Day 142: 2017 Highlights – Amour Suisse

It’s 2018. 2017 has gone by, and the cyberspace is overflowing with messages of positivism in the upcoming year, reviews of the year that went by and promises for the new year. Here’s my year in review but focused on the major highs and the lows.

Amour Suisse

The 20-days long, cross-continent trip, 10,000 kms from home, has to definitely feature in the highs for the year that went by. I missed all of H’s trip to India, and I left the country with a clarified mind, freshly loaded with theories of detachment from the therapist. And boy, did the trip clear my head out further!

  • Indian services suck. I’ve ranted about it a lot and I accept it. The side-effect of poor services is the delay one typically experiences because of these services. Combine that to traffic, and no Indian is ever on time. Well technically, when the Swiss were in India, every single Indian student was on time, waiting along with them through the delays.

So, having the issue of time delays rubbed in our faces every minute of every day was very irritating. On the second day, half the Indians were 30 minutes early to class and were sitting out on the ground because the Swiss professor wasn’t around to let us in. A week down, there were mostly only Indians in class and the Swiss slowly ambled in, 30 minutes past the hour. I hope they’ve gotten the message loud and clear that the Indian Stretchable Time is just another cliche that we’d like to erase in this generation.

  • The country is beautiful beyond comparison. As I stood by Lac Leman, staring up at the snow capped Swiss Alps behind, rising above Evians-des-bains in France, I felt humbled. Any sense of supremacy or ego would automatically disappear in a country like this. It is also a huge contrast from what I was used to see as grandeur in the United States of America. If you saw the Pacific Ocean in Cali, that’s all you got – miles and miles of water. If you went to stare at the Grand Canyon in awe, you got rocks and layers and layers of rock. It seems to be just here where you see the gigantic artic mountains, the lush green expanse of fields and the power of the lakes and the rivers, all mashed up in the same scene.

Chateau de Chillon

  • It seemed like there was more to plan for our trips around town, than for the actual project work itself. My work partner was missing for a major part of week 1 and that meant very little work could be done. And most of the work was done within the first 2 days of week 2. If you ask me to objectively evaluate the project, I would say that it was a huge drain on resources, especially if the University management was looking to get something productive from the trip.

Goofing around with Einstein on the bench, Bern

  • We spent an evening at Sarah’s country home, smack in the middle of the mountains, in the town of Bex. Between the town lights on the Alps, and the stars up in the sky, the whole night was surreal. I couldn’t pick between staring at the jeweled mountain sides, the speeding cars on the highway, the pitch black on the moutains, and the stars in the sky. My mind calmed to a state of numbness, where the breeze didn’t matter any more, the cold didn’t bite any more and the company was miles away.
  • Old Town Bern, with its cobbled stone pathways, stained glass painted church windows and red tile roofed buildings is exactly the quaint European city that my mind had conjured up. Walking down the city roads, music from a street side band drifting in the air and the sweet smell of roasted nuts, I was overjoyed at the places this life has taken me. The walk up the spire of the tallest church in the town was amazing and the view of the entire city from up there was memorable indeed.

  • Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Tête de choco, Choco chaud, Chocolate croissant, Choco noir, Choco au lait. Chocolate shaped in every form from football to Easter bunnies and the Eiffel tower. And amazing ones them all.

It’s raining chocolates, at the Cailler Chocolate Factory

  • The people, Indians and Swiss, were definitely a highlight of the trip. From PGS and his antiques, to flimsy-gal Ignatius, to dopey gal, and goey fan-girl, all those in the Indian team eventually came together as a fun group. Daily debrief sessions in V’s room, with prompt data collection, and rants about PGS over booze were all gentle reminders of the fun hostel times in RECT. Cliques formed and dissolved, issued crept up and subsided, but two weeks down, we all walked back with newfound respect for each other and great memories behind us.

The goofballs every night

For all their cultural unawareness and a sense of superiority, the Swiss team members were a bunch of genuinely ignorant folk. From being surprised at my listening to Classic Rock or speaking fluent English, to being a teeny bit impressed at my learning French, to being completely awestruck at the energy in the Indians to dance all night, they were definitely experiencing these for the first time and I respect them for that. Overall, they were quite the crazy lot.

