Thursday, September 27, 2007

V.S. Naipaul on Experiencing Wilderness

I've never seen anyone talk so eloquently -- and so precisely -- about what it's like to visit the mountains.

The Himalayan summer was short, its weather treacherous. Every exploration, like every pilgrimage even today, had to be swift ... Beyond the Amarnath Cave was the mountain of Kailas and beyond that the lake of Manasarovar. And legends attached to every stage of the Amarnath pilgrimage. These rocks were what remained of defeated demons; out of that lake Lord Vishnu arose on the back of a thousand-headed serpent; on this plain Lord Shiva once did the cosmic dance of destruction and his locks, becoming undone, created these five streams: wonders revealed only for a few months each year before disappearing again below the other, encompassing mystery of snow. And these mountains, lakes and streams were indeed apt for legend. Even while they were about you they had only a qualified reality. They could never become familiar; what was seen was not their truth; they were only temporarily unveiled. They might be subject to minute man-made disturbances -- a stone dislodged into a stream, a path churned to dust, skirting snow -- but as soon as, on that hurried return journey, they had been left behind they became remote again.
--From p. 165 of V. S. Naipaul's An Area of Darkness: A Discovery of India.

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