The bitter cold North Indian winter was at its worst, as I stood near the back of the truck with my friends, overseeing all my bags being loaded up. It was dark, the street lights were flickering and the stray dogs had come out to play. My friends suggested that we leave in the morning, but I decided against it.
I looked up at the terrace of the house where I had lived for the past two years. It was there that me and the other tenants had positioned ourselves with rocks and bricks during the riots just months before. The flowerpot that I was supposed to throw at the attackers was kept on the fence. I was glad that it was still just a flowerpot and not a murder weapon.
We threw in quick goodbye hugs and handshakes, as the engine of the truck started growling. As we drove past the Hanuman Dham, my friend who was accompanying me to Delhi, asked if I wanted to have the famous dosas of Milan Point one last time. It was our evening ritual, coming to the small vegetarian joint for dosas after a day of work.
“Let’s stop at Haveli (A popular restaurant in Panipat) instead.” I replied, not wanting to spend an extra second in The Small City.
Not All Goodbyes Are Hard
So, 2014 is about to end and the time has come yet again to sit in front of my laptop with a bottle of beer and a packet of chips and look back on the year that was. Last year, I wrote a similar post from The Small City, Shamli marking off 2013. I had no idea then that 2014 would be marked off from Mumbai.
Must say, 2014 was pretty good… travel wise.
In this post, I revisit all the memorable moments of the last one year and wrap up this year in style.
Latching onto Opportunities
Not long after I had moved back to Delhi and then shifted to NOIDA that an opportunity came along to relocate to Mumbai. I had just moved into a very nice apartment with 2 balconies (Yes, two!) and had got my cable and internet installed. But, my love for Mumbai and the thought of realising the dream of living there someday overshadowed the minor inconvenience of packing up and moving again.
It has been 10 months since I have been living here and I must say, Mumbai has exceeded my expectations in every sense.
Sure it is hot but the rainy season is to die for.
Sure it is crowded, but hey, you could spot a Bollywood celebrity in that crowd. Like we spotted Arif Zakaria jogging in Marine Drive. (Google him. He is a real person. I’m not making him up.)
Sure the traffic near CST is horrible, but you could marvel at the wonderful architecture all around. Or travel by the life line of the city, its local trains.
Sure it is far away from Delhi, but it is closer to Goa.
Sure the wada paav tastes horrible, but it only costs Rs.10/-
Realising a dream
I don’t know the exact moment when I fell in love with Egypt. Maybe it was the Pyramids, or maybe it was all the mysterious Pharoahs that ruled the land. Egypt had for long been in my bucket list but something or the other always came in the way of realising the dream of going there.
In April, when the political situation cooled down a bit, I finally managed to muster up courage and boarded a flight to Cairo. Though the trip had its share of bumps and bruises, it was magical in every sense of the word. Egypt is so much more than the Pyramids.
So. Much. More.
By the time the trip ended, I was completely overwhelmed by its awesomeness. Be it roaming through the Valley of the Kings where the Pharoahs are buried, cruising on the Nile the way Cleopatra and Julius Ceaser once did (albeit a lot less glamorously), sitting under the cool shades of the Pyramid of Khufu, exploring a city that Alexander-The Great had founded, bargaining for t-shirts at Cairo’s historic Khan-El-Khalili market, enjoying coffee at the roadside cafes of Aswan’s lively spice market or somehow ending up in the middle of nowhere.
It was all good.
Don’t be surprised if I end up travelling to Egypt again in 2015.
Loving the Hated
My hatred for Sri Lanka started in 1996 when I watched their cricket team beat us in the World Cup Semi Finals. I watched with horror as my childhood hero, Vinod Kambli cried and was ushered into the dressing room by security guards. I can’t forget the obnoxious Arjuna Ranatunga laughing as he led his team off the field after Sri Lanka was declared the winner “By default”.
What the fuck does that even mean, “By Default”.
Can’t India just invade the stupid island and say we won it “By Default” at the UN!!
Anyway, I was mentally prepared to hate the country when I landed in Colombo in July. I cribbed about the heat and the bill boards of Mahela Jayawardena and Kumara Sangakara advertising random stuff.
But as days passed, I realised that the Sri Lankans are not that bad. They are chilled out, humble, super friendly people. I remember I was travelling on this train from Kandy to the hill town of Ella. It was a beautiful 5 hour long train ride and an old lady, who was sitting in the next to me, took out a packet of chicken and rice from her bag and insisted that I shared it with her. I said no at first but then I ended up eating more than half of it. It was delicious and I was hungry. I was feeling a bit guilty about eating so much of her lunch, but then the lady brought out another small packet and offered me sweets.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Throughout the trip, they basically kicked my ass with their kindness.
We are not that different from the Lankans, you know. Like us Indians, they are proud of their culture, respect all religions and Gods, and love their food.
And like us, they adore their cricket team and their cricketers. There is nothing wrong with that. They can love their stupid team as much as they want, as long as they know, deep in their hearts, that the Indian team will always be better than the Sri Lankan team.
Be it the sunsets of Galle, or hiking to the Ravana Waterfalls where Sita was kept as hostage by King Ravana, or sipping on Lion Beer by the beach, Sri Lanka made me fall in love with it in every way possible.
Next was Myanmar and it is safe to say I didn’t know anything about the country before I latched onto a seriously discounted air ticket and decided to head there. It was only after landing there and spending a few days in Yangon that I came to know about the beautiful Inle Lake and Bagan.
Inle Lake and its surrounding villages were really pretty but the place that impressed me the most was Bagan. I spent my days cycling around the pagodas, resting in their shades, tasting local food at small family run joints. There is something incredibly beautiful about the simplicity of the Burmese people and within a few days, I felt comfortable enough to visit the local pubs and watch football with the locals, drinking the Myanmar Beer with them and trying out the Burmese cheroot.
Exploring my home
I do not believe in ghosts or spirits, but for some reason I haven’t been able to watch more than 10 minutes of The Conjuring. I guess I get spooked easily. So, visiting the scariest place in the country, Bhangarh early in the year was also quite an experience.
A place that was a lot less scary but a lot more fun was Goa. I spent a few days in the wonderful beach village of Arambol and even though the weather was not great, and thunderstorms kept me indoors most of the time, I ended up having a very relaxing time there.
Speaking of beaches, how can I not mention the Marina Beach of Chennai, which is said to be the second longest beach in the world. Don’t know if it actually is, but it definitely was the most crowded beach I have ever seen. (And I have seen my share of beaches)
Seeing the familiar in a different light
And then there was Bangkok. The old faithful. The city that never disappoints me. This year I finally managed to beat the crowd and walk through the lesser known streets and found hidden jewels that I hadn’t seen before. I celebrated Dusshera in a totally different way, made a lot of new friends and finally managed to visit the famous floating market (which turned out to be rather disappointing).
All in all, 2014 was fun. A lot of new places and experiences.
Thank you all for following the blog.
Happy New Year!