Most of the gang, at Les Diablerets

A few unforgettables:

Pasta night at Bjerns

Made it to Bern

Nachde ne saare, nooooo :))

The view to die for. Peak walk at Les Diablerets

On Lac Leman, off to set foot in France

Even random Swiss mutts need a bum rub ❤

Loving photography.. All over again…

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Day 128: Dil-pasands

Runaway Beast

It had been a productive morning, interviewing a counselor for an assignment. As I drove back home, a serene pace in, a certain nostalgia took over and I remembered the amazing cakes and goodies from The Iyengar Bakery in Domlur. While I don’t seem to have too many fond memories from growing up in that that over-crowded, dingy locality, I do remember the bakery. Every time we’d drive by on the Airport Road, the smell of their freshly baked bread would waft into the air and my mind would wander.

I quickly pull over, smack in front of the bakery, and examine the wares in the display case that hasn’t changed in the last 20 years. Half dil-pasand, 2 honey cakes, 1 apple cake, 2 masala sandwiches – I would eat their goodies for breakfast and lunch for the next few days. He packs my loot into an eco-friendly cloth bag, I pay him a little extra, wait for the change and turn to look behind me cursorily. I see the Red Beast standing a few meters away from me, diagonally opposite to where I was standing, at the Bakery. I turn back to the boy hunting for change, and wonder what all the commotion around the Red Beast was!

Had I parked it obstructing traffic on the road? Wait! Did someone scratch my car? I look back urgently to spot signs of an accident. I see a rider in a scooter and a pillion point at me, frantically.  I think the spot I’ve parked in bothers him and I wave back – “One minute, sir, I will move very soon”. I turn back to concentrate on my goodies and it hits me! I hadn’t parked the Red Beast where it stood right now. I had parked it right behind me, while I could see it diagonally away from me. It had found itself a new parking spot. All the while, I was busy buying sweet bread.

I run back to the car and the words of the scooter man become clearer “Can’t you see that your car is rolling away, madam?” I quickly jump into the car, stare in wonder at the disengaged hand break, and imagine the tragedies that I would have caused with this little act of stupidity. I pull over closer to the kerb, shut engines, turn on the hand brake and run back to collect my goodies.

I had fallen down in my own standards as a good driver. I was on probation until I decided when.

Glum Baker

I had seen the owner of the Bakery today, after a few decades. He was much younger then, with more blacks than greys; Heck! So was I. A certain fondness took over me, a certain familiarity or willingness to connect. Would he know if I told him that we used to visit him as kids? Would he remember the number of times we bought his apple cakes and dil-pasands? He smiled back with knowing. But, would he remember the scrawny 10 year old and her chubbier older sister who would buzz around their bakery for those delicious honey cakes?

I lost my train of thought as soon as the man opened his mouth and yelled at the two assistant boys in the store. He wanted them to pack some breads, and weigh some cookies, and repack the bread, and attend to the lady waiting for her dil-pasand, and stop talking on the phone, and run to the back to check on the ovens, and do a million things more. As he started talking, I noticed a distinct change in the demeanor of the gentleman serving me. He suddenly felt emasculated, unimportant and stupid. He hurriedly stuffed all my goodies into a bag, and whispered my final bill.

It instinctively reminded me of how rude the baker had been when we were kids too. I do not remember a moment of smile or mirth from him. He’d always treated us with disdain, yelling at us for bringing too much change or too little. He would speak with just an ounce of respect when my dad came along, and in those occasions he’d ignore the fact that we even existed. All that angst and discomfort came right back to me. I no longer wanted to make small talk with this guy; I was ready to leave.

The thing, I see, about morose people is that they never change over the years, and continue to be miserable all through their lives.

Day 125: Valley and Flights 

Valley

A week and a half in the Valley School, and my mind was more rejuvenated than a long time. I had walked in with a conflicted heart and a dark cloud hanging over my head. But I also had an open mind and that brought in such experiences with it, that I was changed.

