I remember discreetly my pick when posed with a dilemma by another friend to pick one, the mountain or the sea, while I chuckled as I answered, “Over a mountain surrounded by the sea.” I know I was greedy there. I wanted everything at a single place yet longing secretly to visit them in pieces to know in real what I actually loved and why. I haven’t been able to figure out the reason though but however I seem to understand what exactly I might have loved in the enumerable trips I have been to, since I was a child.
Port Blair. Mangalore. Goa. Pondicherry.
I seemed to have strangely been in love with the beaches while being equally scared of the gushing water. So, I often used to stroll along the coast, gathering the wet evening breeze under my sobering breath before I found a spot to settle on to watch the dimming sun, set. Memory, you see, a mental picture which you would take along with us in the ever flowing journey called Life. I picked up the notion from a movie titled, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” but anyways it’s a story for another day. I believe some things are meant to be remembered through the naked eye rather than behind a camera lens. Be it the famous night street of Pondicherry or the sparsely visited Anjuna beach of Goa, I wouldn’t dare to forget how it felt to be there in those moments of awe.
Sea, in particular, is kind in its demeanour yet dominating in its presence and vastness. The rhythmic sound of the splashing waves brings out a kind of music which has a soothing effect, especially on me. It brings out romanticism in its truest sense, adding colours to the existing palate of our life. The calmness into which I could stare for eternity to come is the thing that I have found to savour with time, the thing I actually seem to love about the sea.
Kargil. Khardungla Pass. Shimla. Khasi Hills. Yercaud. Dodabetta. Yumesamdong.
My tryst with the mountains began way before I met the sea. It began from the place where people usually end, “The Great Himalayas”. The dried up mountains to the south of Ladakh to the snow covered ones to its north, it’s a befitting spectacle which one rarely could afford to forget. But I have come a long way, I was only ten back then.
This December, it was the clouded mountain and the windy valley that we happen to choose, making me understand the reason why I seem to love them so fiercely. It so happens with the hills that the time we spend to get to the scenic location is far more than the time we spend at the place. The topsy-turvy road curving upwards with every delicate turn thus remains the significant part of my travel memory, organically peppered with conversations. This part of memory somehow feels a lot important, feels right somehow. The arduous journey packed inside a Mahindra Xylo with an infinite road ahead and with scenic beauty covered all around while being gently graced with differing personalities carrying different opinions yet bonded together by long years of friendship and camaraderie. I now know for sure what I really love about the mountains. Sikkim, one of the most beautiful and one of the most underexplored places that we had recently visited made me realize this over and over again.
Paradise: When the two meet
Pangong-Tso Lake. Gurudongmar Lake.
I always loved the mountain breeze as much as I adored the gushing waves; they felt to me as pious and serene in their truest sense. I was too young to remember much about the time we had visited Pangong-Tso lake. Except the crystal clear bluish water and the deep blue sky at the fore with an abandoned boat at one corner, my memory about the travel is only in bits and pieces. This makes me ponder over the recent things that happened in our week long trip a few weeks ago, which by the way ended with us missing our destined flight, however it’s a story for another day. Gurudongmar Lake, 17500 feet above MSL, surrounded by snow-capped mountains was the paradise we had been lucky to witness. Partly frozen, partly liquid, the lake has been known for its religious reasons, an extremely pious lake, the locals had stressed. I wouldn’t deny their claim, even a bit. It’s God’s own paradise, he seem to have taken an extra effort while making this one. Stunningly breath-taking, applicable even in its literal sense.
The other place, my personal favourite of the trip and one of the best I have ever seen in my life, was the Sea of clouds. The one I had chuckled about; we were at the top of a mighty mountain and below us flowed the ‘clouded’ sea.
It’s never wrong to dream; sometimes they come to life in the most unexpected times and in most unexpected ways. Period.
P.S. Back home. Delhi and its beloved winter smog!
