Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Madnesss/दीवानगी

Have been roaming..forests..pine trees..valleys by the side of the moutains..ugly sea shores ...rivers that swallow everything ...heaths that can quietly take in a lot-just to bury the madness.

But like a cat, it always finds me back. I generally land back in this awful city of yellow trains and feigned coolnesss feeling a bit releaved-only to find it back at my door. It always reaches back before me.

This reslove of the Titanic, to go and get destroyed by hitting the iceberg. Have left the school of reason quite a while ago. To become a strange joke in the land of the sane.

May be should travel longer, like thousands of miles. To that place where I was born. It is a place with immense capacity to bury. Amidst the smell of fresh fish, dampness of the mud in rain and bookshops that translate the sorrrows of the whole world in our mother tongue, I might be able to bury this. It is a place that can sink more than what you intend to bury. But may be should take a chance. Might be able to walk free again with lightness in feet and heart and a small set of flowers tied together in a way that you won't find anywhere else in the world. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Brown Woman in Germany-Zugspitze

 

Well, the idea was to climb Zugspitze-the tallest mountain peak in Germany- in one day. That was supposed to solve all the problems in life. On the other side of the mountain, self would emerge as a new person. Free from being this unpredictable slightly crazy person, free from the messiness of desire, free from not knowing where home is or could be. Everything was supposed to change at the end of the climb.

So woke up at sharp 5am, put on layers of cloth and sun screen and started towards the entry point to the climb. Well, amidst all this, forgot one factor-self is afraid of heights. I mean, not all kind of heights. Just the narrow winding kind of ways from where you can picture yourself falling down to bottomless pits. That is a very difficult fear for someone who is in love with mountains. I mean, fear of spiders would have been simpler. But, just like many other things in life, you cannot choose your phobias. 

Despite this, have climbed a fair share of diverse mountains, mainly in the Himalayas. It was with the smugness of that memory that self looked up all the material available on internet about climbing Zugspitze in a day. The easiest of ways just takes 10 hours one way and you can come down via the cable car. But there are many things that the fuckers on internet will not tell you about. One such minor facts being that the for someone with acrophobia, the narrow gorge where the hike starts will look like a bridge  made of coir , dangling over bottomless abyss. So, in less than 10 minutes of trying to hike, self gave up and came down. Of course all those athletic type Alpine youth who were hiking in shorts gave pitying and disparaging looks towards self's direction.

While walking away in shame with a lowered head, self came across a tarred road. It looked like another route to the mountain peak. Vehicles could go through the beginning of the route. This route looked a bit easier than the earlier death bridge over the gorge and self decided to try this route. In half an hour self reached a certain height, panting like a donkey. By then, self was cursing all those fuckers in internet who advised hikers to take 3 litres of water. Well, do it by all means, i.e, if you have a mule or something similar to carry it. If not, please don't be a mule.

After half an hour of a particularly steep climb, self froze. I mean that is the thing with acrophobia, you just can become paralysed with fear. That fear does not listen to reason. While self was in that frozen state, several able hikers passed by. Some were considerate and tried to ask what the problem was I guess. But self spoke English to their German and nobody really understood anything and hours passed. A car came down and self desperately tried to ask the female who was riding it for a ride down. But, she passed self as if self was a refugee asking for asylum.

Then at a point it became too cold and self started to cry. In Germany, self has developed this strange habit of crying in public. For those of you who would like to try this, Germany is a great country to cry in public. Everyone will pass by you, without blinking an eye. Very unlike in India where if you try doing this, a whole street will gather around you.

Self's tears meant that now the able hikers stopped looking and trying to ask questions. Self continued crying, by now chronicling every bad decision in life. After a certain time, tears dried up and hunger took over. Self ate the protein bars that self had packed like a true mountain climber. Time passed by, and among the many faces that passed by, there weren't any with kindness.

