Galactic Plumes

I had been mooning about the fields outside in the village where we stayed near Topslip National Forest. People told me to be careful about venturing out far – “There are Elephants nearby, and they love the fields. “, they said emphasizing the word, Elephants. My eyes lit up. The villagers exchanged looks that doubted my sanity and hurried on, “It isn’t Good seeing Elephants in the fields – you never know what they will do. If you hear fire crackers in the distance, come straight back here!” said one toothless fairy godmother, and her husband (I think) nodded in agreement vigorously.

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Off we went then, sauntering through the fields, listening to the loud orchestra of birds, crickets and frogs, accompanying the beautiful colors that nature was setting forth for us to see. It is magical indeed to see a half dozen peacocks take flight into the sunset. By the time, we fumbled for the phones they were gone, and I was glad I did not waste those precious moments of seeing them start off awkwardly and then gain elegance in flight by trying to get a picture. I have it in my mind’s eye, along with the indescribable moment of feeling your heart soar with the peacocks’ trajectory.

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Peacocks have long feathers, and while they know how to fan them out and preen in front of peahens looking splendid in the process; when they fly, it looks like it can feel like long hair feels to women.

Gather your tresses,
Of plume and multi-colored beauty
Tuck them in,
Letting it stream behind you elegantly while
Trying not to let it look messy
And all the rest of that.

It was then in the distance that we heard firecrackers go off in the distance. I don’t know about you, but this is the sort of thing that holds mystique. It is what inspired my Mother’s Day in the Jungle tale. Trumpy elephant going off to Farmer Hasalot’s farm – there is such an element of thrill and romantic mysticism to this kind of thing, though I think the elephants and farmers in question disagree.

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I spent dusk in a similar fashion enjoying the fading sunlight, the rising moon, the fields, the clouds, the village, the children, the adults and creatures of beautiful Earth. Every now and then, crackers went off in the distance – elephants in the distance we whispered. Though, why we were whispering we had no idea. Dusk seems to call for these things. A laid back village in South India tucked away in the recesses of the Western Ghats with all the fascination of the bucolic. An occasional rumble of a vehicle is all there was to remind us of civilization, corporates, power tussles, wars, micro/ macro economics, nuclear heavy-lifts, and motives of profit.

Post dinner, I traipsed indoors, happy with life, still rattling on about the beautiful image of the peacocks taking flight together in the evening light. We stayed chatting happily into the night (Part 2)

It was well past midnight when the electricity went out, and the husband said, “Outside now! Completely dark – yes!”

Off we went, self carrying the son piggy-back to see the stars in all its glory outside. With the electricity gone, it was pitch black outside.
Oh!
My foot!
Not there.
Ouch!

We bumped into one another spectacularly and I tripped on a chair outside in the verandah, carrying the little fellow on my back. Both of us went crashing down, self trying to save the poor fellow from being dropped from my back. One splendid moment later, I truly saw what ‘seeing stars’ meant.

The pair of us dragged ourselves off our feet and took our eyes skyward. The light pollution we have unleashed on our planet means that there are very few places in the world that humanity can stand and gaze at the sheer immensity of the universe in which we live. On an average dark-ish day, we can see about 3000 stars, on a day like this surrounded by mountains, forests and fields for miles around us, we could see tens of thousands of them lighting up entire bands of the sky with their luminance. The stars and galaxies are always there, and maybe because of this very permanence, it is seldom appreciated.

Standing there in the surrounding darkness with people I love, I felt light-headed. There we were, standing on an Earth that was spinning incredibly fast in its journey around the sun; the sun was swirling around the Milky Way galaxy; and the galaxy itself was spinning and whirling away into vaster expanses. Carrying us all: our ethereal thoughts, wishes and desires; and our solid physical selves on a solid planet.

The galaxy tucking its star-studded plumes behind it gracefully, and taking flight with all its organic and inorganic components streaming gracefully along its path. Huge balls of gas and flames hurtling through space, and some spots in this beautiful expanse sanguine enough to cool down for a spot of life to flourish. #The Pale Blue Dot.

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The beautiful image of the peacocks taking flight earlier that evening came to me, and in that moment, the galaxies above looked like peacocks taking flight into horizons unknown.

Do the dreams of galaxies have limits? Do they have purposes?

Thinking back on that beautiful spin through the gathering darkness, I am reminded of this quote by Ursula K Le Guin:
“Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.”

The Swirling Kaleidoscope

In a fit of inspiration, we planned a whirl wind of a trip to India and UAE. The grandparents, aunts and uncles were unduly enthusiastic, and we were welcomed with joy everywhere. The past month is a beautiful blur of family and friends, multiple cities, delicious foods, tropical fruits, flora and fauna like seen nowhere in the United States, and national forests. 🌳

I have tried explaining India to my colleagues and friends in the United States who have never visited. How does one capture the pure joy of peacocks dancing in the rain, the unease of the stray dogs barking and chasing you as your make your way to the ATM around the corner on the same day? (I did not stop to take pictures of the stray dogs chasing us – self preservation is a dear thing.)

It is difficult to capture the pulse of the buzzing populations, the incessant sounds of the chaotic traffic in cities, the mosquito bites, the sweat from the heat, the beautiful rains, the warmth of the people you know, the helpfulness of those you don’t, the colors and fashions like nowhere else, the birds, flowers, stray dogs, cows, street vendors, disappearing footpaths, haphazard constructions, the quintessential maids, the eateries, the clothes line, the flooring, the beautiful national forests and through it all, the keen and heightened senses required to be aware of the ever-present dangers in highly populated areas.

How does one explain the ubiquitous presence of religions – the call of the masjids, the church bells, the sounds of the temples? The paradox of freedom in a culture that is still quite demanding in its expectations of behaviors in its populace.

The varieties of music – traditional music to start off the days, the filmy beats to take one through the rest of the day: whether one asks for it or not!

It really is Incredible India.

If we stirred out into the urban areas, I quickly yearned for the quiet of home. If I was home, I was exhorted to go out, since there was so much to do, so many people to meet, and so little time. Even so, I did not do as much as I wanted to. Did not meet as many people as I wanted to.

Indian cities are a kaleidoscope of swift whirling colors, its countrysides a different kaleidoscope altogether but equally vibrant.

Consequently, back on the flight to our home in the United States, I realize I have had little time to slow down, read and rest. As the flight drones on, I nap, read, watch a movie, eat, stretch; rinse; and repeat; thrice only to see the flight blink back at me that there are 2 more hours to land. A grim reminder as to how very far away I live . My heart literally stretched across the entire span of the globe.

I cannot help thinking of Virginia Woolf’s saying on Women:
As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.

Too short, too fast and too little, but just enough to make me smile fondly.