It’s the fifth Christmas for me away from my home country, India. I often think about how can I describe these five years in Belgium. I could never think of an elegant way to describe them. I’m currently reading the book “In Arabian Nights – A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams“. It is about a British man, married to an Indian woman and their life in Morocco. Tahir, the main protagonist of the book, describes his experience of settling down in Morocco. He says –
Settling into a new country is like getting used to a pair of shoes. At first they pinch a little, but you like the way they look, so you carry on. The longer you have them, the more comfortable they become. Until one day without realizing it you reach a glorious plateau. Wearing those shoes is like wearing no shoes at all. The more scuffed they get, the more you love them, and the more you can’t imagine life without them.
Probably, I can say the same for my years in Belgium, and I guess you too.
“No,” I said, shaking my head.
“Once…there was a sparrow who was very ill. He could not go south with the rest of his family and so he sent them along, saying that he would find shelter for the winter and meet them in the spring. The sparrow looked his son in the eye and said, ‘I will see you again.’ And the son believed him.”
“The sparrow went to an oak tree and asked if he could hide in his leaves and branches for the winter to keep warm, but the oak refused. My grandmother used to say that the oak trees were cold, hard trees with tiny hearts. My grandmother…”
“Sorry,” he said. “Well, after this the sparrow went to a maple tree and asked the same question. The maple tree was kinder than the oak tree but it also refused to shelter the bird. The sparrow asked every tree he came to if they might house him from the deadly weather: the beech, the aspen, the willow, the elm. The all said no. Can you believe this?”
“Well, the first snow came,” he said. “And the sparrow was deperate. Finally he flew over to the pine tree. ‘Will you house me for the winter?’ the sparrow asked. ‘But I can’t offer you much protection,’the pine said. ‘I only have needles that let in the wind and cold.’ It is all right,’ said the sparrow, shivering. And so the pine agreed. Finally! And do you know what?”
“With the tree’s protection, the sparrow survived the long winter. When the spring came and the wildflowers bloomed in the hills, he was rejoined by his family. The son was overjoyed. He never thought he would see his father again. When the Creator heard this story, he was angry with the trees. ‘You did not shelter a tiny sparrow in need,’ He said. ‘We are sorry,’ said the trees. ‘You will never forget this sparrow,’ the Creator said. And after that, He caused all of the trees to lose their leaves each fall…well, almost all of the trees. Because it was kind to the poor bird, the pine got to keep its short little needles all winter long.”
With autumn around, it is at a perfect time when I came across this little story. Perhaps it is also one of the native American legend stories, but I’m not sure. I wait the entire year for this season to come. My heart is filled with anticipation for it. Now when it is finally here, I am filled with mixed feelings. On one hand, there is joy and fascination to see nature’s art all around me. On the other hand, there is apprehension of this being a very short lived happiness and the onset of the winters, when trees will loose their leaves and nature it’s colors.
“Hey that’s Bob Marley”, I said to Frank on listening to the music. “I like him”, I continued. Frank replied, “I’m glad that I like him too”. I was intrigued by his reply. I asked, “Why do you say that?”. “Well it’s been more than 3 months since I have been listening to this one cassette of Bob Marley in my van”, Frank replied. Seeing the puzzled expression on my face, he pointed towards the cassette/radio player in his van. “You see there is no eject button here. 3 months back my kids were fighting here and in that they broke off the eject button. Since then the cassette has been inside and I’ve been listening to him daily”, Frank replied smiling. “May be I’ll get it fixed when I get bored or don’t like Bob Marley anymore”.
Frank is the transporter guy whom I met today. He was helping us with transporting and moving some stuffs for a friend of mine. I shared few rides with him in his van and he is an amazing person :).
The point where all things were possible. The moment when a choice was made, or an action taken. The breath inhaled before a first step forward. And the most lasting chain reactions that are started by those moments and actions and choices... are always the ones that are started by love. -Touch, Season 1, Episode 13
Every day, every moment, every nanosecond the world changes Electrons bump into each other and react People collide and alter each other’s path Change isn’t easy More often it is wrenching and difficult But may be that’s a good thing Because it’s the change that makes us strong, keeps us resilient It teaches us to evolve…
Few beautiful lines from Touch (Season 1, Episode 12). This was accompanied by the following background score..
Rise up this morning Smile with the rising sun Three little birds On my doorstep Singin' sweet songs A melody that's pure and true Saying, this is my message to you So, don't you worry About a thing... 'Cause every little thing Is gonna be all right...
Hari and I were having dinner at the Everest restaurant this evening when an elderly gentleman came in and sat at the table next to us. Lucky “Singh”, as I like to call the person-in-charge of the place, somehow didn’t notice him and started taking orders from people who came after this gentleman. Hari felt concerned and he drew Lucky’s attention towards the gentleman.
While we were eating our food, we heard the gentleman calling Lucky and saying, “Please bring these two gentlemen drinks of their choice”, while pointing at us. We felt embarrassed and tried to change his mind. But we couldn’t. He said, “Please, I insist”. “You don’t have to do this”, we said him. “But I like it, so please order something”, he replied. “Thanks a lot for the drink. It is very nice of you”, we replied. We then hesitatingly ordered Coco Cola for ourselves. The gentleman also bought drinks for two other persons sitting on an another table.
