There is a small park with narrow paths cutting through groves of planted trees where I often go for a walk. Right within one of the copses is a spot where the treeline is just dense enough to isolate oneself in greenery. I love standing there, taking a moment for myself, while briefly enveloped in complete calmness.
I have only started doing this during the last six months, though I’ve been living here for almost 4 years.
Occasionally, I wander a bit further towards a pier with sailboats parked on calm waters, to have a sit down and relax.
Call it hilarious circumstances or maybe strange coincidence, I ended up in Utrecht after a long time. “Quaint” was the word that slipped off my tongue as we strolled through the streets, just as the city slowly lit up to a backdrop of dusky-blue skies. Calm canals stringed alongside with parked bicycles, old buildings and sleepy cobblestone streets paint the picture of a quintessential dutch town.
Or perhaps it was just the vibe along the route I was taken on by someone who knew the lay of the land. The quaintness (is that even a word) of the place left me wishing I had taken more pictures.
After being cooped up in the city for far too long than I am used to, as the travel restrictions started being eased my confidence in travel picked up. Just as a heatwave started engulfing the entire continent, a friend and I decided to make a break for the mountains.
As our plan to drive towards Denmark fell apart due to travel restrictions, on a streak of inspiration, we changed destinations towards the Chamonix and the French alps via Switzerland. In the same spirit of spontaneity, we ended up making another impromptu detour towards Lake Como in Italy before heading back.
The Bob Ross-esque view of the mountains with happy little trees blew me away after being stuck in the flat country for what seemed to be forever.
The trip also ticked off an item from my bucket list – to see the milky way with the naked eye and shoot it. At first, I had thought it was cloud formation; however, a quick reference proved otherwise. I suppose I have been living in cities for far too long.
As we neared our destination, the views just kept getting better and better. We were forced to make a stop and walk along-side the cold glacial melt and admire the hard work of driving 12 hours straight payoff.
The Chamonix Valley was just as beautiful as I had seen it 5 years ago
Making a detour into Italy was an expensive affair, as crossing Mont-Blanc Tunnel cost us more than twice the toll we paid for entire Switzerland and all its innumerable tunnels.
The change in landscape and the weather was nothing short of dramatic. Looking back towards the mountains we were leaving behind, the views just seemed so Ansel Adam-esque.
The mountains slowly receded to appear no more majestic than cardboard cutouts.
The sky was no longer studded with stars, but the wine and panoramic views were nothing we could complain about.
We got down our perch and moved towards Lake Como in hunt of a beach.
Coffee was in order before we could jump in. One of my regrets was forgetting to get some of that deliciousness back.
I was looking forward for my first ever open water swim.
After debating exploring more places, we decided to save on some time and money and just drive through the night, stopping only for fuel and restroom breaks.
Once upon a time, somewhere towards the end of January, back when you could still get to places at the drop of a hat, I had to do just that, to attend to matters of grief. I was on my way after playing “Plague Inc” game for couple of hours while tuning to news of expanding virus outbreaks. The stock market had showed a small dip. All of that got my nerves tangled a bit as to what might be awaiting.
Airports always evoke a trans-like feeling, and so as usual I had taken to just observing and watching my surroundings in quiet contemplation. Leaving the dreary winter weather behind for an interlude of sunshine and warmth certainly helped too.
No sooner than I landed and reached home, I headed up to our terrace to wander and get some air.
The kite flying festival “Sankranti” had just passed and there were few lying around that brought back nostalgia. I distinctly remember flying kites as a ten year old, from the terrace corner where now stands a broken toilet/commode. Where my dad and cousins were flying kites as the “adults” engaging with kite fights in the area and winning, there now stood a pair of quiet satellite tv dishes.
Nobody has flow kites on our terrace in half a decade. Not only has the celebrative spirit in at home and neighbourhood waned away but also newer & taller structures cropped up to limit access to the skies. Sky used to be the limit and now the sky is limited.
While I don’t affiliate myself with any school of belief, I do however find places of worship fascinating for what it means to those coming there. So I agreed to tag along with my small camera.
Attending to matters of grief in India often involves elaborate rituals, events, people, processions and places. You bring in specialist pandits who read verses that nobody understands or perhaps even cares. I suppose the ritualistic nature of the exit gives people a sense of closure.
For someone who has lived a full and uncomplicated life, the end is something to be cherished in an uncomplicated way and maybe even celebrated, but I seem to be the odd one out.
The strangeness of seeing this vehicle with, in funeral home, just left me with a feeling of silent contemplation.
The streets were just as busy and polluted as ever if not more, so not much all has changed around.
But after a week or so there, I was already looking forward to being back to Amsterdam which I now realize is home.