What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
Happy Easter, and hope you had a good break.
I know you didn’t ask, but yes, I had a good break too. I had not looked forward to a holiday as much as I had to this one, for a very long time. Not because I was off to the most fascinating place on earth, or because I had always wanted to go there, but because I really needed a break. I used up a lot of my vacation days last year when I went to India on holiday, but somehow, going home to India is never a “holiday” – it is that period of one’s life when you turn over your life for the fulfillment of everyone else’s whims and fancies. Here, take my life – now, think of it as an odd football – yes, I know its not really round, but who said I am not crooked – now kick it all you like – yes, that’s a good pass – now I will wait for that person to pass judgment on my life – and then off we go again, ouch! that hurt, but hey, who am I to complain, I am but an odd football – and then after the few weeks that feel both like an eternity and a fleeting moment, I salvage whatever I can of the worn-out ragged odd ball, and amble back – to live in nostalgia and regret, with annoyingly recurring questions of belonging and love – no more closer to the answer, but irreversibly moving along a path, undeniably helped by the deft passes and the cheering and the booing that now seem permanently stuck in my head like a broken record.
Well, this was not like that. This was three self-indulgent days when I could do whatever I wanted to do – no family, no bosses, no societal norms. Just me and the never ending canals. Yes, I went to Venice. I know, I am big on travelogues and I am supposed to love places and make a big deal about the beautiful sights I saw there, and I do intend to get to that eventually. But surprisingly, when I am back from a holiday, or when I am on holiday – the actual location does not matter as much as the fact that I am there. In the moment. Not thinking of tomorrow. Not regretting about yesterday. Just plainly living in the present. Staring at the lapping waves, and letting anything and everything happen. Just let it be. Don’t try to be in charge. Don’t try to be in control. Don’t be responsible. Just be a child again. With awe and wonder in my eyes. Feel the freedom of the wind as it brushes past my cheeks. Smile at the bird as it soars above my head, and decides to rest on a pole safely away from my reach. Tap my feet in tune to the bobbing of the boats, as they try to catch every wave.
Standing atop the Rialto, amidst the thronging crowds, staring into one of the most beautiful sights – The Grand Canal – which has the unique quality of being bizarrely busy and silently serene at the same time – enjoying the cool spring breeze and managing to tune out the clicks of a hundred cameras and loud voices in a multitude of languages – I felt blissfully alone. The century-old monuments staring back at me could have crashed down in a breathtaking avalanche, the gondoliers could have thrown down their oars, capsized their gondolas and joined each other in a triumphant synchronous dance, the water could have risen till all were submerged, just because it has been feeling cross at a world, where just about everyone has an opinion on the rising water level, even when no one has the slightest clue – and I could have still felt the peace. I would have still felt oddly detached, and not felt the need to react or to absorb, to witness or to wade in. It was just me. Alone, even in the maddening crowd.
And here I am, back at home, physically alone, typing away at the rigid keyboard of my new laptop which has not lent itself to familiarity yet despite the many hours I have already spent with it, kept company by the occasional cold blinks on my task bar announcing new mail and people signing into the various messaging systems from all sorts of time zones – and I feel strangely crowded – like everyone wants a slice of my life and a piece of my peace. Across the borders, across the miles – friends I love, family I adore, cultures I admire – I want to absorb all and be part of all. Ideas cram my head – its time to get up and act. The world is full of possibilities, things to be done, races to be run, mountains to be conquered – for after all, atop every mountain, there must be a moment of peace.
There is a reason we love traveling – its not the bustling boats on canal grande or the expanse of San Marco square or the golden mosaic at the Basilica – it is those stolen moments in our otherwise busy lives, where we indulge our desire to break loose of all the strings that bind us tight, where we pause to add in a new bandage or adjust an old one that keeps our weary souls together, where we can be alone to finally really be – see ourselves as we are, not through the eyes of others; to do those things we want to do, not those that are expected of us; to feel those emotions that come naturally to us, and not those we are conditioned to feel; to pen those words that can’t seem to stop flowing, without stopping to think what they mean and why they are and what will they mean to anyone else – to just be us, and connect, for once, not with everyone around us, but with our very own inner selves – and finally be able to be happy.