startling banals

02 April 2007

A memory

Karen Blixen in her book "Out of Africa" has described a scene. She is in a rowboat in Mombasa, Kenya and sees a pair of giraffes being taken to Hamburg in an old rusty ship. She thinks of their future in a cold grey city compared to their freedom on the great plains of Africa.

"In the long years before them, will the Giraffes sometimes dream of their lost country? Where are they now, where have they gone to, the grass and the thorn-trees, the rivers and water-holes and the blue mountains? The high sweet air over the plains has lifted and withdrawn. Where have the other Giraffes gone to, that were side by side with them when they set going, and cantered over the undulating land? They have left them, they have all gone, and it seems they are never coming back.
In the night where is the full moon?
The Giraffes stir, and wake up in the caravan of the Menagerie, in their narrow box that smells of rotten straw and beer.
Good-bye, good-bye, I wish for you that you may die in the journey, both of you, so that not one of the little noble heads, that are now raised, surprised, over th edge of the case, against the blue sky of Mombasa, shall be left to turn from one side to the other, all alone, in Hamburg, where no one knows of Africa.
As to us, we shall have to find someone badly transgressing against us, before we can in decency ask the Giraffes to forgive us our transgressions against them."

It reminded me of something I saw about 4 years back. I used to go home from hostel in the evenings some days and return after dinner really late. Late like after 1. Still the Pawai road is normally not as deserted as it was that night. I got down at the Main Gate bus stop and crossed the unusually quiet road. And there under the trees beside the gate, where the streetlights could not reach was an elephant sitting. Probably eating some sugarcane or grass. And absolutely no one around. Solitude embodied.

If you haven't seen the movie "Out of Africa" go and get it. If you haven't read the book I promise you will love it much more than the movie. And if you haven't been to Safari...

Karen Blixen was a spirited woman and a gifted writer. She has written with such elegance, passion and noble beauty about the people, the country, the animals and her life in them. The critic within urges me to say that sometimes her prejudices and blatant racism show up, but hers was not the age of political correctness just for the sake of it. This book written from a home in Denmark so far from her beloved Africa tells her story and you are with her as you read it.

"If I know a song of Africa,
of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back,
of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers,
does Africa know a song of me?
Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on,
or the children invent a game in which my name is,
or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me,
or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?"


i'll try to get this book...but there are so few book shops in delhi :(
Blogger kaa, at 4.4.07  
i got this book...dint remember the name of the author when in the shop.
when i came back and saw your post again, and the author's name said 'Karen Blixen' and the book cover said 'isak dinesen'...was afraid of getting the wrong book.
google put me at rest :)
Blogger kaa, at 7.4.07  
sahi hai yaar! u got it even in delhi!! :D bahot achha likha hai yaar, mereko bahot mast laga padhke.
Blogger anish, at 9.4.07  
Your blog has tempted me to search this book. In the meanwhile found some interesting sites while I was trying to solve this Karen Blixen OR Isak Dinesen puzzle ?
This also has lyrics of songs/poems used in the movie.

And here is an interview given by her:
Blogger Wish, at 15.4.07  
please get the book. actually i had got it for aai and now it is with sandhya mavshi. u could wait for it.

this interview will be a treat for me!

the movie is a bit dramatized (hollywood isshhtyle) - got 5 oscars in 1985. also it is not completely accurate but still i like it - u cud try it too.
Blogger anish, at 17.4.07  

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