Oh! Calcutta

The first time I went to Calcutta, I must have been 6 or 7 years old. You would think I wouldn’t remember much about the trip but I do. My father tells me I have an elephant’s memory. To a child though, Calcutta was just a holiday. What does a child understand about exploring roots or your own culture?

My family moved from Delhi to Bombay when I was 11 years old. I didn’t give Calcutta a second thought till I was at least 18. Since neither of my parents are from Calcutta and we are what we call ‘Probashi Bengalis’, meaning Bengalis who live outside of Calcutta, I grew up in a different setting. I didn’t grow up with a lot of Bengali friends, and from my observations, none of my Probashi Bengali friends liked interacting with each other in Bengali. Evidently, I didn’t pay much attention to what it means to be a Bengali. Over the years, I have endured a lot of taunts from other Bengalis on social media about how I am less of a Bengali because I don’t listen to Bengali music or muddle up Bengali words and mix up Hindi and English seamlessly into my mother tongue. Something I assure you annoys me immensely. Since when did identifying or belonging to a culture become a competition?

Who are the Bengalis? 

A quick Wikipedia search tells me that Bengalis are the third largest ethnic group in the world, after Han Chinese and Arabs. If you are familiar with Bengalis, you too might hold some much loved stereotypes about us. For example, if you believe all Bengalis can sing well or are artistically inclined in some manner, I would be more than happy to introduce you to my brother who has absolutely no drop of artistic talent. If you believe all Bengalis are highly intellectual, please acquaint yourself with Mamta Banerjee. Do all of us worship Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray? I have only ever watched two movies by Ray and read two books of Tagore. Granted, I did try to learn Rabindra Sangeet like a good Bengali girl and do know two of his songs by heart. Also, not all of us eat sweets every single day, especially not Rosogolla. I don’t even like Rosogolla! My point is, Bengalis are not the sum equivalent of your generalisations.

Let me acquaint you to a few things I have observed about my own community of people.

  1. Lethargee demands to be a surname– Bengalis are notoriously lazy. A point I want to elaborate upon when I talk more about Calcutta.
  2. We like to sit on our high horse– Elderly Bengalis will miss no chance to tell you how ours is a community more superior and intellectually blessed than the rest. Never-mind that they themselves might not have read a single book in their lives or uttered a single intelligent word in their entire lifetimes.
  3. Look, we are so cultured!– Bengalis will miss no chance in keeping up appearances about being ‘cultured’. If culture is wearing saris and rustic jewellery and a giant-sized bindi, then yes, we are all very cultured.

I know it seems like I do not like Bengalis at all. On the contrary, I revel in being a Bengali. This is why I also believe that I have the licence to critique and question a culture I belong to, in order to understand it better.

Long story short, I have been thirsting to travel to Calcutta since the moment this need to explore my roots hit me. This year in February, I finally flew to the city of joy. Was it everything I had hoped for? Did I find what it was I was looking for? I will blog about how I experienced Calcutta in the new few posts.

Advertisements

I backpacked across Europe as a brown person and this is what it was really like – Part 4 – Rome

So, this is going to be the last post in this series. To everyone who has actually been reading these, thank you! I woke up to WordPress telling me that my site got mad traffic yesterday. Oh WordPress, you know the way to a girl’s heart!

“Every city and every person has a word”

“What’s the word for Rome?”

“SEX”

Did I just quote Eat Pray Love? Damn straight, I did. I have been enamoured with Rome since my Dan Brown days, enchanted by its history. Elizabeth Gilbert added to my fascination with her chapter on Rome, oh the food and the gelato! Evidently, I couldn’t wait to land in Rome.

What do you think of when I say Rome? The first few words that pop into my head are fashion, food and sex. So imagine my amusement when we booked a cab on landing in Rome and for a second, thought that Karl Lagerfeld is here to drive us. No, don’t smirk. If Karl Lagerfeld got skinny, he would resemble our driver perfectly. Our driver was probably in his 70’s and dressed head to toe in black. Hell, he even had a few metal chains dangling from his jacket and wore black sunnies. Can you blame me for being in awe?