Then, a man in a bicycle came. He looked like he was trying to work up a heart attack, trying to cycle through that steep trail. He must have been around 55 and had a kind face. He asked whether all was well and self nodded. He looked a bit sceptical. He asked again and self responded to his English as if he was self's therapist. Acrophobia..frozen here..shouldn't have tried this..was stupid. He was from Munich and he assured that it was not crazy trying to climb a mountain with acrophobia; he has a colleague who has acrophobia and she gets into similar plights. Then, he came up with one of the most brilliant ideas in the world. "Would you like to call a taxi?". Self jumped at this suggestion and cried "yes" many times. He used his phone and spoke German to some taxi stand. He assured that a taxi will arrive soon and self thanked this angel from Munich many times with 'God bless you' as he continued his journey towards the peak.

Soon, the taxi arrived and self jumped into it as if it was a ride away from death. The taxi guy told self that generally he would never take a trip like this because of the sharp heights and next time self should try a cable car. I guess self holds a world record in running away from climbing Zugspitze, that too in a taxi. May god bless the man from Munich. May his tribe increase.

....

Postscript: Eventually self did climb the Zugspitze. Took the advise of the taxi driver sage and took a cable car. But it is never the same. Unless you climb the mountain, you don't really earn it. 



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Bucket List in Berlin

 In exactly 3 months, will leave this city. There is a pretty high chance of coming back if all the red tapes across 2 continents work out, but this stint will end soon. May be Berlin is a lot like Delhi. It was also a super hard beginning. But I can't leave this city with just the blues or disappointments.

That walk with N at the end of the semester was a life saver. Like old times, best of conversations and disagreements rolling by along with the bicycle. We know each other for over a decade, both tough nuts in our own ways. But it is good to realise over a glass of wine that this person will be there even if I recede to academic wilderness to become a bad farmer by the seaside. Conversations that will be remembered across years. Am grateful for that.

Watched that badly made film on bucket list; a middle aged woman with a heart transplant trying to complete the bucket list of her 21 year old donor. A film that needs considerable fast forwards, but you realise that shouldn't underestimate being alive. 

So, here is a bucket list for this city

1. To wear short dresses and silver earrings on each of its summmer days. There isn't much policing around hemlines here, nothing is too short for this city of nudists.

2. To have long walks with music blasting out from  phone. One of the cheeky things you can do in this city; people often blast bad music from their speakers. Should let the city have a taste of a songs like this.

3. To carry enough change so that on each day can give it to one person who asks.

4. To shop on each week at that Srilankan store and to have that yellow ladoo which I shouldn't ideally eat.

5. To drink wine on every weekend with the gang who made this city liveable. Making joke about going to German jail after getting incomprehensible tax letters in German, ending up with huge bills after ordering food without reading the menu, letting G lead us to bad decisions.

6. To learn swimming properly at that school

7. Working at the office on top of the bar on all 3 days of the week when it is open.

8. Running by the river on each weekend and to finish it with crepe and small talk at that friendly crepe stand

9. To work just 10 to 5 only and to loaf through the city on evenings. To reach office actually at 10 am to do that

10. To never work on weekends

11. To do the talks, the papers with full heart. Am super grateful for the best of collaborators one can have.

12. To go on a date before I leave

13. To sit still by different water bodies or forests on each weekend

14. To finally go for one of those meet up sports or hikes.

15. To shop for second hand dresses.

16. To read novels on the grass on weekends.


 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Berlin Diaries-3

 For someone who moves cities every three years, this is one of the darkest places I have been.

Despite the summer, despite the butterflies flitting through the ugly flowers on the coarse grass. Over that coarse grass, men in baggy clothes are trying to strike a deal about their daily dose of preferred kind of drug. Over them police men and women armed with enough weapons to taken down a militia criss cross streets to chill the insides of the 'outsiders' within the city. A man in a bike, a total 'insider' rides past with the complete non chalance of an insider. Two homeless women quarrel near an ugly corner of the street. A pale woman asks for some coins. 'Insiders' ride over all this with a vegan kind of righteousness. Over the railway track a mad man screams over the city.

This strange language that I don't have the will to learn. These clear waters where people catch the fish with deep hooks and throw them back, half alive. These walls of ugly graffiti where those without a pen try to write and crash down. These vomit of pizza places that crowd the corners of streets that smell of disolation. 

