Saturday, January 03, 2004



Two days ago, I shifted out from the hotel where I have been staying for the past two years to a cheaper one down the road. So far I'm quite pleased with this quaint old hotel which I have chosen as my temporary home. It is very quiet compared to the previous one, which was always bustling with corporate seminars and functions.

In the lobby here, a huge grandfather's clock lets out sonorous chimes every hour; old soot-covered oil paintings adorn the walls and one could easily walk up the circular stairway to its three floors of reasonably tidy rooms. There's even a portrait of a young Sukarno overlooking the dining/breakfast area--a semi-covered courtyard with an indoor garden filled with moist shrubs and water trickling into a pond of splashing fishes. A crumbling upright piano sits silently in one corner, and everywhere else, Javanese stone statues stare out blankly.

The place has perhaps seen more glorious times. But now it is a quiet and forgotten place--perfect for my brief stay here. I needed the isolation and solitude to work on my upcoming lectures and to plan for my travels for the next two or three weeks.

I even have time for breakfast these days. Sitting there in that deserted hall, amidst empty tables and the hollow clank of cups and saucers, I feel a bit like the astronaut Bowman in the final scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In that very memorable sequence we see Bowman going through the mundane activity of eating as he ages progressively and finally gasping on his deathbed in front of the hovering Black Monolith. And then we see the birth of the Starchild...

Aging, transformation, rebirth. The only thing missing is Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra.

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