Journey to the most beautiful place

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It had got a bit claustrophobic inside the aircraft. I was trying my best to keep the tempo of my crew of fifteen odd members up.

Not that we were closely bonded, but we did share a spirit and an enthusiasm to embark upon this audacious expedition. Being the captain of the spacecraft, I introduced everyone to each other & gave them few instructions. All of us had taken the decision to let go off our mundane daily lives, to jump out of those dusty old office cabins and to see the place that is probably the most beautiful in the universe.

The place where we’re heading to was not my discovery. But it certainly was my decision to take the crew there. To show how astonishingly beautiful a place can be. As spacecraft moved almost 10.000km up and left the exosphere, I asked them to give a glance at the place we had just left – our own planet earth. The sky outside looked like an Egyptian queen wearing a full length gown adorned with thousands of sparkling stars. Looking outside the thick glass of spacecraft they all shared an expression of awe as to how pretty their own planet seemed from the sky. Suddenly the lines of Neil Armstrong rose from the corners of childhood memories in the mind – that very planet of ours looked like a pretty blue sphere from above.  Few of them smiled & probably waved towards it in their minds. Needless to say, there were lot of hands that waved back at us from the ground we had said goodbye to.

Spacecraft slowly tilted rightwards and plunged into the ocean of seemingly limitless sky. Walls inside were shaken and we held onto the arms of seats. I could hear few deep breaths and few holy chants as well.

Congratulations we have successfully entered the zone – One O three’ was announced on the speaker and was simultaneously greeted with cheers and claps. Now the spacecraft moved valiantly through the open black space and gathered speed as if it was a F1 track. My crew had put faith in my judgment & there was no way I could let them down.  I showed them the range of tiny to gigantic rocks floating freely in the space. We greeted our neighboring planets with respect. Looking at Mars, Mercury and Venus; suddenly everyone started sharing the stories about these planets and how with great naivety we link them to our future and fate. We talked about how hot the temperatures would be out there and the possibility of life on them. Crew members had childlike happiness when I showed them how vibrant colours of the galaxy along with the flying rocks form shapes of a snow angel, a mountain,  a forest and even a giant jelly fish.

It was a third day of our journey when I finally let them know the situation.

It is imperative that you hear this message carefully. The spacecraft has experienced critical problems in its engine and can only guarantee a day more of voyage’.  Cheerful faces were transformed into gloomy scared ones in a matter of few seconds. I took a deep breath and said “Hey everyone, no need to worry. I know it’s a cliché and probably said a few times in Spiderman movies. But yes you always have a choice. We do. There is a far more beautiful place ahead that I wanted you all to witness. But then I cannot guarantee a safe return in that case. It’s fine with me. I’m sure we all read the terms and conditions before jumping into these suits, didn’t we?”

I let the minute of silence be the reply to my question. And then further I said, “Tell me honestly. What is it that is holding you guys back? What is it that is so desperately waiting for you back there…something so precious that it is asking you to let go off seeing the most beautiful place in the universe.”

I turned my eyes around and could see few raised hands.

“I have my mom and dad waiting for me out there. And I cannot let them down” spoke one voice.

“I am in love with the most beautiful woman in the Universe. For me it is justified to let go off the most beautiful place in the universe for her” said the one in late twenties.

“I have kept my dog in the pet care house. And I don’t trust them with it for more than three days” said the girl in a deep tone.

Few other voices joined them in support to divert the spacecraft to earth.

And so I did.

That day we shared our stories of childhood, our colleges, first ever crush that we had, that girl, that boy, those mischief days, first job, the promises we made, things that made us laugh, made us cry. And we all realized it was all back there. Waiting for us on our own planet. Those waiting eyes out there looking outside the window at the sky hoping for our safe return.

Announcement on the Radio interfered our conversations out of sudden.

‘Kindly pay attention everyone. The journey to the most beautiful place has just begun.’

Everyone turned to look at me in disbelief. I returned it with a smile and let the radio continue the announcement –

We are now entering the most beautiful place to be ever discovered in this Universe. Some call it a dark blue sphere. Some call it a land of hope, friendship and love. And commonly we call it ‘Earth’.

The Black Swift Desire

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And there she was again.

Waiting for the Black Swift Desire to come and pick her up.

And once again here I was,

All I could do was to give her an askance glance.

But then finally she had had it all…

That night…the blue eyed girl came into my dream that night.

With her curly brown hair blowing gracefully in the morning February wind.

“Why we keep running??” she came up to me and asked. “Can’t we stop sometimes?”

“I know I’ll be getting into that black car again, with my eyes flirting with yours.

“You know you won’t miss that red bus for you may have a meeting to be at.”

“But then what we could wait…

I mean you know we have got time.”

“What if we could stay…let the black swift pass & you to miss the read old bus this time?

