I’m still a bit disbelieving that we pulled off a vacation in Bali as a reunion of our gang at the School of Planning and Architecture and though it was disappointing that more of our inner circle of friends could not make the trip owing to family and work commitments, I’m glad this short break worked out. Traveling for two days and vacationing for three has certainly taken a toll on our sleep cycle and exhaustion levels, but we’ve all come back richer and wiser for making the effort. Reconnecting with friends who know you well, sometime even a tad better than you know yourself, has the peculiar ability of bringing the most challenging aspects of your life into sharp focus even as you revel in gratitude for everything that has worked out well.
For me, the intense discussions we had on an astonishing variety subjects—politics, gender, sexual freedom, family and social structures, tourism, food chauvinism—were not merely informative (on the last night entertaining too, as two among the four of us proceeded to have an enormous noisy contest over the popularity of food from two different regions in India while the other two alternated between collapsing in giggles and worrying about the neighbors waking up and yelling at us!). They helped me look inwards and overhaul some assumptions I’ve been making in life, re-evaluate some priorities, refocus. As I flew the last leg toward home, I realized that experiencing Bali like that, among friends who are well read and intelligent (and opinionated may I add, with the caveat that I wouldn’t have them any other way!) added a certain variety and sharpness to my own perspectives.
Moreover, it made me realize how much strength it’s possible to draw from people you know. To hear about how each friend faced a particular set of adversities is hugely educational. More than that, it is reassuring that I’ve been able to surround myself with people who are die hard optimists, rock solid in their ethics and belief systems (even if rather varied), non-judgemental as well as unconditionally supportive to each other.
In the end, this trip to Bali for which I risked a precious working week and some, was not just a vacation. It was so much more!
There’s this guy in office. He’s just got off the phone from an hour long conversation in which he was offering pointless employment advice and life gyaan to someone who I suspect just had nothing better to do.
Whenever my mum calls her driver to ask him to get the car up, his phone is busy. We have to assume he has seen the missed call and the car will usually arrive in ten minutes!
A cousin spends an average of three hours a day in silent conversation with his girl.
The mobile revolution has been a great thing. Cheap phone calls, the ability to stay connected all the time. The ability to have a conversation when it isn’t needed. The ability to while away time spent waiting at street corners, inside cars, at bus stops, on the Metro, between classes, between meetings, during lonely nights, during blank moments in the midst of babbling friends…and so on.
It’s given so many of us a sense of purpose, it’s mind boggling really! What does he mobile revolution mean to you?
I don’t know about you, but for me travel is as good as the company I keep on the road. The weekend trip to Dhanachuli stands out in this regard. The fresh mountain air, the breathtaking views, the lovingly crafted properties we visited and stayed in, the delectable food…all these experiences were greatly enhanced and in fact, indelibly etched in my mind by the stimulating conversations we had.
Moreover, I rediscovered the absolute high of meeting new people and finding common ground in a very short period of time; the thrill of being in the company of creative minds that work differently from yours and yet feed into a similar sensibility; the calmness of not being judged and not judging those around you.
For this and more, my thanks go out to Te Aroha and Sumant Batra in particular, whose brainchild this Blogger’s Meet was. To warm up to the exciting series of posts I have planned about the fantastic weekend, I’m including these portraits I clicked of all my new friends. As fellow travelers, their names will crop up often in my ramblings about Dhanachuli and as I said before, they are as much part of the story as the frames taken by my camera’s eye and the words forming in my head!
And Aaditya of course. All my pictures of him are blurred and my strongest memory of him is of squinting keenly through the camera, in love with the idea of capturing a frame. The sharpest observation powers I have seen in a while… as far as company goes, AA was certainly the icing on the cake 🙂
Oh wait! I did find, a very apt, pic of him!
There is something hypnotic about being transported at high speed across the city crushed within a sea of human bodies. Zoom in and you see myriad expressions, people’s worries and preoccupations etched so clearly on their faces. The hassled employee late for work, the group of women armed with passes to go to the India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan, gloating over how they had lied to their bosses and mothers in law! College kids withdrawn into their own world, earphones welded into their ears. Groups of them yapping away, discussing boyfriends and profs and other stuff I no longer understand.
Zoom out and all the noise around subsides. All you hear is the rhythmic sound of the train on the track, the sound of comfort and excitement. The sound of motion, familiar from zillion childhood journeys and yet signifying another adventure, another destination.
It is impossible not to love this journey on the Delhi Metro. To me, it has come to mean precious time to myself. I read, I listen to music or I simply sit and imbibe the sights and sounds, the feel of Delhi citizens off to work, study or pleasure. It is a lively place, this train, despite some serious and glowering faces. Most of us seem to enjoy the status quo that comes with being on a train, suspended between somewhere and elsewhere. I see many lost in thought, one with themselves, introspective or simply dormant.
It is this opportunity that high speed travel offers that people around the world love so much. Many songs and books eulogise the metro experience in New York and the Tube in London has an iconic status for people across the works, even if they’ve never been to that city. The most bizarre scene in Skyfall, Bond’s latest, is the one jn which the train falls through a hole and crashes into the subterranean landscape of the tube. All who see it imagine the horror of being on a train that meets such a fate and we hate the bad guy who would want to go that to our beloved metro!
Indeed, I have come to love the Metro ride. I greet it as I would a dear friend and savour the experience each time. I remind myself that this is a gift we must appreciate, considering that only a few years ago we were helpless commuters with very few options.
Nostalgia is passé. Post 35, when you meet friends from the past, especially those buddies from college, you talk kids, ethics, life experiences and value systems. Your discussions veer towards perceptions and issues and incidents are shared in the context of making a point.
As Richa’s beautiful little girls hung around us (or pranced around us in the case of the younger one), the four of us- Upali, Richa, Julius and me- talked about the things that concerned us most. I was amazed to find that, despite living countries apart, what worried us all the most were common. All the issues we discussed pertained to the desire to see an improved world in the future. We talked of education quality, the value societies attach to learning and education, the business of education and healthcare, dealing with class issues in a society in rapid transition, parenting and how to help our kids to be good humans while utilising their potential and talent, how it is important for poor business models to fail so that there is a value attached to risk as much as there is to reward (great learning for me, thank you Julius!), can we ever outgrow the obsession for white skin (Upali returned to India after a gap to find the obsession had grown), why advertising and media feeds on insecurity and fear, you get the drift I am sure.
It amazes me and heartens me that there are others (and I have heard from many since I began this blog) that worry like me, that passionately hope for change. That recognise that the sharp edge of profitability must be balanced by the service of the larger good. That balance, not unconditional growth is the way forward. That creativity and design have a larger role to play for humanity to continue a meaningful existence.
I had planned to take pictures of this mini reunion, but I have not a single one. Conversation and food flowed seamlessly. Life was good. The hospitality the best (thanks Richa). Comfort levels high. I guess we’re not the posing types!