A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Dogs of Mumbai

dogs of mumbaiMumbai--or Bombay, as most expatriates still call it--is unimaginably crowded and filthy. 18 million people stuck on what's basically an island off the mainland of India, in the Arabian Sea. Add hot weather (80s in February, and it goes up from there) and monsoons and you have, to a Western mind at least, the recipe for disaster.

So it's odd to spend even a few days in Mumbai and realize you haven't heard one angry shout, one crying baby, one annoyed huff. That when you placed your empty teacup in its saucer, three waiters rushed from different parts of the room to refill or replace it, without a single rolled eye or sarcastic murmur. How can this many people coexist in such circumstances without getting on each others' nerves? Where's the surliness, the road rage, the profanity?

All among these mild people are equally mild dogs. Well, animals that look very like dogs, but have no other doglike attributes that I could discern. Thin, limp, doe-eyed creatures. Mostly just standing or lying in one spot. Of various sizes, shades, and conformations, but all peculiarly similar in the face. Long, delicate faces, with sad expressions.

On Juhu Beach, at intervals, barrels have been placed for trash. In the shade of every barrel is a dog, curled up in a hole, lying very still. That's the pricey real estate, I guess. In between are many more dogs similarly situated, minus the spot of shade. What do they eat, I wonder? The millions of people are all so thin, it's hard to imagine they leave any edible bit for the dogs. Yet no animal barks, growls, or appears capable of the least aggression.

Conservation of energy, in the face of blistering heat and little nourriture? Or inscrutable Eastern wisdom, which extends to even the lowliest creatures?

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Too Many Airports

Abu Dubai airportJust back from an exhausting trip. Record-breaking bad weather... cancelled flights... overbooked flights... too many transfers. Stalled equipment. Planes, trains, and automobiles. I was on automatic, just focused on getting where I was going in time to do what I had to do. And I did. And I got back home again, a bit limp and dazed. The ferret's still alive, the dog remembers me, and although nobody watered the orchid, I think it's going to pull through.

Abu Dhabi was my favorite airport. Maybe my favorite part of the whole trip. Showy, futuristic, in that endearingly over-the-top wealthy Arab way. Rolex watches, Bulgari jewelry, Cuban cigars, enough 22-carat gold and Swarovski crystal to blind a person, every designer name you can think of in the duty-free shops. A piano bar. Flashy sports cars on display. Plus a better cup of tea than any I drank in Bombay or London.