13 April 2015

April 13: Hope

The story of a single walk -
one of many, in the dusty, worn
streets of Dharamsala, amidst monks
and foreigners, trinket-shops and cafes,
constantly surrounded by misty rain and
mountains:
as if in a pop-up card or a picture, the deep
radiant shadow greens, the colour and bustle
of a tourist city, the particular midday smiles
of travellers in transit, resting tired bones here, on
this restless mountainside, searching for sunshine
and salvation on endless roads and reclamations.

Turning left before the monastery, three small figures
swaddled in bright woolens walked up an empty path.
 
The mist gathered before us, and we were okay
with getting lost. The great elsewhere murmured 
from the mountains, and cobbled streets and brick
walls led us to residential buildings, small gates and
open sky filled with smell of pines. A solitary rooftop
under construction - we paused; rubble, grey concrete
and iron rods marring our cityscape and rural views.
We turned our backs to the occasional passersby, and

we were silenced, pine trees and quiet buildings now
opened up the horizon, mountains filled the foreground 
and faded into shadows, the humming city was still, a
river flowed. The sky brimmed over, and a world
unravelled itself graciously
before our simple wanderings.
We were silenced.

Sharing conversations and a smoke, we watched
the world anew. Snowpeaks hid behind mist, and
smiled. Sunlight was gold and white, and darkness
of exhaled smoke rose up and vanished. We were
born again, resting on the horizon like three baby
sunsets. Intoxicated on mountain air and stillness,
we walked those winding roads, through cobbled
streets and alleyways, jutting pipes and steep steps,
climbing and jumping, shuffling and stumbling, I
held on to the parts of the city that offered itself to
us that afternoon, complex corners and wildflowers,
prayer flags emerging from every mountain peak
in that blessed little town. We found our way out
of our beautiful little maze, 

onto an empty, wide, cobbled street. To my mind,
the people smiled and were still, as if in a photograph.
The shops were bright and cozy, incense wafted through
the air and conversations were warmer. As we turned to
leave the little paradise we had discovered, I chanced upon
a sign on a fragmented little wall. Somebody had spray-painted
an arrow in the direction from which we had come - bold letters
in blue stood out against moss and rock. The sign said one word,

hope

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