A whole week without seeing any other tourists – until a group of IT workers based in Gujurat rocked up in two coaches and invited us to share their annual get-away party with them. Not sure you could really call them ‘tourists’ though.
Which means we have been sharing our luxury hotel up in the mountain pass with only the staff and an assortment of camels, cows, goats, macaques, dogs, pigs, donkeys and parakeets. No cats, strangely.
The menu is ‘pure veg’ and the chef has been producing other-worldly but in fact basic down-home Rajasthan dishes, all washed down with copious amounts of ice-cold Indian lager.
The manager set us up with a modem and, inspired by the edge-of-the desert landscape and strong beer, I spent an evening listening to a pair of ol’ Neil Young albums, Harvest Moon and Prairie Wind, both written as though for country rockers just past their prime, but still evoking the high-income American mythologies of limitless space and broken dreams – all mixed up with a fuzzy we’re-still-in-love and safe-in-our-old-home after all these years and the kids grown up kind of tone. Quite dreamy, really. The last of these albums dates back to 2005 and I wonder if anyone in America still believes in these kinds of notions more than a decade on. They sound dated to me, however alluring and reassuring they might come across.
Because from wherever I’m sitting – whether high up in the Albanian mountains, on an Apulian beach, hiking in the French Alps, back home or travelling across the Thar Desert – all I’m getting is a country in terminal decline as it continues waging ever-lasting wars on countries that would not give the American people a moment’s thought were it not for their military invasion and destructive terror campaigns launched against their own population. Think Yemen, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and so on. Not to mention all those Latin American countries, with Venezuela now very prominent on the US’s which-country-can-we-plunder-and-destroy-without-fear-of-repercussion-next list.
Set against this is the constant chatter of Hindi and other Indian languages and a fair old dose of jazzy Planet Gong, rocky Kula Shaker and good old Ravi Shankar knocking it out on his trusty sitar.
That and a vast, blue Rajasthan sky.
All very Indian, all very new-world – all very good.
Now, if only we could find some real peace in this world.