As he drove us towards our hostel, I was completely enveloped in the sights. It was as if I had stepped into a Dan Brown book and he kept prodding me with the historical facts about each monument that we passed. Oh Rome is beautiful. Rome is swathed so heavily in drapes of history, you cannot help feeling captivated.

Alessandro Palace Hostel & Bar

We stayed at Alessandro, Via Vicenza and if your name happens to be Rahul, get ready for a lot of SRK references at the reception. Alessandro is a great place to meet new people and mingle with them. The rooms are spacious, the beds creak if you so much as move your arm, thus making you wonder what the person above you is actually up to. But hey, I liked this hostel too much to find faults with it.

The most fun you will have is in the washroom. They not only had a jet spray (bless you) but also this motion detector thing that would cause the lights to go off when you sat still for a long time. This was great encouragement to try out some dance moves while you tried to pee and hoped the lights would switch back on soon.  We made friends with two of our roommates, these two 17yo German girls. One of my favourite things about being a girl is meeting other girls because girls are amazing. Girls can form a bond with each other within moments of meeting and make spontaneous plans and talk their hearts out. Nikita and I spent an entire day hanging out with them and discussed everything from boys, religion, refugees to our respective cultures. One of them told us that she loves Indian food so much that she would rather eat that instead of German food on a daily basis. Since she loved Indian culture so much, Nikita obviously took it upon herself to teach Merle some Bollywood dance moves. Needless to say, it was a beautiful day.

We also met the coolest people on our very first day. From this English guy who staunchly believed in the power of waistcoats and suits even in the July heat to this guy from Puerto Rico who pronounced ‘beach’ as ‘bitch’, that night was lit. We became quick friends with a small group of people and spent the night getting tipsy and laughing too much. The English guy also took it upon himself to lift me up on his shoulders because I complained about short girl problems. This was without a doubt the best night we had during our entire trip. Well, that was before it got fucked of course. I am choosing to not share how it got fucked because I do not want this to be there, but a word of warning. Do not go talking and scoring from random dudes in Italy. DO NOT DO IT.

Is Rome discriminatory? 

My time in Rome was a mixed bag of feelings. Rome is not one of my favourite places to be in. Contradictory, I know. I did start this post by telling you how mesmerising Rome is. However, you will notice that Romans have an air about them. You will notice it if you are a good observer. Oh, they are subtle, these Romans. You will recognise a forced smile and a rigid body language. You will also find yourself observing that when the lady behind the counter told you to not touch anything on display, she did not stop the white Italian lady from doing the same. You will also find that you feel more comfortable in the company of familiar brown faces or other tourists, Italians do not bother to try. This may not hold true for all Romans, but they did not strike me as the warmest people.

Of course, it could be that maybe I only met a certain sort of people. Our Italian guide did not make me feel like this, the department stores or the bakeries did not make me feel like this. I would hate to stereotype Romans, but there is something about them that speaks of an air of haughty superiority. If you too, find yourself subjected to this, try your best to ignore it and move on.

Religion…erm 

Well, of course I knew how deeply seeped religion is in the core of Rome, the Vatican is here after all. I was looking forward to being in Vatican City after all that I have read about it. But what I wasn’t ready for is how uncomfortable religion made me. I am an atheist but I respect other’s religious beliefs. Till you don’t shove your believes down my throat, we are good. But Rome tries so hard, oh Rome spreads its arms thickly greased with Christianity and tries to grab hold of you. Even souvenir shops in Rome sell framed posters of the Pope. Ironic then, how India is looked upon as extremely religious. So, this is why I chose to not explore the Vatican. We got there, took pictures and left. Religion clearly overwhelms me. You will also find souvenir shops selling models of Pinocchio. I was confused so as to why till I learnt that Pinocchio was created by an Italian writer. Strange thing to sell though.

FOOD FOOD AND MORE FOOD   

Nikita and I went berserk when it came to Italian food. There is a restaurant right opposite Alessandro, I don’t remember the name but my goodness the food! Every single thing, I kid you not, every single thing we ordered tasted like ambrosia. Our server, the epitome of an Italian man came over and said namaste. We had gotten used to being greeted with a namaste by now. Funny, because not once have I actually greeted anyone in India with a namaste. Then he said, “I watch Bidai every night”. Wuuut?

