Lost Boy of the Week: David Rozgonyi (Part 1)

Featured, Lost Boys, Websites and Blogs — By on March 10, 2010 at 6:00 am

David Rozgonyi

source: davidrozgonyi.blogspot.com/

David Rozgonyi was born in Libya to Hungarian political refugees in 1976. He has lived on four continents and has traveled through over 50 countries on foot, bus, train, motorcycle and Cyril, his beloved 1977 Volkswagen bus. His first book, Goat Trees: Tales from the Other Side of the World, is a collection of short fiction written in and about some of his favorite places in the world. His first full-length novel, Two Dolphin, is coming out soon. He currently lives and writes in Hungary. For more photography, book information or just to say hi, visit David at davidrozgonyi.blogspot.com.

David has been kind enough to share one of his previously unpublished short stories with the Lost Girls, along with some of his amazing photos.

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The End of the Line

By David Rozgonyi

It is a confluence of forty thousand miles of rail and three dark ocean currents, of statues and sea, of pilgrims and shrines, of chants held aloft by a wind that always smells of kelp. An ending and a beginning and everything that resides between the two, it is a place where water meeting water can eat a star, where almost all of the penitent’s wishes come true.

The rare foreigner arrives by train from cities along the coasts on either side of the Southern Ghats-Malabar or Coromandel, it makes no difference except in the way the words roll. Come down from Cochin, Jew Town and the Venetian canals of the Kerala State on a train that is in constant flux; steaming and gasping, it slows, then picks up a little speed, then slows, then stops for a while like a pack animal resting. One after the other, the passengers disappear, and seldom do fresh ones come to take their place beyond Tirunelveli, though the train continues to pause interminably at every empty station. The men with turbans are gone like ghosts, and the withered hawkers have long ago given way to cutgrass and bleating goats. The south Indian air, hot and dank to begin with, thickens with salt. The land grows flat. Had you come hard seat, you might have found company, but in this upper class sleeper into which they so helpfully forced you, apart from the soiled laundry and the trash between the bunks, you are alone. Once one of thousands, you have become the sole survivor on a train that groans behind you for almost a quarter of a mile, empty and forlorn, with no signs of life but for its relics-piles of dirty sheets, the unbalanced blades of fans whipping at the air, an upended tin cup rattling beneath your bench. After a while, time itself unravels, winds down. Your limbs grow heavy; your movements take on all the hurry of growing rice. Only after seasons have passed, after monsoons have come and gone, does the train come to the end of the line. Get your bag, get out, and get walking. Although the traveler has to reach this town by train, for the full effect she must enter it on foot.

See the empty square, the clouds clearing above the shanties and the shacks at yourapproach, flowing downhill toward oceans in your silence. You turn your head slowly this way and that, not drawing attention while using a gait that amid the red-sand deserts of your childhood you discovered ate the ground no matter how it bucked.

To the south, a vast concrete statue of Swami Vivikananda stands guard on an island offshore, his brow higher than the Statue of Liberty; a great flower-yellow cathedral pompous enough to return the traveler’s thoughts to childhood European dreams corrals the village to the north. Between them, a huddle of indifferent blue-washed houses in the late afternoon light-the fishing village of Kanyakumari.

The angular solidarity of the buildings is cleaved by dendritic alleys giving onto small, irregular squares that slope steeply downhill so that every step compels the walker toward the water, where the boats are drawn up onto the sand. In haphazard files of vivid greens and reds they cluster, torn saffron-colored nets veils across their bows. The murmur of children seeps from every bruised quadrangle and falls from the flat terraces that crown the houses to settle like silt over the streets, stirred only by the cries of seagulls and crows.

Your pack is light and this is a good thing, for this is the sort of town that invites the traveler to savor the aromas the air offers. Your nose guides you through delicately painted olfactory scenes, and the burning ghats of Varanasi, the wet undershirt slums of Calcutta, the trenches of Delhi, dissipate from coal-blackened sinuses, leaving only the tremendous and wistful scent of sea rocks awash beneath the sun.

And what a sun it is; it is the reason for which you are here. In this sacred place it is rumored to set like a great orange disc upon the sea, an absolutely impossible sun as large as every sunset you have ever seen taken together, larger than your largest memory of it, even if this memory is made engorged by the taste of a mango-sweet mouth upon your own. It is the reason everyone is here.

As evening approaches, the pilgrims of this sun gather on the point like small black ants around a drop of golden syrup. Facing the Swami on the rock, they chat, they eat fried vegetables cooked by vendors whose kitchens are mounted on the backs of their rusting bicycles, they wait. This last is important, for no matter how gaily they disguise it, in actuality that is all they are doing, waiting for the sun to fall, as they have done for a thousand years and as they will do for a thousand more. In India things cannot change so easily.

As you sit reading on the seawall that surrounds the point, you can tell when the show is about to get underway without so much as glancing up from your book. The laughter, the idle chatter, ceases. A hush seeps over the shrines, the vendors, the tide pools, right down to the waterline, where the end of the world is marked by a stone lingam eternally worshipped by an obese stone rat. A sigh rises from the old mothers and the fervent men. Put your book down-the sun has begun to fall.

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