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Skipped my updates from Day 26 to Day 31. Drowning would be a mild way to put it. But, day 32 is significant and you’ll soon find out why.
Day 26 – Work. Disappointment that people didn’t turn up to Bollywood Flashmob practice. Yes, I had planned a Bollywood flashmob in Austria for Day 29. The day the Indian team were presenting their business plan. Even choreographed it. Sounds crazy but imagine if it had happened, how crazy it would have been.
Day 27 – Work & drinks with the Indian team. Ditched the idea of a Bollywood Flashmob in Austria as it would be more difficult to get them to dance than it would be to get Indians to stop doing that head nod thing.
Day 28 – Work. Spent the evening watching #Suits. World it so much better with Harvey.
Day 29 – Work & a visit to the Irish pub in an Austrian village with the Indian team. Felt at home. Then, felt homesick. Then, texted people in the middle of the night. And texted and texted.
Day 30 – Work. Airport. Same flight back to cold London.
Day 31 – Work. Mental preparation for day 32.
Day 32 – Biked. First bikeathon and definitely not my last. Was a crazy experience. When was the last time I tried something for the first time? Today. Feels good.
Well, it is September 15th. Day 32. And today was the day I left India 5 years ago and started my long journey. The day I boarded the flight for New York City. The ride today made me remember September 15th feeling. The day we try something new and keep at it.
Tomorrow onwards, you are going to be in for some live updates from the Backpacking Ninja journey from 5 years ago.
The weekend spent walking around… with so much on my head. Heavy.
Just to say that you would face days like these in life. And certainly in travel.
A long long time ago, I wrote a blogpost about exchange rates. I think I was very much in India, working there and trying to save money to travel around the world. And, it wasn’t easy. Let me tell you that. The frustration in me was ‘How come the Australian can pick apples one summer and make enough money to go around the world for 6 months?’. All my arguments seemed to make sense to anyone who didn’t like economics. Here is the post.
Though its more than 6 years since I wrote that, some sentiments stay the same. Maybe not entirely related to this post, but in someways, it is.
Was feeling absolutely sick. Down and out yesterday. And pretty much today. Stepped out with some pocket change to pick the equivalent of Electrol, those dehydration thingies that are meant to replenish salts in your body. Reached the store in the corner to figure out that I fell short by 20 p. If it was back home, I would’ve told the guy – “Arre bhaiya, baad mein de doonga”. But, doesn’t work that way apparently in WH Smith.
Anyway, I should’ve just walked back home and made some nimbu pani. Instead, stopped in the touristy store and bought a postcard and a stamp for that change. Wrote myself a ‘get well soon aparna’ postcard and posted it to myself. Coming to think of it, that just might make me feel mightly swell.
Medicine costs more than Postcards, but postcards make me feel better. Hmmm.
These days, I can’t figure out what costs what. I only know what comes with some value and what doesn’t.
What about other things? The cost of 5 hair cuts in London is equal to an air ticket to Mumbai. I’d rather have a bad hair day regularly at the cost of dealing with my homesickness. My bike cost me 3 months of my sabbatical budget. (It is a beauty, I won’t complain).
I shouldn’t be complaining about London and how expensive it is. It is not that I cannot afford it. It is ‘whether I see value in it’. As I search for a new apartment to move into (yes, the 3rd one in 3 years), I’m discovering value again. I’m sure I’ll find a few parallels I disagree with. But, as long as I choose to live this way, I guess I shouldn’t complain. But wait, I’m not complaining. I’m just questioning ‘value’. What say?
There are some days you have to erase from your calendar. The sick days. The ones where you wake up and don’t want to get out of bed, even if you are in paradise. Ofcourse, I wasn’t in paradise. I was in my apartment in London (the one I am being evicted from shortly). So, I stayed in bed. Day 20 was one of them.
Day 21. Still in bed. But, something came like a breath of fresh air. Blast from the past.
It was 5 years ago that Neesha and I wrote to Luiza on Couchsurfing asking her if we could stay with her in Sao Paulo. I think she had already accepted some other guests and we landed up in Luanda’s couch instead Nevertheless, when we landed in Sao Paulo, Luiza whisked us away from Paulista Avenue on a food trail around Sao Paulo and won our hearts in 5 minutes. Then, she promptly invited us to stay at hers for Christmas, which was still a few months away. We connected instantly.