The three of us looked at him with confusion clearly visible on our faces. He was disappointed to learn that we have never watched this supposedly great Indian series. But boy was he charming! Cute as hell, and words so smooth that you wanted to fall. The amount of beautiful food we ate here and literally everywhere else in Rome still comes back to haunt me. The Backpackers and co. had booked us on a gelato and espresso tour and oh my goodness the gelato. From pine flavoured gelato to the original Limencello, to buffalo milk and peppercorns to the finest chocolate gelato you ever tasted, we were in heaven. Nikita and I had gelato every single day and did not give a rat’s ass about the kilos we were obviously piling on.

I mean, do you see that dessert?

 

Final Thoughts 

A word of caution, the Rome airport sucks. Especially when you have an early morning flight. Everything is so disorganised and messy, you will be itching to get out of there. You know, I thought I would be dreading coming back to India by the end of the trip, but I really wasn’t. Nikita and I were really looking forward to being home and all the songs from Swades kept running on loop in my head. There really is no place like home.

However, I am so grateful and glad that I could do this trip. I met some wonderful people, stepped out of my comfort zone and did this alone, gained so much confidence to interact with anyone at all and of course, found a great friend in Nikita. To anyone who is afraid of travelling alone, do it. You will be gifting yourself a sense of liberty that will never desert you. You will realise that you can handle shit by yourself and that you have zero need to depend on anyone at all.

Hopefully, I will be back in Paris someday. However, what I really hope is that I would have more opportunities to travel solo in the future. Thank you for reading and keeping up with my Europe adventures! Ciao 🙂

I backpacked across Europe as a brown person and this is what it was really like – Part 3 – Barcelona

 

 

Henlo lovelies!

As my Parisian adventure drew to a halt, it was time for Barcelona! Two amazing things awaited me at the Barcelona airport- A couple embracing like it’s nobody’s business and getting asked out on a date. When I say they were embracing, I mean the guy had her wrapped up so tight and his hands went to town with his lady’s booty. All this while my heart melted and dripped down into my stomach and a furious blush rose to my cheeks. Hear me out, if you are white, this obviously does not seem out of the ordinary to you, but I am brown and hell we get scandalised reactions to even kissing in public. This is one thing I cherish from my Euro trip, the freedom to breathe and wear my most scandalous outfits and not get gawked at; the freedom to be your most authentic self is a precious treasure.

The first thing I did when I got asked out on a date within 30 minutes of being in Barcelona, was call my mothership. She didn’t sound surprised, just concerned. This cute Catalan man not only sold me the best USB cable (uh, yeah) I have ever had but also rained on me the cheesiest lines I have ever heard. Oh but boy did he possess charm! Here’s one of his gems:
“Are you 100% sure this USB cable will connect to my phone?”
“Well, I don’t know about that but it will connect to my heart”
!!!
Did I blush? Furiously. Did I say yes to the date? I was vague but he did note down his number for me. Did I go? Nope.

Barcelona: Possibly the most laid back of all European cities? 

First of all, Barcelona has way too many Indians and Pakistanis. From our first cab ride to literally every cab we took in Barcelona (cabs are hella cheap and Uber does not work here), we were driven around by brown folks. Us Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are everywhere, from cab drivers to shop owners to sellers on the beach; more on that later. Worked great for us because we honestly got pampered by them.

We stayed at Generator, Carrer de Còrsega and this was without a doubt the best hostel we had. The best rooms and amenities, brilliant food and a sexy neighbourhood. We shared the room with two Australian girls we hung out with one night and generally had a great stay.

First day, we decided to check out the beach. The sun was blazing and the tan was already creeping up on us by the time we stepped out of the hostel. Barcelona has such a laid-back vibe to it, we could really relax and enjoy this historically drenched city in all its splendour. We hailed a cab and boy was the driver fun. We discussed weed, football and Barcelona in general and here’s the best part, we didn’t speak each other’s language. Nikita and I learnt basic Spanish words while Rahul got by with his ‘garcias’ (He tried to say merci but it came out as mercy in Paris so cut him some slack ok). Language may be a barrier but your efforts to understand their culture and interact with them will always be appreciated by the locals. So if you can barely manage a ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ in their language, don’t worry. They will feel nice that you took efforts to learn them.

