Raman Mundair

*Quick impressions - Word Expresso!

(Hello, apologies for ad hoc blog postings - en route internet connections and time have been limited. Hope you like it.  Please note that none of the entries are in chronological order. Pictures of the journey on 'Mobile Snapshots' page. More entries to follow. Do let me know what you think.)


Skopje, Macedonia


We arrive in darkness and fall

into the comfort of our beds

        like water.


in the morning warm

winter Asian sun

Kisses open third eye


Memories of India

flood my senses

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Exhausted. The hotel’s wall to wall red carpet reminds me of ‘The Shining.’

I’m coming over all Jack Nicholson - “all work and no play...” etc.

I tuck myself into the safety of bed and surrender to sleep.

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Little boy chain smoking poets on Macedonian women’s emancipation:

“Cool, they pay for their own drinks”

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Macedonia to Greece


Glimpses from the train:


On river’s edge, a new church
Heron leads flock of bowed head
Cormorants, wings outstretched

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Border control - Greece and suddenly out of nothingness a perfect little station cafe: good food and cafe, family run. Grandpapa takes the money and Grandmama clucks softly around her kin. Fragile faced granddaughter serves our coffee and then lays a table lovingly for their family lunch: roasted peppers, aubergines, feta and olives appear. I want to draw up a seat and join them.

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The landscape changes: flat, patchwork vistas appear with faint mountains off into the distance.

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A sudden stellar :
A rush of solar panels
Glint and wink
in the late afternoon sun

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Istanbul


The arrival


The train arrives early! We arrive at the station to be welcomed by a large press core. Flashes, cameras and microphones a-go-go! I feel as if a badger has slept in my mouth, an elephant across my back and look as if a flock of birds have given me a good going over. I try to smooth down my medusa hair and smile.

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We give interviews and eat snatches of pastries and sips of Turkish coffee in the Orient Express cafe (yes the very place the great train used to depart from). Our Turkish hosts are kind and gracious and very proud to have us here. We are assembled together for the first time and take shy looks at one another and making sleep fumbled introductions.
Gregarious Igor (from Macedonia), Marko (Croatia) and Efe (Turkey) have cracked open the Raki (a killer ouzo–esque spirit) and slurred toasts echo across the concourse. High adventure and spirits abound.

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A conference
of bedraggled writers, we are

A strange constellation

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‘The Gaze’

(the all seeing eye)


Writers umbilically attached to camcorders, computers, cameras and various gizmos. Using electronic devices as an interface, creating a strange facade: “You want to know me, get to know my camcorder/computer/camera/mobile phone.” Busy capturing the moment in the moment whilst possibly being anywhere but the present.
At one point I find myself being photographed intrusively whilst eating by a photographer who appeared to have little interest in holding a conversation with me but felt it necessary and appropriate to flash rapidly and repeatedly in my face. I feel my heckles rise and ask her to stop. Later I reflect on the strange vulnerability you can encounter as the subject of someone’s lens: the shift in power, the strength of the gaze, the fact you can’t often see their eyes but a Cyclops-like version of themselves but most poignantly the fact that in that kind of power dynamic you aren’t always able to engage and have a dialogue. It’s one way, and you’re not always ready.

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Zagreb


Arrival

It’s not raining! Grey, overcast yet the city is full of light in an Aberdonian silver city kind of way: where the stone facades reflect a subdued shine.
Roman (the local co-ordinator) greets us warmly at the station and immediately we fall into an easy banter. By the time we’d checked into the hotel we were already cracking jokes. A quick power-walk tour of Zagreb city centre and the old town – Kaptol and we’re whisked off to a hip cafe where we meet Sladjan and Mima – two local writers. Within minutes we are in the midst of a bright, animated conversation about literature, politics and nationhood. I feel that I am amongst friends.
Wandering around the centre of Zagreb and the city is full of flower markets, statuary (particularly of horses and horsemen...?!). Streets lined with busy cafes and patisseries. The Zagrebis look as if they know how to have a good time.
It’s busier here than Slovenia but of course this is a much bigger city. People look expensive – lots of designer labels and quirky attire. It’s a great place to people watch.

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A cultured cool
Coutured ladies who lunch
With a sense of alternative culture lying close to the surface of the city’s chic skin

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Poetic looking men in their 50s wearing well cut winter coats with discreet embellishments. One man wears a tiny silver CND/peace earring pinned to his made to measure coat, his long silver-grey curls gently teasing the symbol, making it sway as he continues an animated discussion with a friend.