What does today have to do with Luiza? And, what does all this have to do with fountain pens and faraway friends?
Well, just a few days ago, I got a text from a friend who I had sent a postcard to with a smiley that he was a sucker for good handwriting. That felt good. It just made me think about my grandfather who used to make sure we wrote every postcard or letter using a fountain pen. Every school assignment. Nothing else was allowed at home. Ink stained fingers was a punishable offense at home. All in all, those fountain pen days resulted in neat postcards. Ones that I used to write to him when I was in Pune. Those little yellow postcards.
And, then today, I received a postcard from Luiza. Unexpected. 5 years since that day and she has moved to Rio and has a couch waiting for me. This postcard arrives with silver ink on a dark blue card and with a little note – “I have terrible hand write”. You gotta love her.
Something about her radiant smile, the love that she pours on her friends (especially me) and the occasional surprise in my postbox makes me feel closer to her than anyone else.
Good handwriting or terrible – its the love from faraway friends that makes things so special. And nothing can take away from it.
Just woke up this morning and felt like a machine. Made a cup of tea. Tried to avoid the sugar. Switched on the laptop. Tapped away on emails. Made a million skype calls. Forgot to eat lunch. Realized at 4 pm. Ate something. Drank 1 cup of coffee. Worked some more. Went biking. Auto pilot mode.
And, I remember some days of my travel was very much like this. I would wake up and not even remember where I was. Go get some coffee. Tap away on my laptop. Sit around in parks or squares and people watch. At the same time, not one memory would stay in my head. Was so transient. And, end of the day, I would be starving. I would have forgotten to eat lunch. All auto pilot mode.
Sounds boring as hell right. But, there are moments when you are actually in this auto pilot mode, you are in a trance. Whether it is work, travel, biking, there are things that put you in a trance mode. (And, it didn’t always involve music).
I left home this evening and rode towards Regents park. I avoided the potholes (yes London has them too) and Black cabs and Red buses with ease. Moved like a snake between the traffic and loved it. When you are riding, you sometimes don’t have any memory of how many signals you crossed, what turns you took.. you just flow through the traffic avoiding it. The tail lights put me in a trance. I don’t know how long it took me but I was in the park in about 40 tail lights.
And, I remember those days on long bus journeys in Argentina. I used to sit right in the front of the bus. I used to look at the tail lights of the vehicles that overtook us. I used to check out the number plates. Get into a trance. Never knew how many hours I spent on the bus except the freaky memory of number plates mixed with car colour and mile markers.
And, then I reached Regents park. I told myself I would at least ride around 5 times. And, I was looking for my trance mode. The greenery around doesn’t help. It was an empty road except for all the super fast road bikes overtaking me, with serious bikers. Then, I found it. The beautiful calf muscles that whizzed past me. Every other minute. Pedaling away. Chase chase chase. Ride faster. Catch up. Don’t let those calf muscles get out of sight. Before I knew it, I was done with 5 rounds and my mind hadn’t given up on me and neither had my calf muscles.
Anyway, what is the point of all this?
I guess when you are going to throw yourself into a freaky routine, you need to find your trance.
September looks pretty good I say.
Mumbai, India - Simply Home.
Millions of people, but no one has the time to meet you. Recession, with human traffic jams on Oxford street. Women in tights and sometimes men too. Random musicals. Coupons, online shopping and things I don't understand. Finding an apartment = search for the holy grail. Cineworld unlimited movie pass. Piccadilly line. Anything but fish and chips. Cultural overload. Cannot imagine life without an Oyster card. Life ends when the English pub shuts down. And, where you live doesn't matter as long as you have a Tube station and a Tesco near you.
Fuschl Am See, Austria
Tiny little village with a population less than my building in Mumbai. A family run hotel called Mohrenwirt. Receptionist and bartender for a family. A 10 minute walk to an office that looks like a spa. A picture perfect lake surrounded by mountains. Star gazing. A television with 10 German channels. Dinner at the vending machine sometimes. Capoeira in the fields, if its not covered in snow. An occasional beer or a glass of red wine with my small world of friends. Life shuts down at 6 pm (if the post bus 150 doesn't take me out to the city).