Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Game of 'ordinary' dreams?... Part 2



Lift beeped and announced ‘Ground floor’. A harried set of voices welcomed us there. The company cab that transported the hapless souls from the far flung office block (SEZs can be someone’s poison too) to the mainstream one, had ditched yet again. “Good I drove down today, lucky me!”- I thought to myself. But then I saw the lines of dejection crisscross Mr. S’s forehead as he looked at the mayhem.
“Do you want me to drop you at the other building, I stay right beside it and coincidentally I got my car today.”
“Oh that would be really helpful!” – He said. His eyes brightened up with hope.

“No problem. Please come along. But disclaimer – I have an old loyal car that responds just right to my brusque veering and heavy stomping. Definitely not fancy as its past prime but nevertheless a trusted confidante. I am still working on detaching myself from it and moving onto a new one.” – I rattled on gleefully. 

“I had promised my daughter that I would spend the evening with her. But alas I missed again.”  - Mr. S’s words pulled me out of my indulgent wagon talk. 

 
“I want her to play outside amidst nature as much as she can. Our apartment has a small garden area for kids. Not opulent but serves the purpose. Last week we came back from my village. It was wonderful to see her play in the open, unhindered.” – He continued thoughtfully.
It was fascinating to hear a father speak so fondly. 

While far away somewhere, Feminism and Masculism drew out their swords and lunged towards each other bloodthirstily; here I saw the utopian manifestation of the yin yang energy in the delicate relationship of a father-daughter.



 Few failed attempts later, finally the old engine chugged up to life and we wheeled out of the parking labyrinth into the tepid spring night. The air reeked of automobile vapors; but the city had made peace with smog. 


“Do you have a dream? “ – Mr. S’s contemplative tone ended my inner digression of thoughts again. Caught up in the humdrum; it had been long since I had ruminated on dreams. His unpretentious query ushered in childhood memories when I would innocuously scrawl down the symbols of chemical elements in a text pad and randomly try to create undiscovered equations. One fine day when I would be a grown up; I had assumed these would inspire me to be the ‘mad scientist’ of my generation who makes amazing discoveries and wins a Nobel Prize J Sweet! Toeing the footsteps of Leonardo Da Vinci and painting futuristic inventions was another of the many ideas. Pity, my works of art were more of a shock and humor than marvel and intrigue.
“Hmm! I like my job. I see curiosity as my quality and it coaxes me to explore whatever I do. But then this was not exactly what I had dreamt of. Like most of us, I have the same gnawing desire – to follow an irresistible passion. But what? Maybe I am still aimless. It is a scary feeling.” – I finally replied to him hoping he did not notice the uncanny delay. 

“I loved Physics.”– He continued.
“But I had to start working soon. I had promised this lovely lady that I would do everything to marry her. I had to fulfil my vow. She is a treasure. Financial independence was necessary and urgent. I could not study further back then.”

There is an extraordinary love story in every seemingly ordinary story indeed. This drive was metamorphosing into a ‘soul search’ expedition.

“I would see my friends travel outside, enroll at famed colleges and scale higher. Despite my goodwill for all around, it triggered an unrest in me. I too wanted to grow remarkably and outstandingly. I would search, seek and try in whatever way I could. But then one day I asked myself what is it that I want? What gives me happiness? What do I seek?” – continued Mr. S.
He was almost having a monologue now. I continued to listen eagerly. It sounded oh-so familiar but still refreshing.
“Do I seek financial security? Well yes, I need enough to give my family all they need. I want my daughter to study as much as she wants without a care under the sun. Yes, I want to expand my home and make my parents happier. But that is as usual for every other person. So, what does my heart seek?”

Screeeeeech! The wheels skidded to an abrupt halt as the pesky traffic light had just turned red. The engine groaned and panted. The servicing of the vehicle was indeed due I thought to myself forlornly. A Sunday nap will be compromised again. Such a woe. :-(

When I read about the susceptible tribal girls of North Bengal and finally took baby steps to bring about a transformation in their lives. It was then that I realized what my soul had been pining for. Satisfaction of touching lives and making a difference! The respect that I yearned for so long, I finally experienced it! That was the moment of epiphany for me. Making a difference made me feel different! I found a valuable purpose in life which I could follow humbly and passionately. Liberation had finally embraced me.

