My room overlooks a parking lot. It fills up gradually during the day and empties out in the evening. At both times, if I am in my room, I have a mug of tea in my hands.
My room also overlooks a half-way home for people recovering from addiction. When I cross this home during my evening walk, I see a face peering out sometimes. A stranger fighting battles, scarred and scared. When our eyes meet he lets the curtain fall back slowly and disappears.
I walk along my way, treading on strange streets with names like Elf, Elba and Erwin. A far cry from Khel Gaon, Balbir Saxena or Mandi Gaon. Yet walk, I do. In walking I realise just how much the body craves routine. So I start my day with some yoga. The gentle stretching seems to soothe the tired muscles and makes me more aware of what’s happening inside my body. The ankles seem strained, the neck could do with a gentle massage. The hair is crying out for a good wash with its favourite shampoo, the nostrils want a whiff of elaichi and ginger chai, even if its premixed.
Outside my shut door, I hear a family walk down the aisle. Little children scampering, chatting in foreign accents. A mother with a patient voice, a tone that is universally understood.
Travelling pushes me into unfamiliar situations and I am always curious about my reactions to them. Missed flights, lost baggage, endless queues for immigration when one only wants to move on…. Ending up with Uber drivers who tell their amazing stories of leaving behind wars and families, of starting over in alien nations with no way to communicate, no familiar face, no welcoming hugs. Total isolation, yet a strange will to never give in and never give up. In front of these stories I have nothing to say or add.
My last Uber driver was from Sudan.
He asked me about how many colours Indians came in! Having observed a great variety of them. I told him that we came in all the colors that coffee can be made in 😊. We chatted about his time in the US and he spoke about his dream of clearing his citizenship exam so that he could go back home and marry the girl his father had selected for him. He said by Sudanese standards he was already quite old. At which point I asked him his age. ‘Thirty-Eight,’ he replied.
‘Whats yours?’ I pretended to look shocked and told him one never asks a woman her age. We both laughed and he told me that I was being very clever in not answering 😁
Then he asked me my name, which I gave him promptly and when I asked him his, he refused, saying that now we were equal!
Oh, how we laughed! Two strangers in a cab, connected by peals of laughter. Before I left, he yelled out, ‘Mohammed!’
And I waved back at him and said, ‘I feel eighteen!!’
#travel #travelogues #durhamdiaries