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A n o t h e r ’s P l a c e Marc Joan It is cool under the banyans, and quiet, except for the sounds of a bird in the branches—feathers brushing rich, dark leaves with the dry rustle of a silk fan unfolding.

There is a part of India, near Mysore, where the Kaveri river helps feed the impossible lushness of paddy fields. Indeed, where the green of the paddy is dominant, and where the imported car has yet to compete with the bullock cart and the bare foot. Take the train to a certain rural station in this blessed region. From there, engage your chosen mode of transport. Ask for the old house, from the time of the Raj. Everybody knows it, even today. It is haunted; the Englishman’s children died, and he left. Certainly the building is drenched in expatriate melancholy; perhaps bereavements are more bitter when they are borne in a foreign land. Yes, the house has a story to tell, but I have another. There is no beginning or end to it, as such. It’s not that kind of story. That day I walked from the house to that reach of the river where the banyans half-hide a clutch of temples, still white in spite of time’s monsoons. Discarded and forlorn, like broken shells in an abandoned nest, they are home only to spiders, obese and drugged by plenty. It is cool under the banyans, and quiet, except for the sounds of a bird in the branches—feathers brushing rich, dark leaves with the dry rustle of a silk fan unfolding. Here, at the sand-silted shore, the river is slow-moving and silent. One of the temple buildings is planted close to the bank. From it, steps lead to the water’s edge—no—they lead into the water. I stand and peer at them; stairs descending to dark green depths. Why? Has the river encroached upon them over time? If not, then why 20

build steps under water; and how? And why were the temples deserted? I try to photograph the descent. The steps are so white; they draw the eye down where the pale stone fades into a green world. I can see occasional movements, sometimes quick glimmers, as of a fish’s belly. Sometimes a slow, dark shadow, moving closer, as though curious but cautious, always on the edge of sight. Then I feel it. You will have felt it too, at one time or another: the sensation of being watched. I turn and see her. Standing a few feet away, soaking wet, immodest by Indian standards, she seems unconcerned that her sari clings to her body. She regards me, unsmiling, hostile. Her eyes seem almost inhuman: flat and devoid of expression. My smile goes unanswered. The message is clear: This is not your place. You are not welcome. You must leave. Cowed, with a muttered apology, averting my eyes, I start to retrace my steps, back to the house. I walk for only a few minutes before realizing that my camera case is too light. Cursing, I turn around again. I make my passage noisy, beating the lantana aside with a stick, so as not to alarm her with a sudden return. There are the steps, white, empty except for a black Canon; and pristine, except for the wet footprints leading down, down into the water. Yes, leading into, but not out of, the unpeopled river; disappearing, evaporating before my eyes, in the heat of the Mysore sun.

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Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...