Antoni Gaudí

Antoni Gaudí’s influence is ever present in the city, from his trippy architecture framing street corners to his majestic monuments standing tall. We visited Casa Batlló and were spell-bounded by the sheer force of his work. Gaudí is in your face, he is unflinchingly himself and that translates into his work. His unconventional style and his piousness is knotted so heavily in all his works, perhaps the reason why he left all other work to focus on La Sagrada Familia. Quite astonishing that he started working on La Sagrada Familia in 1883 and it’s only set to be finished in 2026.

We couldn’t visit Sagrada but we managed to visit a lot of churches, Casa Batlló and various other historical points on our bicycle tour. Oh, you must do a guided bicycle tour in Barcelona. Riding a bike on the beach is an unmatched feeling. I did bang into a cab and got harassed by him but overall, it was a fun day. Special mention to yet another fun guide we had who took us on a food tour and tapas hopping but also managed to ask if we spoke ‘hindu’. Idk man do you speak Christianu? But he was Greek and resembled Adam Sandler so I guess we can let that pass.

Us brown folks are everywhere

It’s not difficult to spot a brown face in Barcelona, there are so many of us. Everyone jumped out at us and spoke Hindi, they said you look as desi as you can get. You see that guy coming towards you with a tray of martinis? He is probably Indian. You notice those people running general stores? Most probably Indian. Rahul pointed out that it’s great that they got away and are probably living a better life here but I beg to differ. Think about it, these are people who left their homes in hope of a better life. Yet, here they are, selling martinis on the beach. Working long hours under the unrelenting sun and earning a pittance. How is this a better life? They are away from their families, stuck in a job that will not take them anywhere else.

What about personal growth? What about a fulfilling life? Migrating to a foreign land with eyes filled to the brim with hope isn’t always as easy as it sounds. I imagine them holding onto hope, to their dreams of a better life as they go about pouring one martini after the other. What a life, to be stuck in a limbo and not have familiar faces around to draw comfort from.

Three kids and a failed night

If you find yourself in one of the busier streets on any particular evening, be sure that someone will thrust a pamphlet about the most happening clubs in town and talk you into signing up. It would even make sense, 45 EUR for direct entry into three clubs, 3 free drinks with a glass of complementary champagne, and free transport to the clubs? We were in. We were taken to a lounge and given our free drinks and asked to be ready by a particular time. We got hungry and decided to check out a pizzeria beside the lounge. One of the guys behind the counter barely looked 17. His earlobes drooped due to his pierced ears, his Mohawk stood out and kept bobbing his head to ancient rap songs. When I say ancient, I mean 50 cent. I wrote down a list of new rap music for him and boy, he not only listened to them right then but also couldn’t stop thanking me. This was one of the sweetest moments I had there. Conclusion? A person’s way of expressing themselves is personal, and does not merit or ask for anyone else’s judgement.

Anyway, we were back at the lounge at the mentioned time and there we met Ali bhai. Ali bhai hailed from Pakistan and he gave us special priority throughout. He chatted with us, made sure we were walking with him when he guided the first group of people to the transport. He also thought Nikita and Rahul were married and was basically the most fun person we met on our trip. Our free transport turned out to be the local bus service. 20 of us packed into a bus, sweaty and uncomfortable af. When we did inside the club, it was to realise that it was packed to the brim and we would probably need to dance beside the washroom. Yikes! We scooted within 30 mins of being there. That’s 45 EUR down the drain. Lesson? Don’t give in when you get pressurised to party in one of these clubs.

Last Day in Barcelona 

Nikita and I spent our last day burning massive holes in our pockets and making full use of the sale season. We also spent a good deal of money in the mesmerising Lindt store a stone’s throw away from our hostel. We met a lot of little babies aka batata vadas and generally had the most relaxed day yet. I am really looking forward to coming back to Barcelona again. Hey, maybe I will go back in 2026 eh?

 

I backpacked across Europe as a brown person and this is what it was really like – Part 2- Paris

 

Henlo friends!