  • The most important standout from the experience was how interested people were in sharing their life. There was a willingness to open up and let another in, something that is becoming very difficult to find in the modern world. They wanted you to live their life, walk their path and see how life was.
  • The second highlight was the quality of conversation. Not once did anyone ask my why I hadn’t married yet, why I chose a career I didn’t like or who my newest boyfriend was. They knew that they all lived in glasshouses and any judgment sent out would return their way eventually. Instead, they spent their times talking about the life, the universe, meaning to life and things that mattered.
  • They were content in their lives and unmoved by the trivialities that come with modern affiliations. They did not have the newest fancy smart phone and so they did not spend their together-times staring into each other’s phones or wondering why the wifi speed was so poor. Something bigger mattered and they knew.
  • The relationship that the students shared with their teachers was inspirational. They called them uncles and aunts, hugged them around in class, and openly spoke to them about period pains and worries. There was a stark absence of fear for the role of the teacher. And teachers walked with a mindset that they were co-learners too. This made them awfully powerful, with a direct connect to young minds.
  • “Are you trying to kill us, uncle vipul? “, yelled a 6year old, as Vipul opened his laptop in class. Technology was a necessity and nothing more. It did not take up such a dominant part of their lives that they forgot to smell the rain, hear the birds, or be sensitive to each other.
  • A study center discussion that explored the difference between the mind and the brain sent me on an unknown path, one where I had no footing. I still felt comfortable enough to try out the discussions and I was stunned. Mind is what thinks not merely based on facts in front of us, but based on all past experiences, heartbreaks and successes. So, it automatically becomes a source for conflict. If we could think, but without all those added baggage, then imagine how powerful our brain would really be.
  • Another intriguing conversation was with Saqhib, where he shook my foundation about alternative schooling. By calling yourself alternative, you are automatically boxing yourself into a system, simply by trying to opposing to the mainstream. That invariably means there’s very little you can do differently, because you have a level of comparison in the form of another schooling system. What we should truly try is to be different in all forms, not bound by norms.
  • The highlight of the whole time was how ready the whole school, from the principal to every other teacher was, in inviting me to join their team. Very rarely do we see a case where an institute invites you to join in, only to learn from them, and contribute back. No resumes, no portfolios, no past experiences. Just an open mind.

Overall, I came back positive, both mentally and emotionally, ready to take on the next semester head on.

Flights

The flight out to Switzerland, the multipart journey, started off with a rocky start. Met H and HMan at the airport and the fissures were very evident. It is scary to think of how much one would change by simply being in close proximity with another all their life. We seek relationships to comfort us in times of need and despair. But what if those relationships are the reason for the despair?

The trip from Bangalore to Amsterdam to Geneva was hilarious, with the kids trailing around, completely distracted by the glitz and whatnot. It was kind of all too powerful, knowing the ways of traveling, especially international, while the others struggled reading boards and signs. I was constantly conflicted between helping them out and letting them be. I wouldn’t have enjoyed being told every step of the way. I see myself as the teacher that would let someone try for their own before I step in.

And so, I sat around and played the silent observer.

The flight in to Amsterdam brought a strange new companion to chat along. Punjabi was a good person to talk to, knowing when to not push it and when to bring in his views. We had a good talk about road tripping to Ladakh, about the power and the need to go on solo trips, and about Engineers becoming Management consultants. For a Punjabi living in Bangalore, he seemed aware of the differences in cultures and was filled with the desire to try life out.

For all the writing I wanted to do on the plane, it was a rested time, where I managed to get sufficient sleep. It also reinforced my principle that being nice brings it back to you. The airhostess was awfully nice, bringing me refills even when I didn’t ask for it. Punjabi enjoyed the benefits of my niceness too. The warmness felt evident when he invited me over to walk along to our next stop as well.

Pics4mSwiss: When you have a fond heart, hearts smile back at you from the sky. 

Day 124: Random musings

The heart is content when it is loved; both by the self and by someone that makes it all worth it.

PS: That was how I started a post, a few weeks back, and never got around to finishing it.

PPS: I’ve slacked off on the Journaling365 project, not for want of ideas or a lack of words to say, but because of an overflow of both. There has been so much going on, and my mind is working through so many emotions, that the hand couldn’t keep up. I’m hoping the next few days will sum it all up.

Pics4mSwiss: Ivy hangs from the entrance facade at the Youth Hostel, Lausanne. 

Day 123: Bumps 

Early morning bump

The OldMan decided to head back home much sooner than originally planned; Daddyma needed him more. I shudder thinking of the midnight conversation with him, when he caught me up with his newly made plan, with his slurring words. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to put up with another day of conflicting emotions anyway. So, I was up at 4, and he drew himself to the station while I sat along.

