Sunday, May 21, 2006

Derek in India #2

We rose near sunrise and walked to a nearby hotel with a rooftop view of the Taj Mahal. As the sun soaked the eastern face of the domes and minarets, the city began to awake. Somewhere distant, a single voice sang, accidentally accompanied by a blacksmith's rhythmic pounding, resounding from some other quarter. Gradually, activity came alive on nearby rooftops came to life. A man fed table scraps to a trio of monkeys. Another man contemplated his hands as he sat framed by a yellow doorway. Below, boys gazed skyward, their hands darting and tugging, working their kitestrings. At first, they displayed their skill by causing the kites to spin and swirl, but suddenly, one colored kite moved under a white one higher up. The sawing began, and the white kite fell to the ground defeated.

Elsewhere, jewel-green parrots flapped and soared and comlained upon landing. Groups of pigeons cut and jutted with military precision at the command of some unseen hand.

And all the while, the perfect symmetry of the Taj Mahal stood before us, its curves and lines playing with the changing light and shadows.

Our conversation lagged at first as we gazed from the sublime to the mundane. Bit by bit, monkeys' antics called forth a comment from one of us, and slowly all the expected discussions emerged. One table explored movies and snipers and electronic equipment, another sifted through the minutia of small change in India, and yet others stand and stare in the distance, occasionally sharing muffled remarks and silence.

And now, the city has opened its eyes, stretched, yawned, and sat up. Horns chirp and blare in annoyance below us, as birds chatter and whistle above. The smell of rotting eggs that greeted us at dawn has been replaced by the scent of wood smoke and cooking bread. The sun strengthens, and the day has arrived.

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