Thursday, April 09, 2009

Las Alpujarras - Paradise regained.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Hadn't realised that I haven't posted anything here since the middle of December last year. Time flows curiously. There was the nagging 'sense of duty' every time I was near a laptop with an internet connection (which is nearly everyday) to broadcast some word bytes of wisdom to the wide world. The annoying realisation that I had not worked on the Thirumandiram commentary for a while was not as annoying as the realisation that nothing seemed to flow. There seemed to be no need for words. No need to think. The deepening internal silence did a great job to successfully gag any notions of the need to communicate. Time continued to flow as curiously as ever.
When it was time for the much awaited trip to India - the land of spiritual sunshine, the land where the cows (half starved) roam free, the land of the auto rickshaw, the land where even the hand cart wallah spouts vedanta, the land of hibiscus flowers redder than blood, the land where my shiva sports eternally with His beloved - earlier this year, I envisaged a spurt of creativity soon after. Invigorated and inspired as I was after the trip, the silence seemed only to grow. It grew and grew and would have blossomed into a mournful flower, had not the ever curious flow of time taken me to a place of sublime inspiration!

Yes. I have spent the last week basking in the sunshine and the incomparable glory of the incredible Las Alpujarras in southern Spain. That is one place that will have you waxing lyrical, if ever there was one. Apparently when the Moors (muslims) wandered over from Africa into this part of Spain, they were as taken aback with delight as I was. Seeing the snow capped lofty mountains of the Sierra Nevada all around, the deep, stunning valleys and gorges, the crystal clear waters of the innumerable snow fed springs and rivers, the lush green vegetation, and the abundant sunshine, they thought for a second that they must be dreaming. When the beautiful land around them didn't disappear with a 'pop' as does a soap bubble, they wondered if visions of such splendor were the result of the many hookahs smoked on the way over! The more they looked around, the more appealing and superlative it seemed. They realised (in a moment of collective revelation) that they were indeed in Allah's paradise. The glorious land around them in all its splendor and abundance resembled the description of jannat or paradise in the Koran. This indeed was the place promised for the devout in after life and now they were there in the present life, devout or not! In perfect synchronicity and without skipping a beat they named this land Al pujarra ( the Paradise) and began the task of adding the finishing touches to God's masterpiece.

A hazy view of the mountains right to Morocco.

This they did by creating terraces, hundreds upon hundreds, along the innumerable slopes and steep drops of the mountains. Then they began cultivating the terraces with Oranges, olives, almonds, apricots, lemons and a lot of other delightful things. They built their houses, palaces and forts on cliff tops and mountain gorges. They utilised the superbly textured landscape to its full potential by harnessing the available water by way of a thorough and intricately planned irrigation network. The legacy of their hard work and brilliant planning can be seen even today, hundreds of years after the Catholic monarchs drove them away from the paradise they carved with their skill and hard work. The terraces laden with olives and many exotic fruit, a smattering of the Berber style chimneys (dead people with hats on according to my son!), an Alcazaba here and there, one Alhambra, and the brilliant network of irrigation channels are all of whats left of the memory of the Moorish settlers. Strangely, they don't seem to have left any impression on the local cuisine - no spices or exotic beans and lentils. Variations of Tortillas and an endless list of different types of pig meat (what they call jamones locally) seem to dominate the local menu. It seems as though the Catholic monarchs introduced the eating of pigs with a vengeance as a final insult to the Moorish sentiment!

Some of the dead people with hats on!

Anyway, I digress from the matter at hand. As I was just saying, I have had the best week in a long long time in the glorious Alpujarras. Living the life in a rustic cortijo (farm house) complete with crumbling white washed walls, at the end of a small track on the heights of one of the many many mountains that dot the landscape here. The cortijo set in a finca (land) cultivated with groves of olive, almonds and oranges - the uncultivated and wild red poppies swaying in the gentle breeze like miniature Soviet flags - is like a mini paradise in itself. The dawn chorus of the birds extends far beyond dawn and continues till siesta time! The ochres and deep reds of the exposed earth all around blend beautifully with the olives and greens of the foliage to provide a perfectly composed and aesthetically pleasing colour palette. The sheer heights and deep drops to the valleys nestled below add the required dramatic effect. The almost 360 degree panoramic views from almost everywhere (from the high mountains one can have uninterrupted views stretching as far as Morocco) in the mountains is exhilarating and liberating to the soul, tethered as it was by years of the conditioning from limited views boxed in by boundaries of concrete. Small, quaint mountain villages, built on ledges commanding stunning views hug the steep gradient. The plastered walls with a uniform white washed finish enhance the glare of the sharp and clear sunshine. With their tiny Hobbit house like entrances, these village houses are decorated with flowers of bright hue spilling out of the hanging flower pots. The ever present 'se vende' (for sale) sign on a lot of these properties is perhaps the sign of the economy of today, spilling its toxic debt tentacles into even Paradise. But to me, they offer a sign of hope - of hope that maybe it will be possible to buy a small cortijo somewhere in the heights of paradise, with its own olive and orange grove!

Never has anywhere appealed to me as much as the land in the Alpujarras. The constant and plentiful sunshine (it was around 30 degrees one day, and its only April), an hours drive up to the ski slopes if you felt like snow and half an hours drive down if you felt like soaking up the sun in the beaches of the Costa tropical! The prospect of big breakfasts sitting out in the morning sunshine, the endless coffees (coffee is so cheap there), fresh oranges straight from the tree, the slow pace of life that gives one plenty of time to focus on the more important aspects of 'being', and a long list of other things make this the perfect idyll. I will move there in a flash (just have to work out a way to convince my wife that picking olives in the season is a good enough job to sustain the family!) if there is a way. All I need now is a rich donor (they are probably scarce in these testing times) who will donate generously for the cortijo and the land around. Perhaps I could beg the local council there to give me a small piece of land to set up my camp?

I have seen my paradise and all I want now is my share of it!
Please, O please, O please, Can I ??


ananda said...

aahaa ...