Crawling out of my hideous cloak of normality made me ecstatic.
Finally, I was embarking upon another solo travel, a journey which I hoped would bring me the illusive peace and tranquility that I intensely yearned every day while stuck at the much-famed Bangalore traffic jams. The noxious fumes of Uber cars and the sluggish pace of vehicles often rendered me day-dreaming about the cloudy hills of Wayanad and lush-green backwaters of Alleppey. My transition from God’s Own Country to the Silicon Valley of India, with a brief pitstop at my dear hometown Bhubaneswar, was brusque in the least. While the former had all the comforts of a quaint and satisfied life, my new host seemed to be daunting and belligerent. And just as I was slowly mending my old ways to fit this corporate caricature, a four-day long weekend just popped-up unannounced.
3 days to go-my mind started racing on the endless possibilities this rare easter-egg of a weekend could lead to. There were hills in Coorg, coffee estates in Chikmagalur, beaches flanking the beautiful cities of Mangalore and Chennai, and a wide spectrum of heritage sites scattered in the neighboring states.
2 days left before the travel pinata was cracked open and I had no idea where the roads were going to take me. Just like the past two months in Bangalore had been replete with pleasant surprises and unfathomable uncertainties,the next four days could also carve a niche in my journey as a traveller,pun unintended.Getting over a 27-year long canine phobia and living with the 4-legged bundle of joy is, as I contend,one of the biggest life-altering experiences in my life. Juggling the life of a 9-to-6 office goer, 7-to-10 dog lover, and 11-to-1 reading procrastinator is as overwhelming as it sounds. Meanwhile, the few remaining hours went in updating the Facebook wedding invitation page of my gorgeous, soon-to-be hitched roommate.And with that, the inherent guilt of missing out on her colorful and quintessentially Bollywood wedding kept nagging me day-in and day-out.
1 day to go. Luckily, early morning visitors to flat had woken me up from my customary disturbed slumber and I was finally planning my itinerary much gusto. All was planned and the picture looked good. The trip was planned around covering two of the most coveted places in my travel list; the travel list of a girl who grew up reading enough Tinkle comics and Gokulam magazines secretly stashed between her dull textbooks. The childish glee of the forthcoming trip raptured my soul.
16 hours left before I finally got in the holiday mode. I thought the rest of the day at work and the commencement of the journey would be marked by inevitable bouts of excitement and a slight tinge of separation anxiety of leaving my pup for the first time. Yet, as the evasive forces of destiny and nature would have it, it did not begin as hoped. It did not begin with the long-lost gaiety of the happy-go-lucky, spring-in-the-step, buying-sunscreen-and-travel-journal kind of enthusiasm. It did not begin with spirit of the brewing adventure and exploration. It, my fellow readers, began with death.
The news of a close acquaintance succumbing to the deathly grip of an incurable disease shook me from within. Immediately my mind flashed back to the days when this said person revelled in the prime of her life. And then the most unfortunate blow struck by the grim reaper sucked the life out of her withering body. This thought was unsettling. This crude unforgiving truth of life was unsettling. And the most unsettling thoughts of all were hinging losely on the realization that somewhere down the lane, on a gloomy dark day, this cruel mistress could wreck my home too.
The white Indigo arrived at my gate at sharp 10 in the night. I was in my Beatles t-shirt and red polar bear shorts (no, the bears are white here).My hastily packed bag hung lazily on my aching shoulders. The harrowing stress of work earlier that day was clearly visible on the dark crescents surrounding my eyes.I gobbled on the humble and vividly green lauki with two sad chapatis. With a heavy yet excited heart, I bid my roommates (read envious)and dearest Lady Lily Macbeth a heartfelt goodbye. I boarded my cab and was transported to the bustling bus stop.
The pitter-patter of late night drizzle had aggravated to a incessant downpour. The bus-stop, which was actually a magical portal narrowly nestled between a police station and a gas station, was teeming with herds of weekend holidayers. My travelling intuition prodded me to buy some eatables. Holding two sombre muffins, I had the option of either inhaling automobile exhaust and seek shelter at the gas station or just accept defeat and be the one with the rain. While this conundrum plagued my disposition for two and a half hours, the horror of having missed my bus starting creeping up on me. At 1:10 am, just as I was about to book another bus (or probably let go of the entire plan , head back home and have a war movie marathon), my ride arrived in all its shameless majesty.
The poor bus conductor stood at the entrance, silently swallowing the lashes of annoyed travellers. I sprinted across to my cosy single sleeper berth, tied my luggage together, devoured the dry muffins and prepared to sleep. As soon as my aching body hit the pillow,I was again reminded of the mournful news.
Every time I pack my bags and set my sails to a solitary expedition, it is unfailingly associated with overcoming a personal hurdle. My outward travels often bring me closer to my inner self. But this time,it wasnt about taking a journey of introspection. Maybe this time, I was going to learn a thing or two about life through the kaleidoscope of death.
The bus revved its engine, and I glanced out at the stunning dark night.A quote by Banksy flitted across my mind – “They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” I rolled myself in the blanket as I began the first phase of my journey, to the dowdy elder sibling of all the southern cities, Chennai.