India

I’ll have to write about India, before I start to write about anything else. But before India, I have to tell you a little bit about Shusaku Endo.

I was reading Shusaku Endo’s 1993 novel Deep River earlier this summer. Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) is a Catholic Japanese writer who when he died in 1996, chose to be buried with two novels that he wrote – Deep River (1993), and Silence (1966), which became a Martin Scorsese film in 2016. Silence is a historical novel about the situation of the Catholic belief in 17th century Japan, the question of faith, etc., told through the journey of two Jesuit missionaries who secretly landed in Japan in search of their missing teacher. Deep River, on the other hand, is a story set in the contemporary time and largely about the lives and pains of modern Japanese people. The characters in the novel have different histories but they all belong to a same travel group that is leaving for India, and the story culminates when they arrive at Varanasi, the holy city by the Ganges, where millions of Hindus came every year to worship, bath, wait and die. Deep River is also Endo’s last novel published three years before he passed away in 1996 at the age of 73.

Initially my plan was to do a 10-day Vipassana session at a meditation center near Jaipur, at least at the time when I bought my round-trip tickets. But after careful deliberation, I decided to cancel my reservation and do some sightseeing around India instead. Endo played a big part in my decision. I should probably also mention E.M. Foster and A Passage to India, also turned into a great motion picture by the brilliant David Lean.

When I arrived at New Delhi in mid-August, I was overwhelmed by the heat and humidity of the monsoon season. It took me at least two days in my hotel to just get used to the weather, the food and recover from my jet lag. After that I turned off my tv and marched unto the streets – perhaps I should tell you a little bit about what was on tv then. I arrived at the Indira Gandhi airport late at night on Aug 11. By the time I got my on-arrival visa it was already Aug 12. Then I took a taxi to my hotel, which was another hour or so. By the time I went to bed it was around 3 AM. And when I woke up, 6 PM the same day, I turned on my TV and Naipaul’s death was all over BBC World News.

I carried a Naipaul novel with me. Then only other book I had with me was a latest edition of Lonely Planet India. The Mimic Man is the title of the novel. I read it on my flight from Boston to London, during my layover at Heathrow, and on my flight from London to New Delhi. And now the author is dead. He just died, at his home in London, when I was flying from London to New Delhi. Stricken my the news I decided to put down his book and go outside. So starting from his death my journey began.

7.31

今天在家的时候,火警响了。之前我在房间里抽烟,同时,今天是抽查火警警报的第一天,我照在报警器上的塑料袋被非常粗暴地扯了下来。火警响了之后一会儿,我才反应过来,慌乱地开窗,把烟灰缸洗净了,然后出门下楼梯,装作什么都没发生一样。果然,一会儿警报就解除了。消防车会那么快来,我透过窗户往下看的时候,来了两辆,还有搬家的那辆uhual卡车。身体和精神都非常紧绷,住在这样一个楼里,也许结婚,去住一个自己的房子,真的值得期待吧。

就像找一个室友一样。家庭大概本来没有什么美德和价值可言吧。

Writing in Arabic

Writing needs context. It is, for example, much easier to write with some purpose than just babbling on a blog.

So this is my fifth week of Arabic lessons. I love my class – we have a great teacher and I love working with the other five students who are all so different and interesting in their own ways. I enjoyed the diversity in the classroom and the fact that we are unmistakably united every day in this foreign tongue.

Above all I like the journal assignments. They reminded me of a time when writing in a foreign language was not yet traumatic. Currently my vocabulary in Arabic is very limited, and we haven’t even covered the most basic grammar rules yet. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about diction or style so much as I do in English yet. S, our instructor, expect us to write only basic, uncomplicated sentences.

That said, I found my storytelling not affected by my very rudimentary command of the language at all – what a fascinating discovery. You see, we have to do these writing assignments in respond to prompts and serial illustrations provided by the textbook. So in order to make my task bearable, I make up unreal, sensational stories.

On a Tuesday afternoon, P and I stayed after class to complete some unfinished exercise. After that, we found ourselves suddenly trapped by a raging, pouring rain. Chatting with her, I found she do the exact same thing as I did. For example, she wrote for a set of weirdly suggestive illustrations: “The professor had an affair with a student. After that he was fired. But he still thinks about the student, even now when he’s on the beach.” I wrote something similar, but certainly less dramatic. Therefore, I thought her story was much better.

夏天

在国内转了一圈,然后又回到了波士顿,过了一周梦寐以求的安宁日子。先是阴沉了两天,但是今天,第一个周五,阳光明媚,气温冲过了三十度。昨天下的一场雨,以及早晨的露水和弥漫的湿气,转眼间就在阳光下蒸发了。

读阿拉伯语的一周过得特别快。每天天不亮就醒来,然后煮上粥(听按摩医生的话总是撒一把红米),洗澡,出来炒个菜,然后粥就着腐乳一起吃,看Anthony Boudain的Parts Unkown。看天逐渐变亮,然后读两三个小时的阿拉伯语,做作业,九点多出发去上课。中午下课走几分钟去Harvard Square的clover吃一个三明治,然后回来继续上课到下午三点。回家的话会立马倒在床上,看点不费脑子的电影,做东西吃,很早睡着。

Chicago, IL

我没有去过那个地方。冥冥之中安排好了的命数,我注定与它无缘。好想去芝加哥大哭一场。 我追不上你。我走得太散漫,三心二意,而你永远在笔直畅通的大道上。我仍然热烈地爱着你,像愚昧地欲望着所有我所不能得的一切。心里既知道不能得,也就轻松,对什么都可以一笑了之,连对你也可以了。但终究抵不过我思念你至今缠绵悱恻。每次你出现在还没有斩断的意识中,我就想要大哭一场。

现在我至少可以感觉到痛了。现在我知道了你的方向,那就可以忘记自我的累赘而向着你前进了。不管那儿有什么。我又有了每天起床来同他们周旋的理由。可是我再也不想见你了。我受不了再作理由同你说话,又像盼死期一样盼着你的回复。我把你笑的样子纹丝不动地锁在我的记忆里了,你就可以永远像这样对我笑着,对我宽容,那么好地任我对着你做一堆傻事。

请作为一个美丽的错误,永远留在那段混沌而甜蜜的时光里吧。再也遇不到像你一样好的人了,我时常因此绝望。因此要把你藏起来。我失去所有也不能再失去你。

为迷路的人祈祷吧。愿他有一天找到你,给你加倍补偿。