My trip started with Nikita, my fellow backpacker and my soon to be inseparable friend on this trip. Nikita and I had been discussing the places we wanted to go to, and the things we wanted to do prior to the trip. She has honestly been a blessing on this entire trip for me. Both of us agreed that we didn’t want to spend time doing touristy things and instead we wanted to roam around and really experience all the cities.

First stop: Paris

First things first, Charles de Gaulle Airport is huge! We had to use Google Maps to navigate the airport and find our pickup person. Our pickup was arranged by The Backpackers co. and we had four other people with us in the car. The highlight of our trip was our driver. Our driver was this fun Romanian guy who thought Nikita was my lover and suggested us romantic places when asked for restaurant suggestions. We chatted the entire time and when he dropped us at our hostel, he told us to be careful.

We didn’t realise what that meant till we saw the neighbourhood. We stayed at St Christopher’s Inn, Paris Gare du Nord. For anyone reading this and planning a Parisian trip, I have one suggestion; do not stay here. The hostel was great (except for the tiny washrooms), the food was good but the area around the hostel? Huge letdown. We were constantly paranoid while walking on the road, we would encounter random men close to fighting with the brown shopkeepers, sex shops everywhere and just a really strange crowd here. Bottom line- we didn’t feel safe.

Hello amazeballs metro!

You want to experience Paris like a local? TAKE THE METRO EVERYWHERE. The metro system here is so well-planned that you will figure it out in a jiffy. Nikita and I had purchased a metro pass for three days from the airport and it would be safe to say that we exhausted it. We took the metro everywhere, we even took the bus once. The metro is not just convenient and economical, it really instils a sense of confidence in you when you realise that you are actually using public transport in a foreign city.

Parisians and other lovely people  

Let me tell you about an ignorant white boy we met and then we shall move on, yeah?

An Australian white boy at the hostel party chatted us up and asked us if we spoke Swahili. Us, two brown girls, speak Swahili? When I enlightened him that Swahili is an African language, he shrugged and proclaimed that he is a bit racist. But hey, he didn’t stop there. He also announced that he had never kissed an Indian girl before and that there is a first time for everything. BOI BYE.

Here’s the thing about hostels, if you are an extrovert, you will meet beautiful people. Even if you are an introvert, I genuinely encourage you to try and talk to some people because they would include you in their circle without a second thought. We hung out with a French-Pakistani guy, another one from Berlin, this amazing feminist woman and 4 other fun dudes from USA. We spent one entire night drinking wine and smoking up with them, discussing everything from parents, traditions, feminism, work pressure to relationships. In the next two days, Nikita taught Bollywood dance moves to the Berlin guy and it was amazing!

Special love for the Uber drivers in Paris because not only do you get driven around in a Merc but also chatted up by beautiful drivers and given candies. My momma warned me about this but didn’t tell me that the stranger was going to be hot as hell.

What I learned is that it does not matter where you come from, what matters is what you bring with you- your knowledge, your kindness, your gratitude, your perspective about the world and your curiosity to understand different cultures. These are the things that matter.

Yaseen Khan

This man is one of my fondest memories of Paris. Yaseen Khan is a painter from Delhi who has made Paris his home for the last 34 years. Imagine our surprise when we stopped by his exhibition on a street corner and bent down to read his biography, realised he is Indian and turned around to find him standing behind us, brimming with so much excitement to have met someone from his homeland.

“Arre, tum log toh mere gaon se ho” 

Yaseen is 70ish. He worked in Bollywood before finding his way to Paris. His art is revered by the Parisians and the posh restaurants around La Seine are all privy to his charms. He chatted us up, asked to listen to a Hindi song after which he promptly teared up and Nikita comforted him.

He took us out for a glass of Bordeaux under the pretext of tea. At this point, I was hyperventilating. Am I actually sipping wine with a painter in Paris? Yaseen may have been 70 but boy could he win a woman over. He flirted shamelessly with me, scrutinised me in a way only an artist can and asked me not to fix him with my intense gaze. Yaseen spoke about love, life and everything in between. He wrote down his address for me, asked me to write him my poems.

