Friday, October 15, 2021

Cold

 The storm took everything

There is nothing left, not even a broken piece of wood.

It is just bare freezing ground

Can't even imagine rebuilding

Might just freeze away in the cold

...

Believe in kindness

Of those who are yet to come.

And those who were always there. Like her who will go back to look for your lost phone. Like her who will hold your hand as you do the most foolish of things. Like her who will take your wailing self to the correct airport counter to reach for Dad's surgery on time. Like Dad. Like Mom.  Like the mentor who will check if all is well with you as your country burns. Like her who will hold your dignity by her belief in your words even as you star in the motely tragedy of sinking in a glass of water.  Like her who will give you achars and curd chillies that has the power to help you survive the darkest of cities you have ever encountered. Like her who will give you the keys. Like her who welcomed you with a cake. Like her who asks what is wrong with you. Like him who calls up the racist inn and fixes their strange over charging of you by saying that it is a call from the German ministry. Like her who is your defacto shrink. Like him who listens to your endless hyperventilating over life while calmly walking with the cycle. Like him who says that in a year everything will change. Like her who says that come and take your decisions only after you reach here and see the workload. Like that kind editor. Like that kind brilliant collaborator. Like them who don't bother about their lives even as they try to change the tides of hate with small floating films in pen drives.

.....

They will come with bricks for the floor, they will help you with the wood work. It will be hard. But, we will make it together again, that which the storm took. 

It might look impossible now. But there will even be soft curtains and a cosy fireplace near a dim lamp. There will be love, laughter and warmth. 

This standing in cold, staring at the nothingness that storm left..Trust me, this is not forever

Friday, October 8, 2021

Black Forest Stories-Shadow and the Maroon Witch

 


You may not know this. But, there are people who are just shadows. They are not a shadow of anyone, the shadow is all that they are. They will look  real. But, they aren't real. 

In the black forest they say that if you meet a shadow person, you should just move ahead. As if you haven't seen him/her. If not, you will be cursed to move from forest to forest looking for the heart of the shadow person-like the maroon witch

If you are walking through the heart of the black forest, especially on a rainy day, you might catch a glimpse of the maroon witch. A bit drenched, always in a hurry, looking for something. She will nod at you and you will see the sharp blackness of her eyes. She might look lost, but you would never be able to show her the way.

The maroon witch was not always such a purposeful lost person. She comes from a land that is far far away from the black forest. She was raised by witches who knew the technique of flying. The maroon witch was always an eager student. She used to love flying off to far off lands to catch elusive words; like a poem in a lost library or writing on the tip of a sunset in a hidden mountain. The older witches in her land taught her all they knew and gave her letters to witches in far off lands so that she could visit and learn from them.

Flying off to far off lands was not always easy. It used to make the maroon witch tired and at times lonely. But, she loved to move with words and that kept her largely happy. When an old witch in a far off land told her something she didn't know, the maroon witch would become incredibly happy. And, she loved flying- with the wind on her skin, snow on her finger tips.

But, the maroon witch was also a careless one. She never took directions seriously or tried to make sense of the signs that she saw. She used to have so much faith in her ability to fly and used to think that she could always fly away from any trouble.

That is how she looked at the shadow person in the eye. Just a glance and the shadow then moved ahead like a shadow, as if nothing had happened. The maroon witch lost her wings and began walking from forest to forest, looking for the heart of the shadow person. 

I don't know what can lift the curse that has fallen on the maroon witch. Will her wings ever grow back? Or will she grow old, moving from forest to forest, looking for that which is not there? If you know the answer, do try to leave a note for the maroon witch on the edge of taverns near the black forest. Ever since she lost her wings, she always reads every sign and note on her way.



Monday, September 20, 2021

Goetheweg

 Brocken, you must be breathtakingly beautiful. I couldn't climb all the way. Had to give up somewhere in the final edges of your ascent due to acrophobia. But, what I saw was beyond words.

Here on this path, I wasn't brown or immigrant. Just another from the same tribe, tracing the path of the great poet. Brocken, you can laugh. But, poets come in all hues. He was amongst the greatest, like Tagore, Gibran, Shakespeare, Kabir or Meera. I am amongst the lowliest members of my tribe. What I write won't travel or leave any mark. And, I am fine with it. Not everyone from the tribe has the gift. Most of us die heartbroken or penniless or both. 

But, the power of dreams have touched all of us. None of us can really walk with feet firmly on the ground. You can always mark us by looking at our feet, there will always be a gap with the ground.

Love touches us like a natural disaster. The faintest of winds become storms in our heart. We leave the warmth of homes to wander around in rain and hail in the forests. We will travel hundreds of kilometers for the glimpse of a sunrise at the tip of a mountain.

And, the universe knows us by our names. It shows us its most exquisite of colours-for it knows that we are those who can feel the depths of colours. It makes us walk through the darkest of sorrows, knowing well that no one can feel the way we feel. I have heard that the light of the universe appears before the mightiest amongst our tribe; for they alone can behold that light without getting blinded.

Brocken, as I told you, I am amongst the lowliest of the tribe. I haven't seen even the glimpse of such light. But in our tribe, it is our practice to wander around, looking for it.

Brocken, I leave a bit of my sorrows on this path. Hoping that one day I will be able to view your breathtaking beauty. I might need a pair of hands to steady me through the fear in your narrow ways. You might think that I might never make it. But Brocken, I am from that tribe where our feet never touches the ground. At times the doors of impossible do open up for us. So Brocken, may be..may be, another time

Traveling With Foolishness

 

"Me aur meri tanhai" (Me and my loneliness). That is one of the most dramatic lines of Hindi cinema. If I could make any such grand statements, it will be "Me and my foolishness".

