“The more we are governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible,” said Alan Rickman once.
Now, when the world seems to be descending into chaos carefully orchestrated by these idiots, now is as good a time for a tale as any, so let me whisk you away for a moment from this too-real world and tell you a story.
The sun had just risen. There was barely enough light to make out the path through the woods. As I stepped out of the trees and made my way towards the cliff, I could see the valley spread out below me. A light mist lingered in the valley, like a blanket the night had forgotten to pull back when she left. The mountains rose out of the mist towards the sky; giant guards keeping a watch over the sleeping valley. The half-light and the mist made the mountains look ethereal; as if they were the only beings from earth who were privy to the goings-on in the heavens.
Travelling on Friday evening from Stuttgart to Villach, Austria, there were no seats free in any of the train carriages, so I joined a few other passengers on the floor. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, really – the trains in Germany are fairly clean and the floor is carpeted, at least I didn’t have to worry about my derrière getting sore. An hour or so later, I realised, happily, that sitting on the floor was, in many ways, better than sitting up there on the seats. I could stretch out my long legs completely and adjust my sitting position to my liking. I could also observe my fellow passengers unobtrusively and from a different angle — how interesting it is to observe humans when they don’t know they are being watched!
Rain, lots of people and the Howrah bridge — that was my first glimpse of the City of Joy. I reached Calcutta on a summer evening late in April. Despite the rain, the heat and humidity levels were nowhere near bearable. The short walk from the air-conditioned cab to the air-conditioned hotel lobby had me sweating profusely. In my sweat-drenched kurta-salwar, with a rucksack on my back and a small sack and suitcase in hand, I must have looked a real sight. That night, as I lay in an unfamiliar bed some 2000 odd kilometres away from home, I thought I would never like this city; that it was just another city in India that I could add to my travels and forget. I couldn’t have been more wrong.