I look forward to my trips to different lands. For apart from breaking the monotony of my hectic routine, it offers me the solace and comfort of my fertile imagination & never tiring thoughts.
My journey to the world’s forgotten city, once more held a mixed bag of emotions. The excitement of seeing my ready-to-fly-out-of-the-nest robin, start another year at the Uni was tossed up with a feeling of void, of empty evenings, of a locked house, of long distance skype sessions and another wait for a break in between his study time-table.
BUT I forced and coerced myself to think of how opportunities come without fanfares. If it hadn’t been for a UWA, Perth, I would not have had another trip to make, more things to explore, more people to meet, more reading to do, more shopping to do(!), more introspection to do – well, more of everything has also happened because of my robin venturing off to far-off lands.
As I travelled with him this time, the differences were evident from the word go. The sync with the rules of the international traveller were more in place, the interactions with complete strangers was like second nature, even enjoyable, the ease of manoeuvring around the city was that of veteran – all very encouraging, happy and humbling signs for a mother who remains alert and concerned always but doesn’t make a show of it.
So we got down to the re-settling in again, the cleaning, re-arranging and re-decorating of the same room, the re-stocking of the same fridge and ladder, the re-furbishing of the same kitchenette and wardrobes, and the year had re-started with another O-week at the Hall of Residence. Everything from the river front, to the halls of residence, to the weather seemed the same yet different.
It was a different time and year, a different me and a different us, a different set of friends, a different course & subjects, a different mood. One thing though remained the same – the magic of the city – as enchanting as ever, as inviting as ever, a home away from home.
Finishing off the business at the forgotten city, I flew my way to Melbourne. It may be called by another name, but I prefer to call Melbourne, a City of Surprises.
For every time, I’m there it amazes me, surprises me. The same happened this time too. As I arrived into Melbourne and had the comforting company of my Dad who was there for a psychiatric conference – the city started to work its charms. It made us wait for an hour for our luggage on a belt shared by three other arriving airlines.
Wow! Surprise number One!
Apna India is more comfortable, at least one could swear along and crib about wrong attitudes while feeling very holier than thou – something we did so here in silence except for a sudden alertness every time the belt started moving after a lull.
The long yellow snaking line of taxis outside the terminal was fairly streamlined and we got a silver one instead of a yellow one (wonder if it should have been disappointing?!). The driver did not ask, so we volunteered to tell him where we wanted to be dropped since we had got into the taxi because we intended to reach our hotel(!). And the young African fellow asked us for directions instead!
Wow! Surprise number Two!
In India we would have blamed our infamous system of handing out unworthy licenses to cab drivers as the reason for this comic situation. Here, my Dad being a veteran and quite a chatter box with complete strangers (– his profession gives him that edge & expertise, I guess!) – asked him quite straight-forwardly if he was new to this taxi thing. Lo & behold, he was and we asked him to look towards Google maps for a more confident guide to the route than us. That sorted out, we were soon @ The quest Grand Hotel – an amazing heritage building converted into a hotel and having a history most interesting. Its restaurant is called: “rab” – the Railway Administrative Building. The small lobby seating has an antique library with the Encyclopaedia Britannica in all its volumes, an History Atlas of the World – wonder what it was like, a pictorial History of the American People, and umpteen other now never seen books and even a strange, quaint typewriter not bigger than 10 inches across, 12 inches in height – being held in court by a Grand piano.
Wow! Surprise number Three!
Unlike us who prefer the new to the old, people & cultures around the world value their history and celebrate it with pride.
An early morning walk till the conference convention centre as my Dad went in for his sessions & presentations revealed infrastructures, so immaculate, such architectural marvels along the Yarra river which in itself seemed like some fabled crystal-clear stream from a fictional movie that town planning and municipal management took on another meaning that day.
Wow! Surprise number Four!
All our Hitex towers and our Swaach Bharat abhiyans are ordinary, superficial & pseudo structures of concrete and ideas as they are devoid of citizen ownership and participation.
My father selects his conferences with care and attends them diligently. However, since I was with him this time, he made exceptions and took time out to be with me on a half day tour to the Phillips Island stretching into midnight. Put on the tourist to-do list since 2010 (no wonder, we were thinking how we missed it the last time we were in Melbourne), the island has history of its earliest settlers which is fascinating no doubt. But it’s the other inhabitants, the small Blue Penguins, who return after a day long fishing expedition to their nocturnal homes at a set time and place each day on this island which elevated the trip to Phillip island from unique to surreal! The island has these small blue penguins coming in to nest after each fishing trip to sea, each day and rear their chicks on the moors of the island. They are no higher than 6 to 8 inches and were on the brink of extinction in 2010 when their conservation and protection was taken up in large way. From an 18 thousand population with consistent efforts and conservation measures put into effect with a huge volunteer army of rangers the numbers of these cute birds have risen to 34 thousand till date. The Penguin Parade, as it is called, for the blue penguins do walk by us as if on a parade is treat for the eyes and since flashes and photography not done intelligently will blind the birds, I do not have pictures of that spectacle to share. However, the ones sitting home, rearing their kids and letting their downing hair fall off in the safety of their wooden homes is as fascinating and as unbelievable.
On the same, trip, we found the Koalas lazing in their tree perches, fast asleep and care-free for their protection and conservation is a big thing across Australia as well.
Wow! Surprise number Five!
Our wild life is as distinctive and exclusive as any where else in the world but how many of us find that to be on our important charter of to-do lists whether as individuals or as organisations? Few and far in-between, also very insufficient for the lack of empathy and ownership and involvement of the larger population. If it makes to Insta-fame, or a Facebook like – then perhaps we may be interested otherwise we love to leave all this to our Governments.
Every step of the way, the ownership, the pride and the genuine, sincere involvement with conservation of all kinds of the endangered species was so overwhelming that had a huge melancholy feeling descend over me. I knew that instant that such commitment shall not be so wholeheartedly forth-coming from such large number of our my own countrymen – as a way of life. One odd event, yes! Each day, every day – maybe/maybe not!
Wow! Surprise number Six – the final one!
A friend’s recent trip to a not so far neighbouring country had her swooning over their courteousness, simplicity and genuineness. She made a special call from in-between her holiday to just tell me this and share this most wonderful feeling she had because people were truthful and sincere.
We both reminisced how one of our former President had voiced a similar thought in his address to an educational institution years back. I have seen it first hand like innumerable other of my friends, I’m sure would have too, of the utmost transformation which befalls us as a nation the moment we step into our own country. We are on our best behaviours till we are away from her shores. Of course, the uncivility and ill-mannered behaviours do keep showing up sometimes, whenever we encounter our countrymen in foreign shores though its generally a rarity.
My extensive travels to different lands always makes me wonder on this. For some being Candid & Genuine is any option: maybe/maybe not (??)……but for some of us, it’s the only option!
And I could go on and on and on……but as the Eureka Sky-deck exit on the 88th floor told me I had to get back to Earth! Which I did, had too…..our world’s here and we have our hands full with several things, however, mundane they may be, however, trivial they may seem and even though it may not seem as important to others as it is to us, our job is our passion and at the moment I have to pursue my passion on planet Earth and make the difference wherever I can in my own small way.