“There was this man who I remember seeing couple of years ago, a peculiar individual in his own right. He was draped in a saffron dhoti with number of beads around his neck which in turn was shielded with his really longish grey beard. His hair was unkempt so was his walk, absent minded it felt. But his eyes had an altogether new story on offer. Despite the wrinkles sagging over his cheeks, his sunken eyes had remained full of life as if they had never aged. There was a sense of excitement in his voice as he narrated the tales from mythology related to the Dashashwamedh Ghat on the banks of River Ganga, the place where we had been for the past two hours. Our itinerary had a long list of places to cover, but we seemed to remain here transfixed.
The early morning sunrise, the moderating winter breeze and his nonchalant manner of storytelling became the perfect foil for the day. It was Tara’s idea to start our trip from Varanasi which I was hell opposed to, atleast initially. I had my reasons; it isn’t a normal occurrence for a couple to reunite after thirteen years of divorce and to start that journey together from a place of pilgrimage was something which I had my inhibitions about. After all no one wants to be reminded of their receding hairline and greyish hair, atleast I didn’t. Tara on the other hand had remained elegant and beautiful; her greying hair seemed to have complimented her much more. I am not denying that I may have been biased in my description about her, why wouldn’t I be? But she did, indeed, look graceful as always.
We were seated along the banks, facing the river, while the old man stood to our left as he narrated the story from Mahabharata. He continued in a deep tone, “King Shantanu…” while we sat hand in hand with a smile on our face. I realized only then how much I missed her. More than the place it was her all along who made all the difference, who made the world a little more bearable for me to survive. She placed her head over my shoulder as we kept hearing the old man’s endless stories with a child-like curiosity in our eyes.
A year later, the saffron cladded man was present with us again, this time hearing our Ramayana with a graceful smile while wishing us a successful marriage, which I really hoped to be this time around. He, although, remained a peculiar man with those youthful eyes and a frailing body but we, however, remember him often when we narrate our story of getting back together where he remains a graceful influence who rekindled our common love for stories, all over again.”
Picture Courtesy: Getty Images
“People usually fixate on how Delhi has only two seasons, the pinching heat of summer and the scathing cold of winter. Their premise is neither completely wrong nor completely right but for a person like me who loves the very onset of winter, there exists four. The two additions are very short in nature; they tend to disappear before we could realize their surreal existence. It was in March of ’96 when I made my first addition.
I was born and brought up in Delhi but the transition between winter and summer remained unacknowledged until then. It wasn’t a blink and a miss phenomenon; it took its own sweet time to mature while providing the time for us to adapt. But I only noticed it when I fell in love with Priya.
I and Priya had been studying in the same college and were from the same department but we had never really spoken with one another until our penultimate year in college. Project Work as it had been labelled back then was the glue which started it all for us. We were grouped together, with a deadline which spanned throughout the winter holidays while ending with a strict date of submission on 5th of March. I do remember the date, why wouldn’t I? You always remember the day for which you have prepared helter-skelter for; mind you, I wasn’t talking about the submission.
Despite having ample time to complete the project, we spent our winter holidays cozying up in our blankets while playing the occasional hand cricket with our siblings. It was in January when we felt the first buzz; it was a silent roar from the other groups who were tottering around the city to collect fodder for our respective projects. The progress of Jaykar’s group spread like wild fire, catching all of us unprepared. It was on one such day in January that I had received a call on my neighbour’s landline, the only telephone in our entire three storied building. Sunitha Aunty knocked at our door, informing us that there was a girl named Priya on the call.
We met the following evening near our college. It was a group of four, out of which three had turned up. I don’t remember my exact words but I do know that she smiled. It was the first time when I noticed how beautiful her eyes were; they were special, atleast to me. She came up with an idea to work at her father’s garage as the cold had made it unbearable to work outside. We kept sipping her home made coffee day after the other for the entire month which she occasionally bragged being the best in the world. “You should try coffee in Chennai; it’s an out of the world experience” she often used to say. While we continued pouring in our efforts for an early completion, atleast Sakshi was eager to. She had her sister’s wedding in February and therefore wanted the project to end as soon as possible. May be that was the reason why she seemed to agree on everything; she never pointed or raised any doubts even if the work was outlandish in nature.
