19 Stories

Kolkata, India from 19 stories up

There are goat noises. Where are they coming from? Outside. I look.

A goat and a baby goat are frolicking around, being chased by a woman in a fenced-off grass area.

The goat jumps the fence. The baby goat looks sad. Poor baby goat.

It could be a man chasing them. It’s hard to tell from 19 stories up.

Actually, it’s amazing how much detail you get get from this high in the sky, and yet so much is missing from the dialogues and dramas taking place below.

A group of kids pile on to a truck, jumping up and down on it until it collapses under their weight a few minutes later. Their soccer ball lay abandoned on the field where they left it, having moved on to more interesting activities. What those activities were (flashmob truck-crushing?), I have no idea.

An old man flies a kite from the roof of a small building not far away. He does this for hours, eventually sitting down from weariness (or boredom), but he keeps that kite in the sky like it’s the sun and he doesn’t want his crops to fail.

Packs of dogs roam the streets at night, fighting with each other, but cringing away from humans; dozens of tails hide between back legs as the pack passes under the same street light as a little old lady. They bark, but only when it’s very cold and there are only other dogs around. As soon as they find themselves alone and freezing, however, their cacophony is deafening. Even way up here.

The statues. The rickshaws. The fireworks at odd times of day.

Sometimes there are men, clinging precariously to a single rope, dangling outside my windows. They slowly paint the exterior walls of my apartment building, trying the whole time to avoid looking in on me, lest they should have to smile or wave (a potentially deadly act) in response to my acknowledgment.

I’m 19 stories off the ground, but there are hundreds of stories going on any time I look out the window. On day like this — where I’ve just written 10,000 words and read three-times that much — it’s a like a mental balm, looking down below and getting away from my own ambitions, concerns and questions for a while, and moving on to those of all the people below.

It’s goatertainment, old-man-ertainment, dangling-painter-in-my-window-ertainment, all contained within one massive, wall-sized screen.

While I may still prefer street-level adventures and interactions for the intellectually-stimulating side of travel, for the lazy, zoning-out brand that I need right now, this is perfect.