Monday, October 29, 2007


I've been fascinated and bothered by the title of Wes Anderson's movie DARJEELING EXPRESS. On the one hand, I've been to Darjeeling and found it a fascinating little city - or "hill town". I was curious to see the movie because I'd like to see pictures of the place. On the other hand, I know there cannot be a train called the "Darjeeling Express." The only rails to Darjeeling are narrow gauge and the train that goes from the low lands up to mile-plus-high Darjeeling has only a few cars which are open. It is locally called "the toy train" and runs sporadically, if at all.

So it was a toss up yesterday, I'd go see whichever of about four movies I'm interested in, was about to play at the time I arrived at the multiplex. It was DARJEELING EXPRESS. It never got to Darjeeling. I enjoyed the "buddy" story of three brothers and the typically American premise that they would have a spiritual experience just by going to India. [Ha!] But Adrien Brody is beautiful to watch and the rest of the cast were fine and the story sometimes amusing. Though I didn't see a bit of Darjeeling, there was a scene of a funeral in a poor little town among dessert-y landscape that was extremely touching. The whole village gathered to go to the river to cremate the dead little boy. Everyone wore white [the funeral color in India], and they went on wagons pulled by their tractors and a donkey or two and a camel -- all were improbably decked with white flowers but never mind ... there was solmenity and the sense of a rural village where people dealt with life and death seriously and with that ceremonial beauty that was very touching in so many places in India. The scene was such a wonderful contrast to the rich boys without real direction in their lives, to me it was the heart of the movie.

With Darjeeling on my mind, I've spent the last 24 hours or so feeling happy that I've been able to see places like India. I love having the storehouse of visual memories -- e.g., a troop of Hanuman monkies dashing across Chowrasti square, and people lined up just looking at the panorama of Katechenjenga and beyond her, looking smaller in the distance, Everest, just after dawn when the clouds were not gone but nestling in the valleys below us. There was a boy brushing his teeth, sqautting beside the gutter outside the front door of his house. And the evening drive up to Darjeeling during Dawali festival when every little hut along the way or in the valleys was outlined in candles in little jars...there were snow leopards in the zoo and the mounteering institute with a memorial Tenzing Norgay who was with Hillary on Everest. I would like to go back to Darjeeling ... but I doubt I will. I've got those and many other pictures in my head.

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