But whatsoever the fruits of our hard work remained unrealized as we were in month of February and the project was not even half way through. Sakshi had ditched us for the wedding while Aman remained as usual irregular. That’s the time when I and Priya actually bonded. The winter had slowly started to recede while we began to venture outside her father’s garage through our long strolls in the nearby park. The conversations were always deep between us but it became longer with those walks. The sun began to set late, the days became longer, while I & Priya found more time to be together. The transition was gradual but unlike the climate, I noticed it at the very first instant.
It was on the 5th of March that I had decided to tell her what I felt. I spent more time in front of the mirror than behind the books in preparing for the viva, and once we were done submitting, I asked her to accompany me to the college cafeteria where I finally professed my feelings which she gracefully reciprocated with her cheerful nod of acceptance. It wasn’t a kind of jubilation that I had felt back then but it was a sense of assurance that I had found. An assurance, that she felt the same as I had always felt for her, an assurance that felt like bliss for the very first time.
But seasons change. So did us. It was in month of October’00 when I acknowledged the second and the final addition in my season list, autumn. It was a sudden phenomenon, and it began when our four year old relationship ended abruptly.”
“I have this habit of scrolling through my Facebook wall on a regular basis, I am pretty sure I could find many like me. I halt at all the travel pics that come by, showing the diverse range of places people are travelling all across the globe. It’s fascinating to be honest especially for a guy like me, who has been in constant company with the city Delhi for over four years now.
Apart from my daily hassles to achieve my much needed break from joblessness and achieving that distant dream, I travel. My next statement might be at odds with my previous one, bear with me and continue; apologies in advance. The maximum I have traveled in recent times would be the 45 minute metro ride which I nowadays do often. I know it’s silly to call that a travel but I find that journey interesting and worthwhile to be called so. Before moving further I have to introduce another thing that I love doing, I observe. When I travel with people all around, I find my stories to observe from.
Every person has their own beautifully crystallised universe. Like the young couple leaning on the wall have that passion in their eyes which blurs everything that stands around them. The old lady seated with her son has her eyes stuck at the gate while clutching on to her son’s arm as she rests. And how could I forget that mystery girl who kept smiling as she looked at me, she was beautiful to be honest but she disappeared in the crowd at the metro station. I mean there are so many stories all around that it makes me feel like I am actually travelling. Isn’t travelling about meeting new faces, making new stories? Though I do admit it’s also about remembering the old ones while looking at the sunset from a deserted beach. Crushes alert!
The point I wanted to convey is that you travel when you meet new people, when they share their experiences while you narrate them one from your own. Writing helps here, it helped me. I spoke to many writers from different parts of the country, different parts of the world, as well as different age groups while even going ahead & collaborating with a few. Certain things aren’t different though, be it Lisbon or Delhi. The emotion remains the same, I have realised, while experiences could totally differ. It wouldn’t be strange now if I told you that traveling in time was possible. It happened with me when I befriended writers who were way older than me. Their experiences were something which I could never relate to but I listened, because I felt somewhere that I might be in that position one day. I thought I might prepare in advance.
You might be thinking that I am trying to justify my limitations, you are not wrong if you think so. In my defence though, I would say that I did travel solo one time, but I didn’t get that kick which I thought would happen. May be it was because of the ache my hand suffered due to the selfies I tried to click, or because there were no faces that I met which could have made that trip memorable. It’s always been people for me, it always will be; after all we are social animals, aren’t we? So when I halt at the travel pics, I smile. I do wish I was there to experience that but I am nevertheless happy because I am moving too.”
