Thursday, 23 August 2012


A close friend works at Gressenhall and runs the Workhouse Cinema there. Last night, at her invitation, I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and was lured again into the heady, heart-grasping madness that is India. Several times I've thought of no longer going to India; it never works as time and again I'm drawn by her sweat-drenched, cumin-pungent, white-smiled, heart-open majesty.

In the film I heard much Indian wildlife. There were rose-ringed parakeets calling in almost every scene. Common mynas gave their rocking chimes from time to time and peacocks yowled. In Udaipur, where I've heard them from my own hotel room, common koels sang from lakeside trees and red-wattled lapwings shouted rhythmically. A black kite drifted through the dawn and an intermediate egret flapped cornily into the sunset. In Jaipur, naturally, five-striped palm-squirrels scolded in the background of many scenes. Maggie Smith played a fine old bird too.

After so many months in India, after so many trips, still I am intoxicated. By the little marble statue of Siva's Nandi in an alcove. By the bright white caps of the Moslem men and the frenetic drumming of the Hindus. By a steel plate of hand-made, heart-made roti offered in kindness to a guest. And I look forward every day to the next time I'll be there.

Colour would remain – the pageant of birds in the early morning, brown bodies, white turbans, idols whose flesh was scarlet or blue – and movement would remain as long as there were crowds in the bazaar and bathers in the tanks. Perched up on the seat of a dogcart, she would see them. But the force that lies behind colour and movement would escape her even more effectually than it did now. She would see India always as a frieze, never as a spirit, and she assumed it was a spirit of which Mrs Moore had had a glimpse.

E. M. Forster
A Passage to India

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