Tuesday's Treasured & Tipsy Timeslip: This Weeks Traveller is Malay A. Upadhyay

Travel and make-believe go hand in hand. Whether we're in the present or the past, in a haunted castle, an enchanted forest or a broken down building, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and traveling the world can bring the imagination to life.

This week's guest is seasoned traveller Malay A. Upadhyay. Today's journey is all about the story of Kalki Evian which was inspired as much by legend and characters in real life as the places Malay has travelled to over the years. All three, in his opinion, hold a mystery - a story - worthy of narration. The ones to feature in the book range from contemporary Milan to Catania in ruins, from futuristic San Siro to a retired Arena di Verona, from post-apocalyptic volcano Etna to a snowladen sunrise on Himalayas.

Place 1: San Siro, Milano

The iconic stadium of Milano retains its structure but has now been equipped with virtual reality. As one approaches it, a giant cuboidal structure comes into view, angled with one of its ends towards the onlooker and pinned to the ground by four tall pillars on its corners. Both the pillars and the sides are patterned with floors of passageways – curving around the pillars or slanting straight along the sides. Each ends somewhere along its base to a gateway – entry or exit, while the other escapes somewhere within the walls. The exterior is now all in glass, flashing with running bands of colours as people cover the distance – major sponsors, details of the organizers, rules of conduct et al. As the wide space that stretches between the stadium and the first set of metallic fence creases in, it brings along a growing wave of cheers from within. The match is about to begin. Once in, escalators carry people upwards with more advertisements flashing by the sides, and sounds that sufficiently eclipsed all else. “So basically,” as Qin sums up in the story, “Ads have become more like personal conversations, which means no two persons are seeing the same ones.”

That is the beauty of this virtual space. It isn’t bound by the first three dimensions of space. Our individual projections can overlap if seen from a third eye. Only, there is no third eye, except for the organizers with monitory purposes.

At the next right on a curving pass, an open gateway rises upon a few steps. The staircase is covered by huge walls that only reveal the northern sky to onlookers at first but as they draw closer, the huge stadium unravels itself. Suddenly the cheer is no more a cheer but a giant pot of boiling roar that comes from a slanting tapestry of people that appear to stretch for miles. This is a larger stadium than any that could have been imagined in the days now long gone. The path and the walls around soon melt into two seats fixed amidst an ocean of that crowd, distributed along three tiers. Wait, “melt”? Yes, and that’s not nearly the biggest change in how the game of football exists in this new world.

Place 2 - The bedroom. Theme: Baarish

Hold her hand now, look at her, let her look at you, for it takes the span of one blink. The wood begins to dissolve on the walls and for a split second, one observes a blank coating of what is now revealed to have been some form of glass all along. Immediately thereafter the colours emerge again on those glassy walls and begin to curve with fluidity and to spread as waves, resembling a drop of ink diluting itself in a bottle of water. Before you know, the room has turned to a rainforest on the edge of a lake. The latter comes to view first on the front wall as a body of water stretches out three-dimensionally till a very distant horizon where it merges with dense rainclouds. The surface is rippled with raindrops and bears little still waves of flowing water. On either side of you, the walls fashion few huge leaves surrounded by many smaller ones stemmed on to trees and hedges that make up a dense jungle view. The show stealers, however, are the static rainfall and those crystal clear raindrops hanging by the edges, which collect onto the grooves of those bent leaves whose very veins shine under a faint hint of light from above. The resolution is so clear that one can see a hint of one’s shining reflection in each miniscule drop. The roof carrying the rainclouds along its length has gaps through which sunrays seem to appear even as the giant star stands hidden behind. And yet, you are still in your room. And you are given an additional option: Play. Blink, and it comes to life.

Slowly the virtual leaves begin to twirl, bend and spring back under the force of proxy raindrops that have begun to fall around into oblivion. They simultaneously shake, led perhaps by a sort of wind that seems to push the rainclouds as well. It is virtual, electronic and confusing. Turn on the sound. Leaves began to crackle. The wind begins to blow by as the ripples spread on the lake. The raindrops begin to hit an invisible ground, the clouds expressing their thunderous intent. The entire transition is smooth, brought to our house by Scinoi Bee, under the authority of a lady whom few have ever heard of. Those who have, refrain from admitting so. Bask in ignorance, for Hope Leosword already has you tethered.