The ball crashed into Mrs. Jadhav’s house, shattering the window glass into pieces. It was stuck with immense power by Sunil, a thirteen year old kid from the neighbouring colony. He was touted to be the next cricketing sensation from the neighbourhood which had seen over ten representations in the Indian cricket team in past five decades. His father, Raghav, a former Mumbai Ranji team member, was a close friend of Daksh, Mrs. Jadhav’s only son. Sunil rang the bell twice before Sunitha answered. She placed the ball in his hand with a gentle smile on her face. “Next time, hit it towards Mrs. Dsouza’s house. She was laughing when you broke mine. It’s time for payback!”
“Dadi, I am sorry.” Sunil replied.
“It’s okay, kiddo. Smash as many glasses as you want but do get yourself selected for the Indian team.”
He nodded, as he handed over an envelope which was lying on the floor of her main door and rushed back towards his friends. Mrs. Jadhav placed the envelope on her study table as she continued to broom away the broken pieces. It took over 15 minutes for her to finally get her hands over the envelope. Her frailing health wasn’t helping either but it was of no match when compared to the grievous pain she had felt since Daksh ran away from home.
He was only thirteen then, he had an argument previous night where his parents wanted him to concentrate on studies than cricket. But like most of the kids from the neighbourhood, even he dreamed to wear the blue jersey. The banter wasn’t new; it had been going on for over a year then, his falling grades and poor performances in local cricket tournaments weren’t supporting his case either. That night, the argument got more louder and finally ended when Mr. Jadhav slapped Daksh and asked him to do exactly what he says. The next morning, when Sunitha entered her son’s room, she found only a letter to settle for. The cricket kit bag, a few crisp notes from Mr. Jadhav’s purse and, most importantly, her son Daksh were missing. All that was left was that letter; a letter which asked his parents not to look for him with a promise that he will return only when he makes it into the Indian Cricket Team. It’s been over twenty five years now, Daksh never came back.
She collected her reading glasses, and opened the peculiar looking blue envelope. And what happened next, was something which Sunitha had expected time and again to happen but remained unrealised until today. It was a letter from him, he was coming home finally.
Picture Courtesy: Tom Shaw/Getty Images.
“I lay there among many other envelopes at the corner of a dark room, the room which the just married couple had used for storing their glittery presents and beautiful bouquets that they had received at their reception. It was a fancy affair I must say which actually made me feel left out; I was a simple white envelope which didn’t have even a tiny glitter at its ends, so you surely can understand the inferiority I was going through.
I was cramped here in this room for both space and breath as Paisa Bhai, a healthy looking envelope, had landed over me in search for comfort. It had a smell of wealth all over it which made it harder for me to survive as I tried with all my might to retain the impressions of the tear drops and the smudges my owner had left over me. He was a sad man, who wouldn’t be, especially when he had found out that the girl he loved for the past ten years is going away from him forever. He didn’t have the courage to profess his love for her, to his best friend, but now when he had the letter ready, it was a little too late.
Still he stood adamant; he wanted her to know, at least understand what he had always felt. So when he took that teary eyed letter wrapped in me to the stage where she stood, I sensed his grip loosening while his hands started to tremble with fear. In midst of all this, I finally caught him with tears in his eyes when her eyes met his. I felt for him when he realised how happy she is, with her would-be who was standing next to her, flaunting a bright smile together. It broke my heart, my paper heart.
I could feel the tears over my body as my owner slowly removed the letter at the very last minute, and scribbled a saying over me for his best friend to read.
“Envelope is too small for me to put any gift into, after all it’s you Priya, it’s you. Only thing that would suffice would be to gift myself to you with a promise to be your side as a friend forever till my breathe would last. Keep that smile up princess, always!”
Suddenly the dark room door opened, and Priya walked in with her bridal dress still put on. She slowly searched in the flickering light, hugging me close as she found me and finally re-reading the lines with a silent tear and a smile as she ended.”