One last turn, narrowly missing a reckless rickshaw puller who was in no mood to slow down and believed he had seen enough cars for the day; we finally reached! Mr. S flashed a warm smile and thanked for the ride. 

As he hurried across the street to board the public bus bound towards his home, his words lingered on.
“Making a difference made me feel different!”
“I want her to play outside amidst nature as much as she can.”

Modest and gentle – this individual who struggled each day to travel in haggard public buses teeming with jostling passengers and sweaty vendors. Poring over laptop for hours, he had to break promises to his daughter only to satisfy an unseen apathetic client of his organization. Sometimes he would mull over his inner travails and forget to chew his food for long on dining tables in canteen. At other times his eyes would sparkle with delight at the prospect of ordering a pizza for snack. With a keen childlike captivation, he would collect discount coupons of pizzerias and hoard them in his drawer.
But when Life threw at him an opportunity to impact lives of the less privileged ones around him; he did not turn a blind eye and step into the fancy mall next door to buy his wife a Gucci. The love for his own daughter did not deter but propel him to make more daughters happy. 

He turned his ‘Jiban’ into ‘Mahajiban’ and awaits for all of us to do the same and join him.
http://www.mahajiban.org/
 

Game of 'ordinary' dreams?... Part-1




Tap! Tick! Tip! Tap! Click! Clack! 
Hunched over the formidable notebook’s glaring screen, I continued to hammer obsessively at the overused keyboard. Psychedelic letters twirled and impish buttons played peek-a-boo with an exhausted mind. 

The heavy-eyed Sun meekly lumbered back to his hideout taking away the cacophony of animated voices engaged in frantic debates and dissonant beeps of conference calls. As the eerie ‘Quietness’ spread out its soothing wings in an almost deserted floor and took flight; camouflaged introverts started peeping from behind their monitors and smiled to themselves. 

Finally it felt at home! 






The cries of the petulant muscles and grumbling bones kept getting louder than ever. “Hmm! Maybe I could do with a coffee-break!”- I thought to myself.   As the machine vroomed and whirred to pour out yet another steamy cup spiked with caffeine; I peered out of the large glass window at the busy World which was still rushing, tripping and speeding off. Vehicles queued up behind each other, prodding and poking. Restless palms honked, fidgety fingers tapped and unchecked voices cursed to themselves but the bored Traffic continued its slow rally.

Blink! The string of distant headlights dotting the snaky grey highway arrested my imagination.
A blink again! My own image jerked me out of my reverie. Drained eyes pierced into me; the bright lip color had faded for the day and so was the urge to glide the stick again and pout back. Morning vivacity had given way to unkempt wisps of hair strewn lazily over the face.  Lackadaisically, I made a note of splurging on a worthy under-eye cream before it was beyond redemption. Perhaps setting up a monitor pop-up that read – “Kindly blink!!” every quarter of an hour would be effective. Curative ideas to accelerate the cadence of “self-care” would often flood in at this hour but moody “Execution” smirked like always!
A little caffeine gushing through the bloodstream does help in snapping one out of solemn soliloquies. Wider eyed than before; I scurried back to my dreary chair and rolled up sleeves to complete the unfinished. 
 

A serene bespectacled co-worker beside me possibly went through the same mental ordeal. Stillness triggers thoughtful introspection in all minds sooner or later!

Sneaky diminutive belly crawled out of the pleasant man’s otherwise upright frame and subtly revealed the signs of affiliation with the blue chip industry. Although his composed countenance conveniently veiled a zillion bubbling thoughts within. The crisp indigo colored shirt that he wore had started showing signs of weariness. His pensive eyes behind the thick horn rimmed glasses, drifted across the display monitor nimbly. Stubby pale fingers clicked and dragged the mouse purposefully. His square jawline tightened now and then and fingers quickened; while he worked on listlessly. 

As the clock sped forth, it was finally time to stop. Slamming down the lid of the murky think-pad; I shoved my gear into the overburdened (literally and there is no earthly explanation behind it, sigh!) backpack. A quick look around, told me that Mr. S (my colleague) too had called it a day. 

Chance encounters at luncheons and serendipitous late hours often break more ice than ostentatiously planned meets in the intricate corporate web. As we walked towards the lift, I could see he was in deep thought. Cautious but curious, I asked him – “So! Yet another busy day it was. Huh?”
He smiled and replied – “It never ends, does it?”
“True” – I affirmed.
*********************************************************************************

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Dutch, I presume?



