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。

嘉兴

回到嘉兴已经三天。昨天早上不可遏止地出门去游逛,拍照是一种冥想,好像想把几个月几年来落下的新发展都一口吸进眼睛和脑海里。因为国内总是发展太快,以半年回家一次的频率来说,几乎每次回来都有新发展,或者我又为自己发现一些从前从未注意到过的事物。每次也发掘开一点自己的过去。

早晨虽然是阴天,但鸟鸣婉转,绿树鲜翠欲滴。夜里是大声此起彼伏的蛙鸣。一些与波士顿的寂静沉沉相比,都是那么有生命的活力。生活在这里,让人觉得和生命本质的一些气与力相通,感觉使人收到自然的滋养。泥土是潮湿温热的,比如一块地从不可能荒芜很久,总是就会长满各式各样的花草。有漫长的梅雨季。空气有雨水滋润的味道。香樟树四季常青,因为太平常所以也不怎么惹人注意,落下来的花也不惹人注意。但这次意识到是多么想念这香樟树的味道。有了这些,没有高纬度地区地区更常见的蓝天,也没有什么可惜。宁愿常生活在这云里雨里。

故乡总是很难写的。每次回来,都发现嘉兴有那么多好东西。历史,自然,故人。比起其他的学问,对于故乡的考古,才是长久孜孜不倦的事业。别的地方的历史,学过就过去了;去过的地方也是一样。只有故乡是不断回来,因此历史总是在个人身上继续,牵扯不断。每一次自己成长之后,便能对应地在故乡的人文与地理里发现相助的样本。发现的是长久以来一直存在却被自己忽视或者,被故意埋没的历史。于是每一次,故乡成为个人成长的试验田,书写的起点,不断归来又不断从这里去往别的地方。

如果不去往远方便不能理解故乡。大概从去年开始想,总要找个什么契机好好做一些关于此地的事。写成研究论文也好,个人散文也好,或者只是多去探访,拍照,编成网络文章也好,反正有些需要被释放出来的,书写的欲望。将会是完全个人,读者看到会一目了然我与它的关系。但我希望个人自传式的书写不会成为这个计划的阻碍,希望以一种完全合乎情理的形式存在,因此而水到渠成。有许多准备工作要做,但我想我正在往完成它的那个好的方向走。

星辰

这里的空间是夜晚的。 比如现在,在湖边吹了半个小时冷风,抽了三根烟,被偶尔的路人看了两眼以后,回到家里,把两周的脏衣服扔进洗衣机,换上粉色的卫衣,心情才终于好一点。因为没有一个可以说话的人,所以又打开部落格开始写字。白茫茫一片的网页让我感觉到很安心。在湖边想什么,在这里也不能写出来。为什么去湖边也不能写出来。总不过就是一两件不开心的事。但现在我已经学会以最小的牺牲释放掉情绪了。

抬头仰望星辰。湖边的水声潺潺,月亮到了最圆最亮的一天,撒了一地树枝形状的影子。白天读了那么多书,总也没有一篇是属于我的。暗暗股着气,晚上回家来写中文。日程本里不厌其烦地写下每天做的事,做了的事,以后要做的事,也是一样。一种解决不切实际幻想的方法,强迫自己扎扎实实活在现实的时间里,不做一点旁逸的事。

我活着做的都是旁逸的事。哪怕再多一点点真心,对我,对你,活着都不会是这么没劲的事。这些所谓的谈话,讨论,交流,都那么装模作样又勉强,使人疲累。上不好学。看不起大多数学校里莫名其妙的事,还有朝朝暮暮没有启发性的课时。偶尔也有放光的时候。但这样的时刻转瞬即逝。希望飘渺如星辰。

主要还是我亏欠太多。比如迟迟未回的信。像一个未赎的深罪。在不在意即时回复短信的同时,又对屏幕那端迟迟不回的人,感到深深的绝望。感觉这一定是报应吧。无间的亲密既然不存在,我一定是在心里把这样的期望连根拔起并全烧了。顺带成功的人生。

(今天夜里波士顿来了一家高兴的人。)