Zagreb fruit market

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Ljubljana

 
Rain. Soft . Not like the full on Shetland rain that comes at you horizontally that I’m used to.

Cigerettes, coffee and bicycles. Everywhere.

A city of youth.

Laid back style: skinny jeans or a stylish jodhpur meets harem pants trouser. Boots and short jackets.

Rain.

A city of myths wrapped around a hill with a castle.

A church on every square.

A city of poets, philosophers and priests.

Rain.

Multi tasking cyclists weaving through the streets and pavements: on phones, eating snacks and holding umbrellas.

Al fresco cafe culture (despite the rain). Blankets left thoughtfully on seats.

Did I mention the rain?


The night before Zagreb


Hotel room. Trying to sleep.

Paper thin walls.

Above, a dominatrix strides in high heels dragging her submissive with her back and forth across the floor.

To the left – a heavy metal party. To the right – a heated, domestic argument.

Inside the room an insect bombards me. The more I try to swipe it away, the more sleep fades ...


The 8.15 from Ljubljana to Zagreb


Sharing a ‘Brief Encounter’ (vintage British Rail type of) compartment with an old woman and her middle aged son. They’re sitting by the window in our reserved seats, but we don’t mention it and settle ourselves.

Cosy, warm.The headrest curves to cup my tired head.

Ticket inspector: Dressed smartly in a turquoise suit and peaked hat ensemble. An easy smile on his lips.

Travelling companions:

Red haired old lady with wrinkles like a spider’s web across her face. Violent cerise lips. Dressed in a red tarton trouser suit and baby pink sweater. Her middle-aged son (dressed in cords and a pale jumper) returns from a bathroom break. Red lady grabs his hands and cleans thoroughly with anti-bacterial wipes.

Later, middle-aged son accidently flips the contents of the bin and the trash falls at his Mother’s feet. Red mother chastises him loudly and bats away his hands when he stoops to pick up the fallen rubbish. She then proceeds to gingerly pick up each item. Holding it as if it were contaminated. She curses as she clears the mess. When she finishes she takes an anti-bacterial tissue and carefully decontaminates herself.

I notice a moving speck emerge from my bag. I look closer. The Slovenian bug has smuggled itself into Croatia.


Glimpses from the train:


Fingers of rain

Stroke

The windowpane.

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Pumpkins piled high

Outside on porches

Multiple bright suns

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The fog clears

Three Buddha deer

A holy trinity

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Bloated olive rivers

Play hide and seek

With passing train

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Lush forest

Hugs steep mountain

Hints of Autumn

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Single track mountain

Roads race river.

Train hurtles

East

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Passing through Zidani Most and the rain commits to becoming serious.

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Contesting Borders


Border control – Dobra, Croatia

Efe’s Turkish passport is checked in detail. The border guard radios base and sends Efe’s details over the airwaves. Slow pensive minutes pass as the guard eyeballs Efe. Efe is calm, collected and continues working on his computer. Eventually his passport is returned and the guard retreats.

Efe shows me his visa. It’s valid only for several days. Giving him enough time to visit and read at the poetry events but nothing more. Efe says “It’s like ‘Come. Do your business. But go!' "

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* Hello, apologies for ad hoc blog postings - internet connections and time have been limiting. Hope you like it. More to follow. Do let me know what you think

For more info. about me/my work go to:

www.peepaltreepress.com/review_list.asp?au_id=112

www.friendsofscotland.gov.uk/scotlandnow/issue-11/arts/raman-mundair.html

www.herenowtherenow.org/rmundair.html


News

'I like to use the languages of the various arts – literature, music, theatre...I think that is the spirit of the modern global era.'- poet Ivan Hristov spoke to SJ Fowler of 3AM magazine about the evolution of the contemporary Bulgarian poetry scene.

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Cosmin Borza discusses the work of Romania's 'Generation 2000' poets, including Radu Vancu and Claudiu Komartin in an essay at Asymptote.

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At the Sofia Poetics festival, which was organised by Word Express participant Ivan Hristov, Scottish based poet Ryan Van Winkle caught up with fellow festival guests SJ Fowler and Tomasz Rózycki. To hear Fowler and Rózycki discussing their work and reading some of their poetry, listen to the Scottish Poetry Library podcast here.

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