“Respect was one thing. Survival was another. It was important that I kept my priorities in the right order.”
“A journey of observation must leave as much as possible to chance. Random movement is the best plan for maximum observation”
“An intelligent enemy,' he would say, stroking his beard as if it were a bristly pet, 'rather than a foolish friend.' Or, 'He learnt the language of pigeons, and forgot his own.' Or, the favourite of Jan Fishan Khan: 'Nothing is what it seems.”
“Calcutta's the only city I know where you are actively encouraged to stop strangers at random for a quick chat.”
“There is nothing quite as unpleasant as wearing a pair of briefs which have been trailed through a Calcutta courtyard. Nothing, that is, except having one's elbows and knees lacerated by unseen slivers of glass and discarded razor blades.”
“Where does one go in a tremendous city like Calcutta to find insider information? I recalled India's golden rule: do the opposite of what would be normal anywhere else.”
“What came next was a new experience for for both the fish and me”
“The mere mention of the Farakka Express, which jerks its way eastward each day from Delhi to Calcutta, is enough to throw even a seasoned traveller into fits of apoplexy. At a desert encampment on Namibia's Skeleton Coast, a hard-bitten adventurer had downed a peg of local fire-water then told me the tale. Farakka was a ghost train, he said, haunted by ghouls, Thuggees, and thieves. Only a passenger with a death wish would go anywhere near it.”
“The pursuit of illusion is not about studying for prizes, or for study's sake. There's no right or wrong, no pass or fail.”
“Calcutta has spectacular over-employment. In the West, where we're obsessed with slashing the numbers of workers for the sake of it, we drool at the idea of more, faster computers, fewer humans. But as we struggle to adopt an ever-changing technology, we lose sight of the satisfaction that only a finely tuned human system can provide.”
“My father looked on in disbelief, overwhelmed that his son had been taught to eat glass and relish it.”
“A cross between a foreign legion boot-camp and a secret-society initiation ritual, the ordeals were grounded in pain. One thing was obvious: the agenda, which was dedicated to grave discomfort, had been drawn up by a passionate sadist.”
“Returning to a city that one has known and loved fills you with a delicious sense of warmth.”
“They say that every snowflake is different. If that were true, how could the world go on? How could we ever get up off our knees? How could we ever recover from the wonder of it?
By forgetting. We cannot keep in mind too many things.
There is only the present and nothing to remember.”
“I leaned against his side, his irritation oddly comforting. After a moment he grudgingly put his arm around me. The deep quiet was already settling back upon the grove, as if all the fire and rage we'd brought could make only a brief interruption in its peace.”
“I was too dazed to follow right away, because there was something new happening, a wheel inside my heart I’d never noticed before, and it was spinning so fast it made me dizzy. And the farther away she got, the faster it spun, like there was an invisible cord unreeling from it that stretched between us, and if she went too far it would snap - and kill me. I wondered if this strange, sweet pain was love.”
“All men are ignorant, Aes Sedai. The topics of our ignorance may change, but the nature of the world is that no man may know everything.”
“I saw everyone, a shifting sea of discomfort and sadness, each person carrying his own pain, each telling her own stories, no story more or less tragic or triumphant than any other.”
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