People take many things as travel companions and loneliness could be one of them. In my case, I travel with my foolishness and mild to moderate situational depresssion. Actually, the journeys are meant to show the depression new places. Foolishness just tags along for a free ride.

Bad Grund. I think it was foolishness which chose the destination. Generally, me, depression and foolishness look at the internet for places that are cheap enough to go and has a bit of nature.  Germany has a quite a bit of nature destinations; most of them are not particularly spectacular, but they are there. 

Traveling on every weekend or fortnight can be pretty expensive. But then, depression is a tough customer. I have decided that instead of giving it cocaine or alcohol or something similar which are all very expensive, it is better to show it new places. Since Germany is a great country to cry in public without anyone bothering you, traveling with depression hasn't been much of a problem. But a word of caution. If your depression is the suicidal kind, what you need is a hospital and not travel. Since mine is the mild to moderate kind, it has been travel safe so far.

Now on top of this situational depression, foolishness has decided to go and do a stint at heart break. Getting infatuated with uninterested or unavailable men have been foolishness' regular recipe to bring heart break to my door step. This time the candidate is an uninterested and unavailable but cute space cadet with some jelly fish qualities from this part of the world. Nothing but tears is ever going to come out of it. But when foolishness decides to have its way, you can't really do anything about it.

So, it was all getting too much mopping inside my shoebox flat. So, I hurled depression and foolishnesss together and took this journey to Bad Grund.

Now the thing is that no one really goes to Bad Grund. Not even people from Bad Grund want to go there. But Deutsche Bahn religiously runs train services to many such god forsaken places. Since my travel decisions are not always made in the best frame of mind, I often find myself at such places. This time, it was not just the destination. Foolishnesss had gone ahead and booked the worst pension (cheap accomodation) available in the place.

After alighting out of the train in the middle of nowhere, i.e, Bad Grund, I spent 4 hours looking for this pension. After a wrong bus journey which cost me 3.50 Euros, I decided to try the by foot method. This walking business and seeing new sights generally calms depression. However, I had one more unreliable travel companion-google maps. This app which functions with utmost precision in Berlin begins to behave like a drunk teenager outside the city. This time it was suggesting that I should walk over an unguarded railway track. Since in the past I have been brought to near death experiences by this drunk teenager version of this app, I decided to ignore the suggestion about the railway track. Eventually, with the help of a kind lady who didn't speak much English, I reached the pension at around 8 pm.

The woman who was running the pension told me that the check in time was over. I was dreading this and was cursing foolishness for booking this pension. I told the woman that I was roaming around for 4 hours trying to find this fucking pension from its hiding place. Eventually, she decided to take me in. I guess it was because they were not exactly overflowing with customers. So far all the communication have been happening in sign language since she refused to speak English and I did not know any German. She also conveyed in sign language that since I am in Germany, I should speak German. By this time, I wanted to ask her about her local AFD unit; but I decided to keep it for another day because I was too tired.

She gave me a rickety key to a rickety room. The room was built by an architect who clearly belonged to the drunk teenager school of architecture. It looked like a bad train cabin. The walls were paper thin and you could hear coughs from many rooms. That was when I remembered that Bad Grund after all has one claim to fame. It is considered to be a good place to recover from respiratory illnesses. The pension was clearly filled with people who hoped for such recovery. So, I had a sleepless night, admiring this sound design from hell that included lot of coughing, some flushing of tolilets and a wailing baby or 2.

As soon as I woke up, I paid my dues and ran from the pension. 

However, not everything about the trip was bad. I took a bus to Osterode to climb a tiny bit of what they call the witches' trail. It helped to calm depression down for a bit. I know it will wake up in a day or two, but any respite is good.

And, Bad Grund also has the kindest of bus drivers. They will always take in a teary eyed traveller and will ensure that she reaches her destination even if she can't speak any word of German.

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.



Tuesday, February 2, 2021

To Berlin

 Berlin-hopefully we will meet soon, COVID willing. 

I am a bit nervous-of the your streets that I know and yet don't know, of the strange language that I don't know and may be wants to know. I have roamed around my share, but living for half a year in a land where I don't speak the language will be a first.

Berlin, you are no clean slate to me. Unlike London, where everything was about forgetting, starting afresh. 

Berlin, be kind. Don't let me fall into the pits that I generally fall. I have shed my share of tears for love or whatever illusions that looked like love. 

Berlin, please be easy on me. I will be coming from a place where I can't see much of justice. I remember a friend telling me in Brighton, "here I am just around wine and jazz". My reply was "please enjoy the wine and jazz. There is enough blood waiting for you back home in your valley". 

Berlin, I have been working like a dog. In a year I will hit 40. I will see my parents wither away. I might see the bars of prison or worse in my land which is nosediving into spirals of hate and violence.

So Berlin, when I am with you, let the summer wind walk with me in a leisuerly stroll. Give me conversations that will gently move through warm nights over a bottle of red wine. Teach me to cycle through your parks, to finally swim properly through your waters, may be even to ride a car through your streets. 

I might feel alone and overwhelmed at times as I try to find a place to live or try to open a bank account. Walk with me and show me a burst of flowers and sunshine on those days.

We wouldn't talk of genocide- not yours, not mine. Somewhere these 6 months might mean a lot. I don't know of what might be there for me later. I want to go to strange places from your bus stops, train stations. With you, I would like to live a bit, to dance a bit, to laugh a lot.

So, see you soon Berlin