Had I not gone to meet Nikita at Pont Des Arts, had I not crossed the street and stopped to look at his paintings, this beautiful coincidence would never have materialised. Yaseen was fucked up, he had his own demons to fight. But Yaseen made Paris memorable and I will never forget him.

Nor will I forget drinking wine and eating beautiful food on a daily basis, walking for almost 12 hrs everyday, exploring Paris on foot, buying boxes of berries from local grocers and slurping on gelato and binging on macaroons. I won’t forget running towards the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day to witness the fireworks, the Black security guard who gave us a Hi5 for speaking to him in French and the beautiful city and its people who stole my heart.

Oh Paris, I miss you. I miss the fleeting moments of absolute peace you let me borrow. Your people, your cobblestone streets. Your sheets of skies draped in pastel hues. The sheer amount of warmth you cradle in your womb. Your spontaneous chaos; your body so vast. This is probably why I love big cities so much, they allow me to lose myself in a crowd.

P.S. The only brown person thing I want to add here is that Americans believe they are being worked as slaves when they work 8hrs a day and that I really missed jet sprays. Oh also, prepare yourself for the number of times white people will randomly say namaste to you on the streets. When I say randomly, I mean randomly.

 

I backpacked across Europe as a brown person and this is what it was really like – Part 1

To be fair, I went backpacking in July and it has taken me two months to really collect my thoughts and sit down to pen them. Since I am crippled with this mind-numbing disease called overthinking, I spent weeks going over all the monumental experiences I had and analysed each and every one of them through my brown girl lenses. The next few series of blog posts are the end lab results straight outta my head.

I want to try and detail everything as much as I can, starting from my visa nightmare to the places I went to, the people I met, etc. So, here goes nothing.

You are going to go backpacking by yourself? Whaat?

Indian parents are known for a lot of meme worthy qualities but letting their children breathe and giving them enough freedom to do so is not one of them. Enter, my parents. I do not mean to brag but I truly do believe that my parents are uber cool. My mother is clearly descendant from a tigress and has zero patience for the world’s shit and my father is an oasis of tranquillity who reminds me everyday that being ambitious is not a disease I need to be cured of. My parents have done their fair share of struggle. My father has been travelling across continents since I was born, sometimes staying away from us for months because work calls. He has always encouraged me to travel, always telling me how important it is to soak your feet in different cultures and meet different people. So talking to them about how I wanted to travel was not an argument or a nervousness-induced conversation, it was a discussion.

I did not mean this to be a solo backpacking trip, but as is the fickle nature of the best laid plans, travelling with my friends did not work out. As I was trying to gather the broken pieces of my Parisian dreams, my baba suggested I go anyway, with a travel group and with some supervision of course. So I signed myself up with The Backpacker Co. which is a travel company based out of Mumbai. They specialise in arranging backpacking tours and they had a 10 day Europe tour chalked out. Only 4 people signed up for this one though, me being one of them. Relatives called, concerned if my baba had his wits about him.
“You are spending all this money so that she can…travel?”
“Are you sure you want her to go by herself?”
Granted, I was privileged enough that my baba agreed to finance this but that was no reason for my extended family to have their panties in a bunch. He brushed it off carelessly. July had 10 days of trapezing through Paris, Barcelona and Rome for me.

My not so humorous attempt at procuring a tourist visa

Well, that is if my visa were to be accepted. Lo and behold the horrors of trying to procure a visa if you happen to be a POC from a country considered to belong to the third-world. Yes, getting a visa is not that big of a deal. But it is when you happen to fluently speak the language of a country you are visiting. Haha you thought learning a foreign language would make you cultured and intellectually fascinating? No, my man.

The first time I applied for a visa, it got rejected. I wanted to believe that it was because the universe did not intend me to go; My (second) travel agent was convinced it was because I could speak French, and was 23 and unmarried. *cough* discrimination *cough* sexism. That is the day I realized just how highly countries in power think of themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand that there are a bunch of security protocols in place and every country has to look out for themselves but for a country to assume that you, an unmarried young girl who can speak French would disappear in France and become an immigrant even though she clearly has the financial means to support herself in her country of origin as well as in the one she intends to visit is mind boggling.