He managed to find an unreserved ticket, and a seat, with sufficient time for the train. So I headed out, slowly inching out of the train station and a cabbie in front of me navigates the hump very poorly and rolls back into me. Great start to the day!

A little argument and some yelling on my part down, and I no longer had a front number plate. For the rest of the way, I drove more watchful than before.

Mid-day bump

Since heading home from the dinner last night, I had a strange unease about the whole thing with SilverGhoster. That unease, coupled with the early morning train run, meant I slept poorly all night. All I wanted was to catch a decent snooze during the day, to recoup, and yet it failed me. At some point mid day, SilverGhoster and I connected, and the entire reason for my unease became evident; there were ill vibes coming my way and the universe has a way with such things anyway. Turns out that post dinner, he had met his pals, and updated them on the dinner. What followed was a barrage of teenage mockery, directed at my age, my body, my life choices and everything that lay in between. Like that wasn’t enough, he went home and a similar tirade came from the mother.

I accept that body, age or fat shaming is not new to me anymore and I’ve seen more than my fair share growing up. But I would be kidding if I said that it did not affect me. While one can put up a straight face, or laugh off the comment, something inside crumbles. In fact, as I think about it, something inside you builds another wall. Another layer of fortification is added, and you push yourself deeper behind shut doors. If you didnt face such negativity, you wouldn’t be hurt in the first place.

What annoys me is the triviality of the world. For one to be a friend with another, why would gender, age, orientation, or any such factor be of any importance? And who gave mankind the authority to always play the role of the high-horse, judging others as if it were their birth right? A 30 year old is not married yet, and something HAS to be wrong with her. She quits an enticing career, and she MUST have been kicked out for poor performance. Four years into her marriage and she still hasn’t popped a baby, and it HAS to be her fault. She finds a friend in a younger man and she HAS to be a cougar. The man is more well-off than her and she HAS to be after his empire. She is chubbier than the society approved size zero and she MUST have an eating problem.

If only we all spent our days looking into the mirror and judging, as much as we do otherwise, we’d be more gentle on others.

Dusk drive bump

All that riddling and puzzling left me in a dizzy all day, and I left for Valley School much later than I’d planned. I’m looking forward to spending the next week or so at the school, observing from close quarters the functioning of an alternative school. I started the drive on a great mood, knowing that running away from civilization, and toward such an environment might be the answer to all my problems.

Chatted with SilverGhoster on the way to Valley, talking about the complexities of relationships. It amused me to think of how certain relationships complicate our lives by simply caring too much. By being overbearing, you invariably push someone away. By being overly snoopy, you unconsciously force them to life. Little things that you don’t realize until you’re deep into it.

It was relieving to hear SilverGhoster revalidate my theory on the universe and its strange mysterious ways. It’s something that I’ve internalized over the years of heartbreaks and of talking to random men for the arranged marriage scenes. If the timing is not right, if the universe hasn’t sorted its plan for you, come what may, your trials would go in vain. And the opposite is true too. In that comfort, I rest for another day.

Wait a minute! You’ve gone back to bangalore already? Means I’m with dad and mom now? And I can beg for food to the entire neighborhood? 

Guffaaaw!” Scotch

Day 122: Journeys

Driving with the OldMan

The short vacation ended sooner than I anticipated and it was time to be back in the TrafficCity. Even before the blues of having to go back set in, the OldMan proposed his plan of coming along to attend some of colleague’s grand event. So, I had a driver.

I thought of a strange conversation I had many many years back, where I told Dodo that he was only my third favorite driver, after my dad, and Michael Schumacher. Driving back, I didn’t feel all that confident anymore? He drove at 140 and was of course completely in control. He braked on time and overtook like a pro. And yet, I wasn’t confident. After a while, I fake slept so that I wouldn’t have to imagine my death at every turn.

Was I relating his drinking habit to his waning driving skills? He himself did mention a reduction in reflexes. Was his age really catching up? Were my biases catching up with me?

As I sat opposite the OldMan at Nagarjuna, quietly observing him lost in thought while eating, I felt an eerie feeling of pity take over me. For the last few years, I have been slowing inching away from him, for reasons I’ve ranted out before. As my principles and ideologies solidified, I realized how opposite they were to his; that automatically made us on opposite camps. But sitting there at lunch, I felt a deep connect to his troubles.

