As the dark clouds gather, threatening thunder and rain, we talk about Cambodia. Not that there was rain when we were in Cambodia, far from it. But rainy afternoons when all one can do is watch the water colour the landscape makes the mind meander and Cambodia may just as well be where it may choose to roam.
We say yes, let’s talk about Cambodia. But let’s not talk about the shoot. At least not the producer. And absolutely not about the National Geographic photographer. And we agree not to. But let’s talk about the shoot. You know the shoe shine boy and the ladies with their babies. Oh! Yes, yes, we remember. But let’s not talk about ‘channeling Steve McCurry’: the little lama with the index finger close to his lips, the girl with the blazing eyes and pink headscarf. And we laugh. For we remember the book and the “inspiration” for the photographs. But then we also remember the airport where we saw the book. So, she says, let’s not talk about the airport. The military men with steel in their eyes. We say almost in unison, this is no afternoon to talk about military men and airports! And there is silence. We remember but choose not to talk about the military, or the history and even those other photographs- black and white and chilling. For what can one add to all that has already been said?
Then he says remember the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Again there is silence. By now the rain like silver sheets is busy obliterating the beautiful watercolour that it had painted just a few minutes back. Cold, dark lines of grey on grey. We remember Siam Reap and the trees that are taking their time to shred apart, stone by stone, what was once the pride of the Khmer rule, unlike humans they lack both pride and perhaps also a heightened sense of purpose.
We might as well talk about the Foreign Correspondence Club and that lunch, which we know, even though we may not want to, we always do end up talking about. She says, hope the crab tasted good because everything else, to be honest, was unpalatable, But the mention of sea food has already transported us to the Russian market in Phnom Penh; the humidity and the overpowering smells. Unmindful of the rain she opens the windows. But we are already talking about Phnom Penh and of course, the Russian market.
However, we know that the discussion has been salvaged. For we shall talk about Mekong and Tonle Sap- the beautiful water bodies. The boat cruises, the Japanese tourists, the monks and the sunset, the butterflies and the children. Once we get to the children, Cambodia will overwhelm our hearts. And soon we shall run out of words. The children of Cambodia leave such an enduring impression.
So we did talk. It hasn’t rained in two days. The sky is an astonishing shade of blue behind puffed up white clouds.