Published: July 6th 2006October 24th 2004
Peering out of the aircraft window, I surveyed the cloud landscape below me. Expanses of smooth flat plains were surrounded by billowing mountains which towered to incredible heights. The amber rays of the setting sun painted the clouds with a beautiful and mesmerising pinkish hue - which made me reflect on my most recent encounter with the insightful and knowledgeable soothsayer...
..."You have returned, young man", whispered the diminutive and frail old woman.
I nodded in silent agreement.
"Travelling again?" she rasped.
"Yes" was my reply. "And you correctly foresaw that India would be my next destination."
"Of course. But again, you wish to know what the future holds", as the flickering candle cast contorted shadows across her spindly fingers.
"Once again, you are not in error" I meekly responded.
"I see many animals in your travels - jungles where there are elephant treks; temples where they worship rats, and festivals where they honour camels" she foretold. More camels, I mused, truly an essential part of any holiday.
"There are other occurrences as well" she continued, "I see cricket matches, two of them; temples, such as Khajuraho and Ellora; religious sites, such as Varanasi and Bodhgaya; monuments, such as the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal; and much train travel." She fell silent - the only sound being the wheezing of her laboured breathing.
"This sounds most promising" was my reply, as I focused my gaze and thoughts on the glowing candle in front of me....
...my mind was transfixed by the red disc of the setting sun through the window of the plane. The sun's last gleaming drew a golden lining along the mountainous clouds - which stood out from the plains which were already immersed in a murky darkness. The captain's voice crackled through the speaker to announce that that the sun had set - a message for the benefit of passengers of the Islamic faith who fast during the daylight hours of Ramadan.
As I watched the evening seep across the sky, the plane slowly descended through the now darkened clouds to reveal the numerous city lights of the Indian sub-continent sprawled out beneath me.