Why would I willingly choose to disappear in a country or in Europe in general when I am aware that I would be treated with racial taunts and assume a third-grade citizen role? While I had blind rage coursing through my body and helplessness threatening to brim over in the form of salty moisture, my baba nudged me to try once again. All I could think about was the amount of money that would be wasted if it were to be rejected again and for what? My parents wouldn’t have any of it. To them, my bruised heart meant a lot more than the money. (Yes, I know how privileged I sound and no, I am not proud of it)

So, I applied again. I applied again with a mountain of documents proving my identity and my intent to come back to my country (Hi Europe you were great but apna desh toh apna desh hota hai ok). For someone who is terrified and overwhelmed by paperwork, I managed to sail through it. I was getting through my work days with frayed nerves and abject helplessness, holding onto whatever optimism I could gather. I was called to the French consulate for an interview and guess what? I got the visa the very next day. I could breathe easily.

That is also the day I learned that maybe, just maybe the universe intends for things to happen in a certain manner so that you can learn a few things along the way. I learned that patience is an art form I am good at when I try really hard, and also that helplessness is a disease I wish to avoid like the plague. Helplessness has a way of tying up your insides with a rope coated in jagged pieces of glass and boy does it cut you up. I also learned a thing or two about time and how you cannot pick up arms against the way it flows. Nowadays when I find my hyperness rising, I find a comfortable looking rock and position myself there as I let time do its thing. Que sera sera, right?

Anyhoo, I am going to write about what the trip actually was like in the next couple of posts. I am not sure how many people are going to read this or bother but hey, I have got a lot to say and I am going to put it out there anyway.

A Traveller’s Guide to Love

On the day we slept nestled in an array of sweaty limbs and hearts beating too fast, you kissed my lips and murmured, “I know you”. I was busy flirting with my fluttering heart to answer you. Your words, like kites lost and found, they came back to me today.

I have had lovers before you. Lovers who traversed my body’s busy lanes and landmarks through the lens of a camera. Lovers who moved around in a tourist bus and stepped out to mingle amongst each other. Lovers who went to the railway stations and took pictures of the trains but never got into one of them. I realised I was chasing tourists. They wanted my body and my laughter lines. They never asked for my radioactive bones. They never stopped to run their fingers through my corrugated flesh. They wanted the history I told the world, never the stories I hid in my lungs.

It was only you who took long slovenly walks through my body’s narrow gullies. You stood in the midst of the crowded streets of my mind while drawing on your cigarette. You have found my hidden bylanes and stopped to photograph the abysmal graffiti on the walls. You have been rendered mad, absolutely barking insane with the way you kept bumping into my questions and doubtful heart.

My lovers, they came to sit by the sea; They came to click over-exposed pictures at the wrong time of the day. You, you waited for the sky to take its time. You waited till I whispered my secrets. You got on trains and pushed through crowds like you already belong. You recounted my history like you have always been around. Your tongue mapped my body’s geography as your fingers conquered uninhabited islands of sensations.

You were always the traveller. I swallowed the tsunami threatening my eyes as you raced through the airport. You built me a country and coronated me the ruler. You flowed out of my life like time, slowly and then all at once. I didn’t hold you back; I didn’t stop your plane. I knew that like time, I had to let you go too.

How to Walk Away

http://in.pinterest.com/pin/113364115590703838/
http://in.pinterest.com/pin/113364115590703838/

Can you hear the music?

It’s your restlessness shifting weight.

 

“I can’t do this; I can’t do this”

You hear your cowardly friend say.

 

Bring down a suitcase, my love,

I shall teach you how to walk away.

 

Dust the suitcase of its history,

Shake out the abandoned stories it holds.

 

Take a pile of your presence first,

Fold it gently; Neat little squares.

 

Then comes the memories; Ah the widows of war!

Fold them; You have already creased some, love.

 

Gently now, we have to handle moments,

You know how easily they slip away?

 

What now, of the promises you made?

We’ll bury them alongside faith.

 

You can’t borrow his scent,

It clings to you like guilt.

 

Leave him a little something,

Wrap your absence in black ribbons.

 

Clasp your suitcase; You’re almost done,

Trace back your footsteps; One padded foot at a time.

 

“I can’t do this; I can’t do this”

Your cowardly friend says.