Place 3 - Post-apocalyptic Mt. Etna, Sicily

Thunder sounds loudly. It feels too cold for comfort. To the amazement of Qin, the mysterious reservations of Friuli & continuing loquaciousness of Bree, the ground reveals an apparent field of near-black gravel that seems to slip beneath them. Its slope is gradual further downhill on one end but nearly exponential as it curves upwards on the other. Intermittent blocks of stone shine in absolute black over the ground which itself is draped in a gradient of black, brown and red, surrounding them. Somewhere far downhill, faint patches of green show while the horizon is bordered with ripples of black. There lies the dark Mediterranean Sea, calm and hollow, but too far. The biting chill so high up on the mountain rises further as much above, the peak stands, tall and commanding against the radiant night sky, gleaming on its edges in bright red. Every now and then its insides grumble and send an added shiver down our spine. It feels as if Earth would move or hiccup at any time beneath our feet and even the firm solidity of its surface cannot be trusted. Wind is fierce and worsens both the cold and the wavering ground. Clouds are thick under the roof that has vanished well and truly over the dark humiliation of that covering of fumes and gases. The sounds are majestic and any intrusion is faint, as Qin realized when Bree spoke less than a foot from him, “You wanted to know about me? Here it is.”

It had been a shout but was subdued by the thunder and roar in the sky when they stood there that day, faced with a challenge. Qin looked at the tumultuous peak, flashing out warnings every second. He turned to Bree and asked, “A volcano?”

“Mungibeddu - my love, my tragedy, my home,” was the reply. That was Etna, the jewel of Sicily.

Place 4 - Sandakphu, Himalayas

We’re in India. We’re on the Himalayas. And the wind is always cold here too, though without the anomaly of fiery lava. It revels in the absence of obstructions of an urban sprawl. The lone house, the hut, is made of wood, distinct in its snow-laden roof slanting down upon creaking doors. It stands singularly erect in a cluster of three huts further away. Thick uneven snow on ground creates a wave in the darkness that precedes dawn. There, in a distance, is another hut - the smallest - that flickers over a single candle flame somewhere inside. A very old woman lived there once, several years back. Her noodle soup – steaming, bland and life-saving - would still be distinct in any traveller’s memory. It was nothing short of an elixir in the freeze that prevailed outside. It was such remembrance with which Qin had wished, above all else, that he could tell her just how much her culinary effort in a lost world meant to each and every individual who had ever arrived at Sandakphu from the farthest corners of the world. That faint flickering view at the back of the hut hides the path that brings trekkers up to this peak. In front, land stretches some fifty meters in length and some fifteen degrees in incline. Beyond that, it slopes down sharply from three sides. Nothing lies beyond its softly curving horizon ahead, except the darkest a sky can be, adorned with the twinkle of brighter stars. The only sound is a howl – the hollow wave of the wind as on a desert. For, at that edge, one stands facing the valley beyond – a valley so deep, its end can never been seen. Nor can one wish to see it, for every pair of eyes remains fixed upon the distant mountain range that stretches ahead – many, many miles away. And each of those pairs that looks at it inevitably focuses on one peak in particular - Mt. Everest. There it stands, humble, unassuming, quiet.

Qin, though, was not allowed that moment of awe as he limped up to the edge, bruised and battered. For, as he felt in that moment, the added chill was brought not by the wind, the inspiration brought not by the rocks. These were the embellishments of a silhouette that interrupted the continuum of horizon on that edge. The silhouette was that of Kalki Evian.


  1. Gorgeous vistas, Malay. Love it!

  2. Glad you liked it, A. B. Funkhauser! The Timeslip has been an excellent idea from Rachael!

  3. I've read half this book and I'm amazed at the way Malay can visualize futuristic events unfolding in his own mind.


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