Friday, February 16, 2007

stranger to the snow



The first time. Seven years ago.
The four of us. Two days up from the heat of Delhi in May.
Cutting steps in a wall of ice with a khukri to cross over to the Valley of Flowers.
A day later, climbing up a steep path through high banks of snow, breath freezing in the air, we reach a lake reflecting seven mountains, pilgrims stripping down to jump into its deep blue unfrozen waters, surrounded by snow at thirteen thousand feet.

Do things stop being magical just because they really happened? On our way down from the mountains, a sadhu gave us a matchbox full of weed, unasked for. We were young then, so young. Strangers to the exotica of love and snow.

XXX

The first real snowfall this year, snow that stayed on the ground, was on Valentine's Day.
Apt. The snow fell like love once used to be.
Long awaited but unexpected. Confused, the night before, about whether it was hail or sleet or snow.
But come morning a city soft and pure and white, and highly dysfunctional. Wheels going round and round but no traction anywhere. Lie back and make angels with your flailing limbs. All colours shine brighter against the snow.

It doesn't last. Churned by the wheels and the footsteps of the city, dirtied by its grime and exhaust and oil, the snow turns cement grey. Everyday. It piles up on the sidewalk like miniature mountain ranges. In the night, even colder, the mountain ranges ice over, the fluffiness of the fallen snow solidifying, like cement again. Kick it at the risk of hurting your big toe. But if you walk on those cement mountains they will bear your weight. Water will bear the weight of a man, and his water-proof boots, and the few pints he's drunk, and all the songs he remembers from a land without snow.

The landscape of love turned mundane, the mountains on the sidewalk, feels like it will last forever.

Sun and salt and shovel, it will all melt away.

- You make it sound so horrible, says my friend, pensive at the unseasonableness of love and snow.

But when we stood at a high window today, as the sun shone in a bright blue sky snow melted; and the window was a slow constant waterfall that we stood behind, and the rooftops of the city were white below us.

- Love is meant to flow, not to be frozen.
- I'm waiting for the spring.

I am no more a stranger to the snow. But in this city where snow turns to cement, love now feels strange.

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