Hither the traveller find themself on the road the fabulous yellow roman candle existence exploding like spiders across the stars The traveller carries on rather not cajoled by ten different voices speaking of the otherwise and hither they carry on their unapologetic rendezvous with the road the stories, the songs, the symphony that dissolves the day into the night and the night perhaps precipitates to let the day breathe and what remains of this is the romance with the oblivion the love beyond all the loving of the world, the embrace of the unknown the thrill in what the road might bring just around the bend the kiss of the wind, the gaze of the horizon, the dance of dust, clairvoyant clouds and this timeless dialogue continues
I went scavenging for the meaning of love, no philosophy here, simple words that put a thought to context. As vain and vile as the first result on GOOGLE search. I’ve been tracing my pattern of an upsurge in love, inversely proportional to how consuming any activity is at that point in time. I felt severity, an all obsessive need for destruction, the all or none, the need to go all the way till the end and race back to start like you never existed, in this universe or my parallel one. It’s a game you see, a kind of politics where there’s indifference or destruction. I choose to not know you till you follow me halfway across my doom. Then, I surrender to your whim and start scraping you hollow, inch by inch, nook and cranny, till I’ve become you and inanely in love with this self I create. Then, as you begin to retreat from my hook, I dig my claws deeper until you’re nailed to my door like the inanimate collar of a comfortably worn out sweatshirt. Warm, habitual, homely. Then, it’s time to go. To run from you like anathema, like an empty cake tin that has been licked clean without any trace, nothing to offer except the faint waft of vanilla essence. The sugar in my blood has ebbed, the danger is diluted by your lack of mystery and attention, my interest wanes and I selfishly go chasing another cookie or caramel or chocolate even. The curse of our times love, is the idea of soul mate, monogamy, ritual and habitual love. It begins like freshly baked bread performing with an extra swell in the breast on a well stocked table till crumbs rest unattended to feed vermin. How can every fiber of my being sync with your scattered vibes? How can you satisfy flesh that is naturally designed to lust after rainbows? The body can’t eat bread and soup in a lifetime when there’s sweetmeats of unending range to offer. It tears me to love you and want you knowing you’ll only be that bakery display I yearned for once on a sugar high.
This body will decay, age, turn into a shrivelled bundle of loathing and repulse. When you begin to mark your journey in the creases and marks in the folds of your sagging skin, you would’ve arrived at your daily doze of optimum sweetness, maybe an artificial sweetener. Spend yourself on me like saccharine to boiling water. Blend and dissolve in me, leave me like I’ll leave you. A bitter dessert, sweet bacon, burnt caramel. I’ll remember you for the way you left and trace it back to the sugar you left me tasting on my lips. While craving strawberry compote.
If you could retrieve my brain, presently nestled in some guarded orifice, you’d see how befuddled and convoluted it is. I’ve been using my anticipatory days, from the booking date till the final take off, to meet people who matter. People who wouldn’t question my actions to the point of collapse because they never understood my lack of reasons anyway. I’m trying to swim through the barrage of travel advice- from pre-booking to places NOT to visit to ‘substances’ to stay away from to cafes that matter to how much to carry and what not to eat, more dont’s than do’s. What if I don’t want to plan? What if I want the mountain to be my mentor? These winding roads have been treaded too trivially and often for a traveller seeking the uninhabited and undiluted. Hence, the hesitation to succumb to popular perspective.
My mind’s eye aches with the wonder of an infant, to see every step, served up on a platter, a first of its kind. I don’t want to lose my wonder in anticipation, in following dotted lines. I don’t want to miss the minutest detail in the changing landscape in the wait for a wanton station. I want to feed my lungs deeply and hungrily with the scents and sounds of every passing second, that soothe my aching imagination with the balm of the unexpected. I want the bump at every interval of the road to throw me off my conditioned comfort and rattle and awaken me, still in awe of the unknown.
I know you understand me Qi, my inability to articulate my eagerness to wander, my agnosticism towards the burden of premeditated travel, my need for firing all my senses to life. I know that once I step out there will be no voice but my own to push me forth and pull me back. For you and for anyone who reads this, be with me, if not in mind, if not in body, then at least in spirit. I promise to experience every instance and celebrate it as a noteworthy passage of time. Perhaps together we may accomplish the spellbinding experiences to be printed on paper, as an indelible mark upon history.
