lundi 23 juillet 2018


I had arrived in Miami last night, a very chatty Venezuelan driver preached about family values, the lack of which had destroyed his country, he sums up.
I was to get ready, to pack for my one weeklong trip to Cochin in Kerala. Bristow’s Bungalow Hotel had been informed and the Chef preparing special dishes each night of my stay. I also organized a daily Ayurveda massage; early morning walks along the sea front.
Every thing sounded well
Then came the first of the emails.
Wrong time to come to Cochin, admonished my good friend Mathew. The place is under water!
The manager of the hotel, Rajesh, said parts of the port city of Alleppey were under water and that the road from the airport to the hotel was flooded and difficult to navigate.
It is still raining here, Mathew said, I think it would be better for you to postpone the visit.
This confusion or chaos did not face me at all. One thing I have learned from American Indians is that, Chaos is normal, what matters is how you deal with it.
I was to arrive on the morning of the 25th on Qatar Airways from USA and leave on the 2nd August on Etihad Airways to Paris.
What to do with the newly found 8-day vacation?
Thoughts immediately flew east to Malaysia, can enjoy a good chat with my best friend in SE Asia, MCY; can stay at one of the newer Hilton Hotels in the heart of Chinatown, eat and taste what KL is famous for, the FOOD…
And then make my way to Europe and be there at CDG platform at 10 am on the 3rd of August to take the train to Bretagne.
Can’t afford to miss that train.
Nothing was falling in place. Singapore Airlines can take me to KL via Singapore but not the day I wanted. I even thought of flying to Tel Aviv spend a few days there before flying off to Paris.
When things don’t work out, Indians taught me: Better things are afoot or things were not meant to happen.
Last night I went to bed, slightly baffled by the sudden turn of events, not to mention the thought of missing the delicious breakfasts at Bristow’s Bungalow.
In the morning, a message arrived, as if it has been extra terrestrially directed, from my Sri Lankan friend. I told him that I have a Qatar Airways flight leaving USA on 23rd with a change of planes in Doha to Colombo.
Please Doctor, he begged, let me organize something for you in my country so that you would fall in love with it. We were chatting on and off during the day and he was able to arrange someone to pick me up at the airport and drive me along the coastal road to Galle, where I wanted to see the Stele left behind by the greatest Navigator ever, Zheng He. Also wanted to visit Matare, the home of a childhood friend of mine, with whom I lost touch, after we parted our ways graduating from high school.
Doctor, I think you would enjoy staying at Bentota and I will be back with you regarding the place near the River with rooms with a view of the River and a nice restaurant. He wrote to the General Manager of the Hotel, introducing me as a Travel writer from Cuba, and was given immediate confirmation for two days. Also he suggested, after hearing I wanted to stay in Wellawatta in Colombo, a nice one-bedroom apartment in central location. The driver who would pick me up at the Colombo Airport would drive me back to Colombo, spending one day showing me around Colombo. I will try and see whether I can remember much, I do remember an ochre building which was either a bookstore or a department store, the beach at Wellawatta, Galle Face Hotel which I had known as a child and the maidan in front where lovers shield themselves from prying eyes by hiding behind open umbrellas… while the sizzling sound of hundreds of stalls where food is being prepared, amidst the shout of vendors. I look forward to that. Not to mention a visit to the past at the Galle Face Hotel.
Why did I want to stay in Wellawatta?
Any one who has read the poetry of Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winning poet from Chile would remember the passion and loneliness of his days in Colombo as the Consul for Chile. No one who knew him would give me a salaam, I sure of that, but the noise, the smell and the temples and their bells would bring back Neruda for me. Also I would be wandering around the very same streets, after a nice Sri Lankan breakfast, looking for clues from his poems. And who can forget Josie Bliss, the Burmese girl who came after him from Rangoon, from where he stealthily ran away from her murderous jealousy and passion.
I remember my days in Bagan, and my brother Eliyahu was with me and I faced the Irrawady River and said a Kaddish for Josie Bliss and recited Pablo Neruda’s poem about Josie Bliss.
A discussion in Spanish about Josie Bliss…
En “La desdichada” Neruda imaginó  a Josie esperándolo todavía en una increíble manifestación de vanidad masculina. “La dejé en la puerta esperando/ y me fui para no volver.
/No supo que no volvería. /Pasó un perro, pasó una monja, /pasó una semana y pasó un año./ Las lluvias borraron mis pasos/ y creció el pasto en la calle,/ y uno tras otro como piedras,/ como lentas piedras /los años/cayeron sobre su cabeza […] y esa mujer esperándome”.
En el mismo tono, Neruda escribió sobre el tema de la amante birmana en los poemas “Josie Bliss I” y “Josie Bliss II”. En el primero se imaginó la muerte de ella y su cremación en el río Irrawaddy “mientras el río murmuraba lo que llorando yo te hubiera dicho”. Aquí cabe la interrogante de qué es lo que le hubiese dicho y por qué lo habría hecho entre lágrimas.
En el segundo texto, Neruda  recreó otra vez la imagen que había construido alrededor de Josie.  La describió como un “rayo” con “rencor de puñal” como la “furiosa mía” e imaginó la existencia de la amante sufriendo por su ausencia en el otro mundo: “Hoy, aún sin mi ausencia, sin sepulcro, abandonada de la muerte, abandonada de mi amor, allí donde el viudo Monzón y sus tambores redoblan sordamente y ya no pueden buscarme tus caderas extinguidas”.
La fuerza e intensidad impresionante de estos magníficos versos, nos podrían hacer pensar que no fue Josie la “deshabitada”, la “desdichada”, sino que él mismo, ya que nunca dejó de pensar en ella nipudo sacársela del corazón, transformándola de esta maneraen una figura poéticainmortal

Once I mentioned to a lover who was chasing me to Australia that I considered her to be like Josie Bliss. She gave me the book ISLA NEGRA in which the poems Josie Bliss 1 and 2 appear and then wrote in it.
If you think I am like Josie Bliss, I don’t ever wish to see you again.

So you see why I am so eager to be in Sri Lanka?