After my first passport dying virgin and second one having entered its second year, I was finally ready to leave Indian shores. Did I want to? No. Not at all.
However, every self-respected man has to respond to three calls in his life and he cannot do away with them – wife’s call, nature’s call and duty’s call, in that order.
Hence, I had to go.
The start of the journey was not all the encouraging.
I bought a watch and as soon as I moved on the next shop to buy something else, I saw owner of the watch shop entering this shop and looking for me. I gave him a “what do you want now, you didn’t even give me a discount” look. He gave me a “the price of the watch wasn’t so big that it gave you a shock” and handed back my credit card to me.
I reached home and finished off packing. Soon I realized that if I could transfer some stuff from my suitcase to the handbag, I would be able to manage the weight of my luggage under airline’s permissible limits. Someone once said that a realization about one’s mistake has to be followed by an action to rectify it. That someone being be, I decided to practice what I just preached in last sentence. It was a suitcase, which my wife had brought with her in marriage. It had number-lock system. Having locked it, I asked her the code to unlock it.
“I don’t know. I have never used the number-lock” was her reply.
Her reply followed with me trying to unlock the code with permutation combinations of different numbers. Soon my patient ran out and I decided to use muscle power in place of mind. The lock lost – in all of two minutes.
Couple of friends at my place sensed that I was getting too edgy and nervous. They tried to pacify me. I demanded to have a Paan. We started. I put my car in reverse gear and put my foot on accelerator. What followed next was a cacophonous sound of Bang. I was sure that I had not banged my car at the back while reversing – reverse parking sensor do not fail. The harm was done on the left side though– the door was yet to be closed before I started reversing, it was stuck in the pillar and ended up in damaging the hinges of the door. Talk about subconscious mind’s nervousness causing brain fade.
If these three events were not enough, there was worse to follow – I happened to see something I had never seen before, a traffic jam on Mumbai-Pune expressway. My journey to Mumbai airport was extended by 2 hours. During those two hours, catching the flight looked like impossible.
Problem with accidents is that you do not expect them to happen. Once you start to expect them, they normally cease to happen. That is what followed. I expected more such unexpected to happen and the unexpected happened, nothing unexpected happened after that.
I landed in Melbourne. The city of MCG – is what I had known it until now. One of the very few reasons I looked forward to this trip was that it was Australia – where people would know and understand cricket. While I am a slow starter with strangers, I thought at least I would get a topic to converse and break the ice.
My expectations came crashing to the ground when the cabbie I had hired from airport to hotel, told me that he had no clue about the India Australia ODI that had concluded last night. I was shocked and disappointed. Is this what people call country of sports? Is this the country that ruled the cricket world for almost a decade and a half? Is this the country that claims to have sports crazy people? Is this Australia? Really? Or they have dropped me in Siberia?
However, as it turned out, the cabbie was a Turkish settled in Melbourne.
Ah, these migrants. They would never imbibe the local culture. Such a thankless breed they are is what I thought. Someone from inside my head shouted back Mala Marathi Yate Naahi.
Finally, I landed in my hotel. While I thought that weather was chilly because of morning, it continued throughout the day. I do not remember after how many years I was facing such weather – less than ten degrees of temperature with wind being faster than SIR’s arm ball.
There are a few things in the city, which I found a bit strange. Maybe one can call it a cultural shock.
For some strange reasons, everyone is so well dressed up as if walking on a ramp. While I had seen people in Hollywood movies often wearing suits, even those in the background, I brushed it off as a movie phenomenon. I was shocked to see that the reel was a reflection of reality.
While I did expect people to be more disciplined and all that, I did not expect strangers so regularly asking me about my wellbeing - “Hey, how are you doing?”
How the hell you think I would be doing so far away from home? Moreover, how the hell does that matter to you? Is what I think before responding with a smile on my face “Oh I am doing absolutely great, mate. What about you?”
It is normal to lose your way in a new city. I, being normal, keep losing my way in Melbourne. However, people here are quite friendly and helping. They always guide you. Problem with their guidance is that no matter which address you ask, it is always “Oh mate, it is just 15 minutes’ walk from here”. Not sure if their judgment of measuring the time is wrong or the distance I can cover in one stop, I always end up walking more than half an hour. Maybe it is the latter. An average Australian, with average height being 6 foot or so, can walk such distances in 15 minutes. Yours truly, with his height shorter than Rohit Sharma’s usual stay the crease in his normal form, takes more than 30 minutes to cover the same distance.
There are pros and cons of everything. Like a normal human being, my mind goes to see cons before it sees any pros. The worst part about staying away from home is the incurable sickness called homesickness. While I was notorious amongst my friend for never feeling homesick in my college days, I am not so sure now about handling it. It is not struck me until now but I am sure it will hit me one day, sooner than later.
Another problem is loneliness. Loneliness is not just about vacuum created by absence of your dear and near ones. Modern tools of communication have yet not been able to develop the technology of touching them online, hugging them, kissing them or getting the feeling of actually staying with them. They remain nothing but a video and a voice on your computer screen. By the way, loneliness is also about waiting for them to get up, different time zones mind you, so that you can see them online. That wait is killing.
Loneliness ness is lot more than that. Loneliness is a lot about missing things you are so used to of, missing things, which are such a part of your life that you thought you were inseparable. Loneliness is a lot about being forced to move way out of your comfort zone to survive.
I am so used to of Pohas, Upmas, Vada Paos that for me, a breakfast used to be meaningless unless I had them. Alas, it is nothing but bread butter and jam now. Loneliness is about putting a jam of foreign brand on your bread and thinking about taste of aaloo parathas.
Someone said that it is better to wash off your sins than wiping them off. That someone being I, I discovered a new definition of loneliness – looking for a tap, bucket and a mug in a place I do not want to name here.
Loneliness is about switching on the TV and not finding E24 where one could listen to the songs of Baazigar and Jaan Tere Naam. It is about not seeing the shops selling stuff for Diwali celebrations, not getting to hear the cars honking. It is about you being the only person thinking of stopping the car on the road so that you can cross the road; it is about checking your mobile phone repeatedly in hope of seeing some mail/message/other even though you know that your number is no longer the one on which these services were available.
These were one of the many things you always took for granted in life and loneliness is a lot about for this granted-ness of life deserting you. These habits, like many others, were always a part of you and without them, you do not feel like yourself. Loneliness is about missing yourself.
Right now, I do feel lonely.