of that one stretch of road going to a high-end mall full of a/c and the nation's coldest beer, or so I hoped. That stretch of road, pitch-black, without any street lights, just pedestrians here and there suddenly lit by the headlights of autorickshaws passing, illumination punctuated by the tuk-tuk-tuk of two-stroke motors, and otherwise just a deep dark gradient setting on its way to night.
The mall was kind of heartbreaking, only in the congregations of families and kids running outside, near the fountain, and it tasted so much like a weekend night, of gatherings and things to do and how people spend their time anywhere doing anything, so strong and pungent and present of an activity, familial friendly unions pouring out of this place, cool summer night activities everywhere. How do you describe that? When you travel and drop the criterion of souvenirs and icons and guidebook dots and quirky destinations and pilgrimages, and instead let yourself stay still and slip into the night, like any other denizen, let yourself be overwhelmed by being there rather then moving -- then you realize those underlying textures, compositions of life, maybe more akin to what Korea was like for you more than ten years ago, sticky evenings spent lounging about with friends, time stretching long, a pace that lets things march when they do, silt passing through fingers, letting things flow. There it goes, this evening, that day, I find myself on a train, looking out the window, thinking about these things, moving my body to the rhythm of a place.
So I am back, and find myself not quite here yet, missing events and birthday parties and parties and skipping out on a panel because I am not yet quite here, I am elsewhere, thinking of somewhere else I ought to be; or maybe it is the other way around; I am here, not thinking of somewhere else I ought to be, so firmly here that I am hidden in the trees, or thinking at the bottom of the pool, or lying with my face buried in the grass, because what seems to matter to me are the foundational questions of why-do-what-you-do and understanding to a fullest extent the choices I have made to drive myself in such away.
Nothing like a trip to levitate foundations and to pause time, for a moment.