Besides a shoulder bag full of clothing, a handbag stuffed with my gadgets and necessities (may seem slightly indulgent to you but I’m a woman), I’m carrying my 38″ Granada with me. This little leviathan shall accompany me under the star-kissed or moonless skies when I’m celebrating my solitude. I finally fly to Delhi tomorrow morning. I don’t know how long I’ll be there and with whom, but I’ll keep on writing here, as we together slide down this fine tapestry of adventure, even if so many seas apart.
Do you remember that day when we waltzed down the village market nibbling on chocolate? There was a hailstorm in the forest that night as we shivered in the shade of a concrete lined tree. We stood staring for hours, our memories jogging back to that disconcerting amble down the familiar dirt track hidden in the lap of the mountain. You stood there in all your elaborations, tattered trousers with the seams giving way, browning at the edges after the sweat and toil in the dump yard where we planted fond saplings.
They broke through toxic lines of waste germinating with the hope of new life. You sucked deeply at the end of your local ‘bidi’ and remarked, “I’ve been working in this village for over a month now. The locals sometimes look at me in amusement, sometimes with familiarity. Some eyes welcome me quietly while others question my presence.” No matter how much you tried to fit in you always stood out, with your grey brown dreadlocks, your white tan that is our coffee brown one.
What you didn’t know was you were as much a stranger to this place as I was. You felt the need to keep your guard, wander with watchful eyes as curiosity singed your skin with sterile stares. I have always felt like a foreigner in my own country because I’m a woman. Maybe that’s why you haven’t yet been enamored with stories of female solo travellers singing praises alone of our hospitality.
Yesterday I called up a dear friend to tell her of my unplanned travel. She was livid and mortified at once as she warned me against spending too much time in the capital. “But you’re a woman! From Mumbai. You don’t understand how terrible the situation there is. I smiled, where is my neighbourhood then? Where do I belong if not on this planet. This poor ecstatic girl was unaware of how she sounded like a verbatim quote from some moronic media report, if not from experience.
I feel loved, cared for listening to her worry for my well being. I’m blessed that way you see. I’ve had the comforting cocoon of your wisdom equally matched by friends in Delhi who are at daggers drawn to keep me in the warmth of their hearth and their heart. I don’t even know how long I’ll look around in the ill reputed city that was once home to me in my formative three years. Maybe my feet won’t stop within the limits of this cemented skyline and I’ll gallop to the mountains immediately. Maybe I’ll stay, just to test waters, to sense how much this city can hate a free spirit trapped in a woman’s body. I don’t wish to accomplish anything at the risk of my safety, I just want to find one more place to call my own. A place where I won’t need a chaperone in broad daylight, where I don’t feel violated for being the person my parents cradled into this world, where I can walk like a man without ever looking over my shoulder or plugging the noise out with my cell phone. Maybe I will find home here to long for once I’m tired from trudging the hills. Be happy for me, my dear Qi, I know Delhi will be kind.
once upon a branch tethered to a brook
drifted upstream, heart nestled overlooked
on the rapids, with floating debris
Pummelled, polished as ever he could be
The ground beneath his feet
sprouted sage in the temperate heat
and blossomed the finest for all to treasure
and snapped each time, beyond mistrust measured
He ran from his shadow with the mirror of his scars
He prisoned his emotions encage without bars
Pride and pain engraved upon his banner
and words and emotions and virtuous manners
Yet he lost what he had, his affection as a gift
for no droplet could seep the old bark adrift
Washed from his fruit he wilted on a shore
The forests sang an ode to a tree that was before
Last night I booked myself on the cheapest one way flight to finding myself, yet again. I’m a week away from taking off and my stomach is simmering.
I fondly rerun the balmy evenings post a hard day’s labor, spent at the same hole-in-the-wall, the same ceramic cups filled with watery black coffee. It was our conversations in the glow of the setting sun that made each cup that much more sweet. You said you could read my mind, from my caffeine cravings to my need to wander. You encouraged me to make music, seek answers, travel far and wide in search of what always lay within. That my hostile environment was a projection of my inner insecurities. That the world was safe and beautiful for those who had the eyes for it.
I haven’t travelled without a plan in six years now and caution is a baggage age has conveniently dumped on me. You were all of fifty when you set out to conquer uncharted territories in a language which could never be your own. I’ll create my own words, my own rhythm, with the love you taught me, the faith you invested in me and the music you nurtured my pride with.
I’m off to the wilderness, the solitary seas, the unmanned mountain. I’m beginning to get there, in becoming a better person, finding peace within, discovering my purpose. Like you always said, “If you can’t do it your way then chalo Pakistan.”