26.6.15

gopuram

A photograph of a market, a man looking slyly at a woman from the corner of his eye. She catches him out and smiles and more slyly than he. The market is colourful. It reminds me of markets in fantasy novels set in small towns. Everyone knows everyone, and I, I'm the only stranger there is. I walk down the alley and look at the graffiti. The sky is grey, and it feels like a town in Oriental Asia of the books. A man whistles at me, and I am sufficiently offended. His uncle immediately raps him on the head and makes him apologise. A woman with long, flowing hair starts talking to me at a stall selling beads I will never wear. She offers me wine, and I drink. We chat about my life, where I come from, what I do. In this life, I am a freelance journalist writing a piece about markets in temple towns. As I say this, the skyline becomes clearer. Gopurams come into focus: Stone and marble, rising into the sky. I shake my head - how is that possible? A temple town with beautiful women, drinking wine? That can't happen. I go back to talking to the woman. She offers to show me around town. She takes me down alleyways only she knows, a path to a river, a boat and a boatman. He winks at her and she blushes, but she never lets my hand go. When we get off, we come to a mangrove by the backwaters. We sit there for hours just listening to the water. I kiss her. She doesn't seem to mind. The wine fades. The boatman comes back. I start to think about caste-based professions in temple towns, and whether they're faring well in this pro-Hindu time. By the time I wake, the woman is lost in my hangover.

Can you be nostalgic for things you have only dreamed? 

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