We could see what’s beyond these mundane everyday sights.

Cause only the eyes that meet everyday know there is so much more to this that they saw.”

“Is it not?” she said before disappearing into clamor of my alarm clock.

That morning I let the first red bus go and hopped onto another one for meeting was important to be at.

Only to witness the empty Black Swift Desire overtaking the bus from the side.

 

Why stop?? Keep travelling..

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I could see it now. The similarities…in the buildings, roads, newly built malls and highways…for that matter even in the faces around.

It all started with lRCTC website, an attempt to successfully log into it after 6 futile efforts…then waiting for it to load the data and me trying to book the tatkal ticket on the same. I do not think there is a more cutthroat competition elsewhere as there is at 10 O’clock every morning on IRTCT website; as million of hopeful around the country are trying desperately to be the ones to grab those few seats in the train. And here it’s not about survival of the fittest but of the most patient ones. Those who can bear failure…get up and try all over again. Some are hoping to make it for an interview in some city, some planning to go for a vacation, while some for other reasons. For me, it all about seeing the new place, a new town and meet people out there.

A clichéd one but a true fact it is that India can only be experienced in true sense when you travel by the train. I certainly believe so. Be it anywhere…travelling by train has never let me down. So I check myself in the mirror, check the camera batteries once again, put on the backpack and set for my journey.
It begins with the routine clamour at the railway station. Those unclear train announcements barging into your ears and the feeling of rush that you witness everywhere around. People running in all possible directions, carrying the luggage, kids and even managing to read newspaper on the go. I join the race wondering how many of them could be the ones I possibly will meet later on and not remember us brushing against each other on this platform.

Salesmen all of a sudden amplify the pitch of their voices just before departure of the train and people are seen hastening to buy newspapers, water bottles and snacks. Train turns her head once and glances patiently at all of them. She is used to it by now. Only when it is time, she then gently whistles indicating she might have to leave them at platform if they don’t get inside in time. We then exchange formal hellos with people around in our compartments while thinking which ones could be the troublesome ones. And no, there are no pretty girls in there. I do not know how they reach other towns. Do they transport themselves or travel only travel by air. Perhaps IRCTC filters them out. But yeah, no good looking girls on the train.

As I look outside the bars of the window, my city is seen waving a goodbye. She tells me she is the best city in country and I shall only regret if I fall for other one. I simply smile and fix my eyes on further sight. Slowly the concrete jungle of my town is being replaced by lush green farms and far-flung mountains behind. Sun is trying hard to aim heat arrows at my eyes. So I let him be and divert my attention inside the compartment. First thing you see is people who are already observing you from head to toe and probably wondering which city or town you are from. I awkwardly smile at them and they just look elsewhere. I’m used to it now. We Indians by nature are shy. Shy to introduce ourselves, to wish a random person you just met Hi and shy to even look into each other’s eyes. But time takes a good care of it, as one or two then start the conversation and suddenly you have a good company to travel together. They tell you the reason why they had come to your town and you end up letting them know why you are visiting theirs. Few offer you food and we then reject the offer politely because that’s what we all have been taught.

By 9pm people are done having their dinners and insomniacs like me have to plug in earphones as the lights go off. Eyelids drew close while I’m thinking of the next day morning and sporadically keeping a check on my wallet and bag.

Morning is as good as it gets with a cup of tea or coffee to begin with. Next one hour is the longest as everyone sits quietly waiting impatiently for the station to arrive.

Finally it does and I’m there…the city or town I was longing to visit and had heard so much about. I breathe in the morning air and I’m melted once again into the same clamour at the platform.

I can see now. The similarities…in how cab and auto drivers are almost trying to kidnap you and charge you a handsome fee for where you want to go…similarities in the buildings, roads, newly built malls and highways in that town to yours…for that matter even the faces around. Areas around the stations are usually the worst part of any town. So I try not to make a judgement for a while.

Slowly differences start to show themselves up…in the mode of transport. Size of the roads, density of crowd in the city. I feel if you are thirsty for it, each city has so much to offer…Metros of Delhi, cultural face of Hyderabad, insomniac traffic of Mumbai, wide roads of Bangalore and evergreen valleys of Dharmshala and so much more.  I try and absorb more of those places as I sip intermittently the Irani chaai near Charminar, feel the charm of Mumbai during badra-worli sea link drive and read painted faces of delhi at Hauj Khas. Shopping malls are last on the list of places I want to check out, because they hardly offer you anything new from the ones back home.

But this would only be tip of the iceberg as I look forward to many more trips ahead…to learn from people on the way and appreciate what each of those places are waiting to offer.
I can hear her whistling now….I see them rushing inside and a fleet of waving goodbyes. I shall wave one to you too. But you shall see me soon when I visit your town. No town is that far now.