I felt like the weakling in the family, always trying to compete and prove my worth. I felt like the failure son that could never be enough for a stickler father, and now the conservative brothers . I felt like the outcast that fell in love and wanted to marry before an older brother had. I felt the pain of the sole bread winner, lugging three women around, and fending for their every need. I felt the pressure of an underpaid job that kept me on the road for 20 days a month, and still did not give enough. I felt the pinch of the rising prices and the growing needs of the daughters. It hurt me when the teenage daughter rebelled and talked back. It stung when the adolescent called me the worst dad yet. I remembered how my inability to give them a more comfortable life caught on and was discussed much later. It pained me to think that my wife was more comfortable speaking about my troubles to someone else in the family, than to me. It hurt me to think that all three could lead a life on their own now, and didn’t really need me.

I felt the pain. Something inside me stirred a little too deep.

SilverGhoster’s birthday and beyond

SilverGhoster turned a year older and a dinner was due. It felt like a Boondock kinda evening, reveling in the classics of an era gone by. As I look back at the night, and the conversations from the dinner, there is an odd familiarity about it all. It felt like we had been this way for years, and this was just another dinner. We talked about cars, mothers, shitty curriculum, dowry system, growing up, growing old, friends, foes, food and whatnot. I realized that with Switch, H, and Dodo all gone, I missed this the most – the random musings under the sun. In fact, I lost Dodo on that front a long time back. I feel the conversations touch on some mundane topics these days, topics that don’t resonate beyond a basic courtesy level. This night, it felt right.

A little part of me wondered if this could lead to something more than just conversations. A major part of me smacked itself in the head, reminiscent of the heart breaks of the past, and the societal anguishes and the battles that lay ahead. Between us, we had the paradoxes, too alike and yet absolutely different from each other. He was the conformist while I had a rebel blood oozing out of every vein. He was the calculated, capitalist businessman, while I was the dreamer who wanted to move to an island and learn to swim. He wanted the machines and the money, and I’d give it all up for the peace of mind. We were poles apart.

Yet, the other Gemini twin smirked and reminded me of the poles that intertwined within me. If the opposites can co-exist within, why could they not thrive in two bodies outside? The rebel wanted to reach out and see if the connect existed, but the loner drew the shutters down and mourned.

Had my heart aged beyond repair so much that it did not want any more battles? Wouldn’t that leave me alone for the rest of my life; any relationship comes with its heart breaks? Was I ready to be my own support system when all was dark and bleak? Was I just imagining the demons in the shadows when at the end of the day the universe had it all sorted out? It always does sort things out on its own. Was the cosmos smiling animatedly as I shook his hand briefly, got out of the car and ran home, lest I do something stupid?

You don’t really have to be alone, S. What is life without a warm shoulder to lean on during the cold and dull nights? 

Fine, that’s your leg, I know. But you get the point, right?” Scotch 

Day 119: The solid crunch of bones cracking shattered me

Semester done and the extra day complete, Scotch and I squeezed ourselves, and a lot of amma’s demands, into the RedBeast and we were off on our way to Coimbatore. The start was much slower than I’d planned, the wee hours of the morning were spent sleeping instead. The detour route through Sarjapur was a pleasant change considering the standard traffic blocks on the usual route.

I was cruising at a fairly decent speed, until I was shocked out of the comfort of driving. I was tailing a small truck in the middle lane, when I decided to move over to the right lane and overtake him. Between looking behind at the passing lane and the truck in front of me, I did not see a dog dash over from the left lane at all. I sped into the right lane, and immediately saw the brown colored, black nosed dog run frantically into my lane. The back was clear and I floored the brakes, hoping to miss the little guy and let him pass through. He, however, did not know my intent, and was of course shocked at finding me on his way.

Instinct made him turn back to the center lane instead of running ahead. The truck’s speeding tyres lay behind him, and crushed him as he turned back into that lane. The truck wavered on his way, as the little fellow gave his life under it. As I looked back at the mishap in my rear view mirror, the half-chopped body shivered, the dog raised its head one last time to look at the massacre of blood around it.

I couldn’t drive any further.

I had killed a dog, directly or indirectly, and it pained me. I looked back at Scotch and asked for some forgiveness, and drove along. That is a feeling I will never forget for life.

He died a dog’s death, S, and you were just an agent for what was already destined. It was meant to go and there wasn’t much you could have. May that pupper have fun beyond the rainbow bridge.” Scotch