May be, no one can be happy here. The dogs they invariably carry, the cats that hide in the apartments-a cryptic sign of the curse of blues that engulfs the city. As you enter, the city puts that stamp of blues over you as well. There won't be any true touch, any true conversation. Unless you can talk to the ghosts. Those who were dragged away from homes, those who went to the death of camps- they float around the city, waiting for someone to hold their hand.  Those who try to talk to them are the only kind faces and their tribe is not large.The ghost of a jewish doctor walking with the baggy eyed Syrain refugee near a tent on a dishevelled park, the child who bloated to death on the train ride to the camp resting on the shoulder of an old Turkish lady looking for beer bottles to sell in the trash can. 

Stay on the outside, don't get dragged into the black holes within. The cruel smoke from lips in a lala land of mind games.. the bad drizzle in which the onion peels of masks pile over to show glimpses of what could be a frightening hollow...the bad music which reverberates acroos the city that gifts the curse of slipperiness over every interaction...

Should run away. But, in a place like this which drags you with a spell to see the limits of your endurance, it is not going to be that easy


Monday, April 5, 2021

..

 Pain.Cold.Rain. Getting lost with a cranky GPS which runs on international roaming. Crying with the empty street-How did I fly into all this?

Things are grey. Walking back to the white cube cell of pain with long curtains. Nothing remains as it is, so this too should pass. But time walks in slow motion. When will it be a week, a month, longer and time to move back?

How did I land in this city at this moment? The way the midnight dispatch of applications went, it could also have been anywhere else, like a drab US province. May be it is not enough to be given your share of pain. You need to feel it at the precise destined geography. Can't even take a bus to somewhere else in this locked down city.

 Should have taken the cues. Have always been a quaint Indian street. Nice to meet and spend time with occasionally. Nothing more.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Berlin Diaries 2



Berlin, how dark is your winter. That line “sooner or later, Berlin will punch you in the stomach.”

In my case it was pretty soon. Today I feel like a soldier who removed a bullet from the body without any hint of even local anaesthesia.

Berlin, how much have you made me pay till now, and it has been barely 2 weeks. I haven't paid this much salt in London over 3 years and there I saw a death and one break up. I need to write that article, but my pen is numb.

Berlin, may be you are a mirror. Where I see everything for what they are. The place where I loose illusions.

Berlin, you owe me

A spring like I have never seen before

Love which will hold you and not tear you apart

Friendships which wouldn't turn into quicksand

Walks through the mountains over conversations that have the touch of the breeze

Berlin, you have made me loose all that has to be lost

I hope you wouldn't leave me without showing that elusive colours of spring that I have never witnessed in my life time.







Sunday, March 28, 2021

Berlin Diaries-1

 6.45am

Should go for a run. No, may be later. When there are a bit more people on the road. That part of the European city experience when you feel the lost in translation kind of loneliness. So, you go out to the streets, to meet people. Though "people" give one racist taunt a week. Berlin is not London. There the average was one in a year.

6.49am

Berlin is not a blank slate, I know people here. May be should line up people to meet every evening. 

Then, a friendship turning acidic or even toxic under this skyline. Nothing particularly new. I will be turning 40 in a year and have seen this too before. But I feel like that character in the movie who wears a bangle made of fire; desperately want to throw the bangle away, but it is never easy.

6.56am

I will be here for 6 months and it seems too short. Not for this city particularly, but for being away. I remember the line from another movie. "It is difficult to love a place where they are trying to kill you". I think of the of the riot mobs in "homeland" while crossing the memorial to the murdered jews of Europe to buy another packet of milk.

7.06am

This city which does not wait, this city which welcomes me by punching with heart break.WHY? An extremely irrelevant question. This too shall pass. Have been here before and have survived. Just that you don't get better at it with practice. 

7.13 am

I look at my muddied shoes and remember the mountains I have crossed, seas I have sailed, people I have met. I didn't come this far to sink in a river.

7.16am

I want Berlin to tell me that things will get better. That new things will happen, the impossible greyness of this winter will transform to the bloom of flowers. But the graffiti filled walls, ugly concrete and steel buildings and traffic lights that don't turn green easily if you are a pedestrian- they all just remain grumpy, and non committal.