Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Something like a Graham Greene

I was drinking and dancing that night at the club space of the hotel, with the crew of Canadian, American and Chinese. The hotel, surrounded by mountains in that Western China province, was booked out by the film project and we were partying almost every night. I was a little drunk.

While I finally sat down to catch my breath in a corner sofa, I felt I was being looked at, I realized a man sitting quietly not far from me, with a glass of Whiskey. He was observing the scene, instead of dancing. I don't recognize him to be one of the crew members from LA or Vancouver.

"You seem to have fun!" He said to me.

"It is fun. Why you are not dancing?"

"I am leaving soon." He had wavy hair, a nice profile in the dimmed light, I still remember. He is at his early 30s. He would have been the type I would have liked later on.

"Which department do you belong?" I was fighting to remember whether I had seen him before.

"None. I am a journalist. I am just visiting some friends."

"My father is a journalist, I love journalist." And I meant it, I was working as a journalist then in a state news agency, and my agency sent me to work with the film crew in this beautiful area in Sichuan province where they were shooting a film about Panda.

He laughed a little.

"You said you are leaving soon, why?"

"Have you not heard--Kim Il-sung died today."

"I have not heard anything. I don't hear anything these days. I just hang around in this beautiful place and speak some English between people who could not talk to each other directly."

I was having a blank, innocent and carefree face and tone of a 23 year old.

He smiled again in the darkness and said" I am going to North Korean tomorrow to report on the funeral."

"That suits you better, I mean, that is real news. What are you going to get here?" I teased him.

I did not remember much of what other things we talked about that night and I was too preoccupied to even ask what news agency or paper he belonged to. When he had to leave and go to bed so that he could get up early to get on the road, he stared me into my eyes, patted on my hands and said "Behave yourself." What did he mean?

Can he see that I was a little lost there, with what I was feeling and confused about.

In my mind, I had a little bit of curiosity and regret of not having known him earlier. Even I liked the film crews, deep in my heart, I felt I had nothing in common with most of them. But a journalist, a man who is good at words, who travels the world and writes stories, always intrigues me.

Lot of my favorite writers, are ex-journalists. Graham Greene, George Orwell, Hemingway have all travelled far. When I first read Graham Greene years later and picture him drinking in his Foreign Correspondents Club in Saigon, I remembered this guy I met that night.

I believe if I were a man, I would have done just that, be a foreign based journalist and go to strange land and be alone and observant and leave to fate to many intended and unintended encounters, long or short. I guess I could have done that too as a woman, but I am short on actions and prone for excuses of short on actions.

Tonight, what made me remember that man and that night is not Greene, it is the news about the 15 year memorial of the death of Kim Il-sung.

So it has been 15 years since that time, that night, that me, young, innocent with starry eyes and not knowing what lay ahead, and just started living and searching.

I wish I have stayed in the world of film people and journalists, looking back, they are free, their project changes, with location, in time, in each story making, somehow, fate had taken me on a different path and I have become an office prisoner.

It is interesting and ironic that for the night when a closed nation thought they lost their greatest leader, founding father, it only echoed so matter-of-factly between two people thousands of miles away, briefly encountered, each have his and her own path to continue.

And that nation still lives under a lie, 15 years later.

Have I behaved myself?

Mr. Journalist, I wish you have and are well.
More about Greene

"A stranger with no shortage of calling cards: devout Catholic, lifelong adulterer, pulpy hack, canonical novelist; self-destructive, meticulously disciplined, deliriously romantic, bitterly cynical; moral relativist, strict theologian, salon communist, closet monarchist; civilized to a stuffy fault and louche to drugged-out distraction, anti-imperialist crusader and postcolonial parasite, self-excoriating and self-aggrandizing, to name just a few."

The Nation, describing the many facets of Graham Greene

No comments: