Prayer flags, much like humans, are not meant to remain still. They need to fly and flutter freely through the air and space spreading peace, compassion, and goodwill as the wind lets them dance in every direction and the colors – red, white, green, blue, yellow – fade in the sunlight. From pole to pole, house to house, the ground to the top of a stupa, I would go so far as to say that no other country is more closely associated with flags than Nepal. Continue reading “Tales from Nepal #1: The Prayers of Kathmandu and The Veiled Mountains in the Distance”
At last, the monsoon season was upon us as thick layers of grey clouds covered the sky and rain began to pour down relentlessly. It started of imperceptible with small showers during the evening, but it culminated in a thunderous storm, that left the entire town without electricity for the greater part of the night and the next day. It was the official announcement that “the times they are a-changin’”. Continue reading “Tales from India #4: The Last Sunny Days in Goa”
Recently, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the big question of what art is. Was there a universal answer to this question? Was there one undeniable truth? Some say that art is not about truth, it’s about expression and beauty. To others, it’s a “source of calm in a chaotic world“. There is no shortage of elaborate opinion pieces written by highly educated people. However, many seem to come to the same conclusion that art should evoke an emotional response. Continue reading “Tales from India #3: The Subtle Art of Making Chapatis”
The Indians on the beach in Goa didn’t care who was helping them as long as the person in question was capable of helping. Their motto, most likely, was “all hands on deck” as they asked me if I could help them push their tour boat safely on shore. A moment later my hands were gripped against one of the outriggers and with the rise and fall of the Arabian Sea, and the “Push!” signal by the captain we steadily gained inch by inch. It appears that I walked along the beach just at the right time, for the same thing happened twice more. Continue reading “Tales from India #2: Food Poisoning in Kochi”
We were passing through the Western Ghats in a slow pace. The engine of our public bus has its limitations, which none of the passengers particularly minded. This part of the mountainous region was completely covered in lush trees, and cattle were grazing on a field at the foot of the mountain. Banana plantations were the only things that gave this area some structure, which ironically made them appear out of place.
Due, or thanks, to the slow uphill battle for the bus, we had enough time to observe the wide-ranging mountains and, for the time being, we were blessed with a blue sky interspersed with some light clouds. Mountains are what cause my heart to sing and dance with joy. This is my natural habitat and I would trade the clearest and calmest ocean anytime in favor of it. The province of Tamil Nadu says farewell with a view you can’t beat as we were inching our way closer to God’s Own Country, Kerala. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, but our bus still came to a few near standstills in hairpin curves. The air began to become cooler as well, which was a most welcome change after the oppressing heat and humidity of Madurai.
Despite all the twists and turns, I never once feared for my life, for the roads are surprisingly well maintained. Perhaps the fact that we were driving on the left side of the road away from the precipice, gave me the necessary confidence. I’m not sure if the flora changed to some extent as well or if this was simply the first time that I saw the colorful blooming flowers up close. The trees and bushes were bearing flowers of purple, red, white, pink and orange color. We didn’t encounter any cattle anymore; instead, we passed by some mountain goats standing idly on the side of the road.
As soon as we left Tamil Nadu behind and entered the region of Kerala, the road started to go downhill as the rain began to pour down on us. Our luck with the weather didn’t last that long after all, but the mist surrounding the mountains and the grey clouds above us were the heralds of the upcoming monsoon season. Generally speaking, I don’t mind the rain, on the contrary, I love seeing forests in a different light and the fresh smell of trees and earth is even more intense. My only predicament was that I was sitting slightly behind a door with no upper half. Meaning that I had to endure some of nature’s force and wrap my backpack into its rain cover as to prevent it from getting soaking wet. Fortunately, we arrived in Munnar in little than an hour later and by then the rain stopped and sunlight slowly pierced through the dispersing clouds again. I checked into a hotel room, which was recommended to me by one of the locals. After three weeks of sleeping in dorm rooms and semi-sleeper busses, I granted myself this luxury.
However, I only spent the minimum amount of time inside my room, since I couldn’t wait to go outside and walk among the forests and tea plantations. The smell reminded me of home. Even on a subcontinent such as India, utterly unique as it is, some things in this world are the same no matter where you go. They are things that connect every part of the world, regardless of how small or big these parts may be.
It might be a smell, a sound or a sight that gives you this feeling that you are not alone; that there is something or someone out in this world who is there for you and can comfort you in times of need. Regardless of how curious we might be to explore the new, we deeply require the familiar from time to time. It sends a signal through our leaves, our branches, our stem, all the way down to our deepest roots and works as a reminder of where we come from.
It saves me from loneliness, yet I can’t deny a slightly aching heart.
My father and I are experts at wandering around and getting lost. If there was a master’s degree for it, we would graduate with top honors. We are currently in beautiful Trieste in Italy and spent the day at the famous Castello di Miramare, built in the mid 19th century by an Austrian archduke. We could have taken the bus and we could have been there within 20 minutes after leaving our apartment. The emphasis here is on “could have”. Instead, we took the bus for 10 minutes and then spent the better part of the midday walking somewhat aimlessly around the mountainous area of Trieste before finally reaching the castle. What should have taken us 20 minutes ended up taking us two hours. And we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. As Tolkien once wrote in his Lord of The Rings books: “Not all those who wander are lost.” Continue reading “Get Lost!”
“The world was simple – stars in the darkness. Whether it was 1947 B.C. or A.D. suddenly became of no significance. We lived, and that we felt with alert intensity. We realized that life had been full for men before the technical age also – in fact, fuller and richer in many ways than the life of modern man. Time and evolution somehow ceased to exist; all that was real and that mattered were the same today as they had always been and always would be. We were swallowed up in the absolute common measure of history – endless unbroken darkness under a swarm of stars.” Continue reading “Why Do We Travel?”