Of Plums and Horizons — Part I

It had been a grueling three hours of uphill, crisscross, back-and-forth travel. Especially for a person prone to motion sickness. Before the engine started, I procured some medicine from a friend and eagerly dry swallowed it, hoping that by the end of the journey I would not match my verdant Himalayan surroundings. I had purposefully starved myself, planning to have nothing to come up if the worst came to pass.

 

Upon arriving at my resort destination, as I stepped out of the vehicle and shook my legs back to life, I looked down the drive and was pleasantly surprised for not one, but two reasons. First, I was standing without the nauseating uneven feeling of motion sickness. Second, on the veranda of the resort’s meeting house was a large, woven bowl brimming with luscious, blushing, violet plums.

 

I could hear them calling to me from where I stood beside the vehicles. With no one to tie me to a mast or deafen my ears, I eschewed waiting for my baggage to be unpacked in favor of the siren song leading me down the forest path.

 

In an instant, I was before them. My fingers extended, trembling with anticipation, toward the mountain of flesh and stone in front of me. My eyes were drawn preternaturally to a fruit on the second tier, slightly hidden by its brethren. I carefully extracted it, held it to the sunlight, and luxuriated in its spherical radiance. And then, with pleasure, I brought it to my mouth, and bit.

 

That was the first of what must have been bushels of plums that I consumed during my sojourn in the Himalayas. Every morning, I would rise before the sun and shower in the calmness of predawn. I would then, as the first rays touched the mountain on which my lodging perched, ascend the six staircases scattered across the large hills to reach the veranda on which rested my prize. Someone, who to this day remains an enigma to me, would also rise before the dawn and, as his first task, place a fresh mountain of plums and a container of gingery chai out on the table.

 

Over the week I stayed on that mountain, I developed a ritual—followed religiously. I would approach the table slowly, reverently. I would carefully extract the day’s first offering, taking care to show it the respect it deserved as the chosen one. I would roll it in my palm, letting flesh touch flesh, stone contend with bone. I would inspect it, admiring the way that its curved mounds peaked with an excitement of reddish blush. And then, most abruptly, moving it to my mouth, I would take off a chunk of its being. Within seconds I would stand in triumph, a trail of sticky essence down my forearm, denuded seed in my hand, contended before my altar.

 

With one last thanksgiving, I would whip the stone into one of the shrubs below me on the hill, waiting for the clink of seed on root to know that the ceremony was over. Having finished this ritual, with much less pomp and circumstance, I would put two more plums in my pocket, one in my teeth, and get a cup of chai. Provisions gathered, I would thus begin my daily morning adventure.

 

Throughout the resort were small trails that would take you up and down, around and through the property. I would put on some mood music and traipse through the dewy underbrush, carefully working my way to nowhere in particular. I would try to find a new outcropping each morning—a new vantage point from which to survey the world. Inevitably, by the time I found this new spot, I would turn around and see that the sun had gotten high enough to burn away the mists covering the giants in the background. From seemingly nowhere, rugged brown peaks would emerge from grey obscurity, punctuating the horizon in energetic thrusts. I would watch as the brown teeth grew larger and larger, until finally their jagged tips would be revealed in a last kiss of fog and cloud.

 

Thus, plum in mouth, chai in hand, I would take in this naissance each morning. It was a time of profound peace and reflection. It was the end of my fellowship, and with ten months of experiences and memories, I had much that needed to be mulled over. These brown cliffs acted as a boundary for my elusive thoughts, giving me a way to contain the swirlings of my imagination and create patterns amongst the flotsam and jetsam of my mind. With them on the horizon, I could finally properly reflect on how I came to be at that very spot on that very morning.

 

In those quiet morning viewings, within my brown mountain enclosure, the taste of ripened plum on my palate, I would ruminate on the past: doubting my accomplishments, wishing for different decisions, pining to go back and do it again. I would stir the present: questioning what this end meant, what this experience had made me. And, most importantly, I would augur the future.

 

I would stare into the pooling mists in the valley below the crusty peaks and see the patterns of what could be. With purple flesh parting between my teeth, I would watch the fog boil and tumble, swirling around the brown horizon, and think about what my next move would be, what my desires actually were. Unfortunately, I could never quite see things clearly. The symbols and signs seemed to just barely elude my discernment, no matter how long I tried to puzzle them out. All I would receive were mixed messages from the ether and veiled threats from the brown wall in the distance. I felt that if I could just see what was on the other side of my umber bowl, everything would make sense.

 

After sipping the last drop of my chai, mostly confused, thoroughly consternated, I would take back to the trails to return to the veranda of plenty. Usually there would be one or two other early risers who had made their way to the meeting place by this time. So, refilled cup and two more plums in hand, I would take a seat for morning chatter, seeking companionship after the lonely introspection of my rites of dawn. For the rest of the day I would see the brown peaks in the distance and think about the morning’s failed prognostications. About what could and could not be. I would turn toward the brown horizon and try to figure out why I could not see beyond them.

Caleb's interest in education policy began during university after he spent a summer in Jaipur studying Hindi on a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. Following his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, Caleb went to law school to practice public interest law. Always searching for ways to integrate education policy into his legal studies, Caleb worked as a legal intern at the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, where he investigated complaints of federal civil rights violations at educational institutions across the Southeast. During his time reading law, Caleb also worked as a certified legal intern at The University of Alabama School of Law Civil Law Clinic, which provides legal representation to traditionally underserved populations in the community. Caleb is excited to work at LAMP‰, finally putting his legal research and writing abilities to use in the Indian education policy field by creating legal workshops for LAMP-affiliated organizations.

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