Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mount Bromo

Reaching Mount Bromo involved driving across east Java for almost a whole day. We left Yogyakarta around ten in the morning, reaching the base village of Ngadisari late at night in cold, wet weather. I think I slept for all of two hours, before being woken up an ungodly hour – three in the morning – so that we could make our way up the hills to watch the sunrise.

It was ridiculously cold. I had ended up renting a jacket from our guest house without which the cold would really have been too much to handle. I usually find sunrises a bit of a hit or miss and waiting in the cold waiting for the sun’s rays to make an appearance was akin to watching paint dry. It was worth it though, when those rays did make an appearance. The fumes from Bromo and the periodically erupting Mount Sumeru made the sky take on rather fantastic colours as the light increased and the mist below made for rather lovely views.

Of course, once the sun was out we could clearly see the rather cute Mount Batok in the foreground (never mind that till I actually reached Bromo later on I actually thought Batok was Bromo), Bromo with half of its top blown off, white smoke billowing out and Sumeru in the background, a perfectly triangular peak puffing out dark smoke every twenty minutes or so.

We made our way to the volcano after that – deciding to climb our way up the rim rather than falling prey to the many touts with their horses. It’s an interesting walk, across a sea of black sand, up the 253 steps that take you to the rim. The scenery was strange – more barren Mongolia or Central Asia than tropical Indonesia. All the horses there just added to the surrealism (photos on that later). There was also the awful stench of sulphur that becomes more powerful as one climbs up. I reached the rim out breath, hoping to gulp in large amounts of oxygen only to have a gust of wind make the stench truly unbearable and me nauseas.

Though that nausea quickly evaporated, given the opportunity to peer into the belly of a live volcano. I spent a good deal of time watching the ebb and flow of the smoke from the cracks in the volcano, wondering if this live volcano might just suddenly have a change in mood and decide to blow up. It did not.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


...from Indonesia. More photos to follow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each others'
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky;
A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed;
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of someone and then others who said,
"I need to see what's on the other side;

I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe;
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce,
built brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign;
The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by Love thy neighbor as thy self,
others by first do no harm, or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national.
Love that casts a widening pool of light.
Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp --

praise song for walking forward in that light.

- Elizabeth Alexander

Monday, January 19, 2009


Apparently George W. Bush read 95 books last year. Isn't that a lot for someone who is famed for not liking books?

(The article in itself - about Obama's reading habbits is quite interesting.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Or, I got accepted to SOAS people!!! I am of course hugely happy and excited, especially since SOAS was (is?) one of my top choices. But I am mostly hugely relieved because now I don't have to spend the next two months worrying if I will get accepted anywhere at all. Though of course, I am still waiting for those results to come in before I take any final decision.
But also, SOAS is in London!! Squeeeee!!!!!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mutlu yıllar

A bit belated, but still - new year wishes. Personally, I am just wishing (hoping, what have you) that 2009 is a more eventful and happier year than last. I don't really have much to show for 2008 - it was mostly rather mind numbingly dull. My reading has pretty much gone down the drain. I still have a stack of books that I bought and never got down to reading. Perhaps it is apt that my favourite book out of the few I read last year was Joseph O'Neill's Netherland. Saw a lot of movies - most of which I never wrote about. Anyway, my applications have all been submitted now. I had hoped that once they were done I would be a little less harried but the wait is immensely painful. I had an awful nightmare about the whole thing a few days back - silly, but still too scary a thought to relive.

The year will bring some change in scenery at any rate. I am shifting back to India - in all probability to Chennai for a few months with work, and then lets see. I haven't been in more than a decade and have only the haziest memories of the place - strangely enough I vividly remember Kodaikanal, Madurai and other places in Tamil Nadu - but I do hope to make the most of it. So, basically travel about and take photographs on the weekends. And I am looking forward to the food very much - if there's one thing I would be happy eating everyday for the rest of my life it would be sambhar, rice and chutney. Along with thoran, ideally.

I do however have to pack up - bag and baggage - and five years of stuff to wind up and shift countries isn't very pleasant. Just the thought of it is tiring but I have started sorting through stuff and will start sending my books - most of my stuff, really - soon. I am also traveling to Java later this month - the last few days have been reading up for that - and I am suitably excited. And apart from that the new year also got off to a surprisingly nice start - the people at the New Yorker sent me a 2009 diary (with my name embossed!!!) - causing much delight, since I hadn't actually ordered any such thing. (Just registered my hard drive.) Still, I am hoping its a good beginning to what will be a good year.