This initiated a conversation between us. He was Paul. He worked as the head waiter on cruise ships before he retired. He has travelled widely and almost to all countries, except for India. Being in the hospitality business for his entire working career, he was a connoisseur of food and dining. He prefers eating what locals eat and in a way in which locals eat. “Once in China, I asked for Chinese beer. The waiter looked at me surprisingly and suspiciously asked if I didn’t want to have a Heineken beer”, he said. “For God sake, I don’t want to have Dutch beer in China. In China, I want to have something which is authentic Chinese”.
It is always interesting to converse with people like Paul who have travelled widely and have a rich experience. You may also pick up one or two nuggets of life. “If you have 20 dollars in your pocket, you should not go and demand and show-off your capability to pay. Instead, with folded hands humbly request, if you can have it. In my 60 years of life, I have always been treated with warmth and friendliness, whichever part of world I went. Moreover, 9 out of 10 times I wasn’t allowed to pay for my food”. Paul had ordered chicken noodles. He later asked us if that was an Indian dish. We told him that it wasn’t authentic Indian dish. Intrigued by our food, he asked if that was Indian. When we replied affirmatively, he requested if we could order the same for him. We did and Lucky “Singh” offered it as complimentary and on the house :).
Lucky also offered mango lassi as compliment to Paul. He took a sip of the lassi. He waited for a moment experiencing the taste of it. “It has mango and yogurt in it. But less of mango”, Paul said. “A bit of lemon, if added to it will enhance the taste of mango even more”, he remarked. “Lemon when added to fruits such as strawberry, mango, etc always makes it taste better”, he further added. He emphasized that it should be lemon and not lime.
I was walking towards the check-in desk, still not sure if I should take this flight. There was a strife between my mind and my heart. The “logical” mind said that I’m just being a fool and will return heart-broken, whereas the “fanciful” heart was more hopeful and pushed me to go for it. Unable to decide, I proceeded. I dropped my baggage, collected my boarding pass and walked towards the security check. As I stood in the queue, I said to myself, “This is the last chance of returning back”. The strife deepened. I wanted to listen to my mind but wanted to believe my heart.
Finally, after the security check, I was at the boarding gate and soon inside the flight on my window seat in the third row. It was raining outside. The window glass was completely covered with water droplets. I could see the outside world upside down in these drops. It was beautiful. As the flight taxied for take off, the wind blew away all the drops. Through the clear glass, I could see the diminishing houses, cars and roads. Soon I lost all the view as we entered the thick clouds. A while later, we soared above the clouds and were greeted by a bright blue sky and cheerful shining sun. All these, diverted my attention but not for long.
As I gazed outside the window, I thought over the past few months. I retraced the sequence of events that had led to this day. I could clearly recall the first time when I saw her. Her beauty captivated my heart and her mischievousness delighted me. Recalling that moment itself brought smile to my face. “It’s worth it dude”, suddenly my heart interrupted my thoughts. “Let’s see”, I replied back. I would feel restless every time I thought about her. I missed being close to her and longed to meet her.
“Sir, would you like tea or coffee?” My thoughts were interrupted by the air-hostess. “Coffee please”, I replied. “Milk and sugar?”, she further asked. “Yes, please. Two sugar and two milk”, I replied again. It was good coffee and it was hot. It made me feel warm as I was looked out of the window at the snow covered mountains. I snugged in my seat after I finished the coffee and my thoughts returned back to her. In these past few months, I have been enamoured by her. She is mischievous. She is flirtatious. She is unpredictable.
Something shook and I woke up. The flight had landed. I didn’t realize when I had fallen asleep. “Oh! I have reached”, I gasped. I was nervous. Strange isn’t it? You wait for something for so long but when it’s almost there you feel that it came too early. Anyways, I exited the flight, picked up my baggage as well as the rental car. Once inside the car, I entered the destination address in the GPS. The GPS quickly finished routing and announced, “20 kms to your destination”. The screen showed 20 minutes to the destination. I sat there for few minutes hoping time to pass slower, hoping GPS to show 60 minutes to the destination. Finally I started the engine and pulled out the car.
It was cold and windy. The sun had set and the moon was rising above the horizon. It was becoming dark fast. I kept driving. The GPS voice would interrupt once in a while and I would notice the diminishing time and distance to the destination. Finally, I heard “In 200 meters, you will reach your destination. Destination is on your right”. My heart pumped faster. I clenched the steering tighter. I looked at the rear and side mirrors. I changed the FM station. “Will she be there?” “Will I be able to meet her?” “What will I say?” “What should I do when I meet her?”… there were hundreds of questions running through my mind.
“You have reached your destination”, announced the GPS. I pulled over the car. I turned off the engine. Slowly, undecidedly I got out of the car. I stood there, looking at her. She was there. I wanted to get back into the car and drive back. I wanted to run away. But I couldn’t move. I stood there. I looked below at my boots. I put my hands in pockets, fiddling with the car keys. I looked at the car, I looked away from it. I looked everywhere except at her. She smiled. She sensed my hesitation. But she waited. I slowly and hesitatingly started walking towards her.