unblinking gaze


POSTCARD#269: Delhi: There’s always this curious silence when the end of the journey comes, I find the place-marker and disembark into life as it was before the great hop-skip-and-jump to the other side of the world and back again in 12 days. It’s a slight re-entry burnout landing somewhere along the karmic sequence route, cause leads to effect, then someone comes along and asks: “So how was it?” (eyes glaze over in the asking of the question) “Fine, yes, good, thank you.” The past is a remembered ‘now’, open eyes wide and see. Find rather than seek. Listen rather than hear. See rather than look – the verb: to see, is intransitive, doesn’t require an object, I just ‘see’ in an unblinking gaze… creak of the open/close shutter mechanism of eyelids as it widens into the corners.

But the huge experience of the journey doesn’t mean much to my listeners, I couldn’t expect it to be much more than a pleasantry lost in the uncanny quietness where nobody can think of anything to say, and deep thrusts into trouser pockets, rummaging around in other pockets, and in handbags – out come the phones, androids, iPads, ear buds stuffed in. Long hair like curtains almost hide the face lowered into hand-held devices, coloured displays reflected on skin of nose and cheek… and conversation shrivels up; occasional sing-alongs, sudden remarks about YouTube videos, and a patchwork of quotes from Wikipedia and Google.

Everywhere I went on the journey, it was the same, crawling through caves of populations in London, blind, deaf and dumb, glued to their soundtracks in the dark public transport corridors carved into the earth and immense push and shove, clatter of metal wheels on rails, spurts and sparks of electric energy and no-words-at-all in the haste of getting there.

Wake up next day, Jiab has an early flight to Chandigarh; I’m up at 4.30 to make her small breakfast. Car comes and she’s away in a tunnel of headlights in darkness, just before dawn, birdsong and wakefulness. A Rollin’ and Tumblin’ headache, and I go through to the bedroom to lie down for an hour or so. Conscious of the ceiling fan above me suspended from a dusty whitewashed ceiling. A constant spinning cycle that seems to say something about the weight of the rotary blades. It looks like how it sounds – I turn my head and the whole room turns through 90° and it now looks like a spinning propeller of an old-fashioned aircraft… traces of British history are everywhere.

Consciousness of that image in my mind. Consciousness of the soft bedding I’m lying in. Consciousness of the smell of coffee left in a cup, and burnt crust of toast in the kitchen, the taste of it. Consciousness of thought and consciousness of no-thought. Consciousness of what’s going on by means of eyes, ears, nose, skin, tongue, cognitive functioning – and the mind always wants to make it into something more than it is.

Consciousness of something, anything or everything, or just consciousness itself, shining through soft translucent skin, held nicely like curtain folds at the corners, beneath which these old eyes look out. Consciousness without an object, unsupported consciousness – the unconditioned, the still mind. ‘I think, therefore I am’. Oh yeah, a strongly assertive statement, because the sense of ‘I’ has arisen simply through thinking it’s there. And when I stop thinking about it, it’s not there.

Disjointed memories of the flight, that don’t matter, everyone seated, and facing the same way, as if it were a movie theatre, the audience in darkness and there’s no screen, no movie. Phone goes ping! It’s Jiab at the airport; shuffling along in the security queues… practising very slow walking meditation.


Image: Open Hand Monument in Chandigarh

16 thoughts on “unblinking gaze

    • I’ve never been there, looked it up in Google, it sounds like a totally different place from the rest of India. The dream city of Prime Minister Nehru and Le Corbusier designed many buildings, these Open Hand sculptures in the 1950s, standing 26 metres high. Only one was completed. It’s just such an incredible design, looks like a flying bird as well as a hand. Caught my attention so I had to look it up.

  1. Love the way the photograph captures the setting sun through an opening in the sculpture. Love the sculpture. So is everyone stuck in their phones in the streets there, too? That is certainly the story here. Ceiling fans fans, if you stare at the spinning long enough they start to spin in the opposite direction. And they wobble a bit which makes me always imagine they will come crashing down. A lovely post.

    • I sometimes worry too about the hook that holds the fan in the ceiling giving way in a cloud of masonry dust and the spinning fan crashes down on to my head… yes, variations of that from time to time. Meanwhile the younger people I’m surrounded by are cut off from me, sensory blackout; dark glasses, ear buds plugged in and immersed in images on handhelds. Aloneness, it’s okay to be like this…

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