To be in the land of Netherlanders and not guzzle down a draft of fresh ale would be akin to snoring away in the freezing Iceland when ‘Aurora Borealis’ lights dance in the dark sky :-)
Spluttering, choking and still falling flat while enunciating “Scheveningen” … My epiglottis continues to glare at me bewildered!




Leaving behind a legacy of shattered umbrellas which were slashed ruthlessly by the Wind Gods of the land and truckload of shoes; torn after the long walks and maddening race to signal the disinterested bus driver who swerved around the signals callously. It was tough being in the cycling capital of the world and not know how to ride one (I still reminisce the look of horror on the faces every time I revealed my tiny woeful secret!). Ahh! Probably I should stuff in a few more Dutch drops (assorted Liquorice) into my mouth to avoid being marked as a drop-out.

Beyond the tall green foliage and meandering sandy dunes of Hague; it was wonderful to step into the quaint delicate Japanese garden in Clingendale Park and greet the colorful autumn. Rickety bridges and fragile blossoms crept around and engulfed me before I could blink. A fleeting nymph with enchanted candles would have felt at home in that haven :-) 
 
Rowing through the tranquil canals garlanded with florid hues along the banks at Giethoorn; the blur of the fast paced world around seemed to slow down as charming views engaged the senses. Had it not been for the rhythmic splash of water from the paddles or occasional inexperienced adrenaline pumped maneuvering to avoid bumping into a crossing boat; the idyllic moment would have dissolved the barriers between reality and imagination.   


Treading through the reconstructed fishermen’s village in one of its kind open air museum- the Zuiderzee museum at Enkhuizen was a gezzelig moment. [Of course, the word ‘gezzelig’ continues to overwhelm every expat like me! It carries the essence of Dutch culture with √©lan but metamorphoses in its meaning based on context. I hope Dutch Grammarians do not write me off for using it above to denote fun.] 
 
Smoked herring and quintessential native cultural elements meticulously put together to re-create the heartwarming village within the precincts of the museum; made it outstanding and touching. Clocks turned back and drapes of old world charm descended at Enkhuizen!



While tourists from across the globe thronged to click selfies and revel in the Tulip Festival at Keukenhoff gardens every year or cycle through the acres of colorfully carpeted fields; often I met cheerful Dutch men and women who would ask me if I had seen the bloom already. And the next moment they would heartily whisper their secret into my ears– “You know something, I have never been there!”





For all lovers of Modern Architecture, Netherlands probably puts its best foot forward with Rotterdam! The city born from the ashes of World War II bombing boasts of an ever evolving skyline. Hopping out of the E-sling metro line connecting Hague and Rotterdam; the trendy feel laced with a coat of dynamism was infective. The panoramic view of the revamped city of Rotterdam from the Euromast tower lingers on and declines to fade.
To quote the advice from Dutch colleagues – “Live in the Hague, work at Rotterdam and party in Amsterdam :-)

Whizzing on a waterbus from Rotterdam; I alighted at Kinderdijk – a village which finds its name on the UNESCO world heritage list. 19 windmills from the 1950s stood solemnly and reminded of the battles that the Dutch had to wage with water often. Though the sun shone generously but the cold breeze heartlessly stung my eyes. Despite the tears and continuous battle of my own to keep back from face the wisps of hair that the wind kept ruffling; it was impossible to miss the transcendental charisma of the place. 

The moments in life when you feel like a Cinderella in a wonderland? That was it! A small cottage (or maybe a windmill) to call for home in that extraordinary place and see the Sun rise and set over there endlessly. Don’t insane ideas pop up when you are flushed, heady and carried away? 
 
A scenic ride away from Hague on a leisurely moving tram; the city of Delft famous for its ceramic artistry and Royal Blue Delftware was a pleasant discovery. Graceful canals, pretty churches and shops overflowing with wares for visitors. All I could hope for is a small rucksack to collect some tiny wooden shoes, traditionally hand painted porcelain saucers, cute tulip souvenirs and gobble down some softies during the spree. Priceless! 




The love for Gothic architecture took me to yet another beautiful and historic city of the iconic country – Den Bosch. The magnificent St. John’s Cathedral and its intricate build pacified my grouse of not finding enough churches to walk into. It arrested, captivated and left no stone unturned.





The experience of summer is forever a game of peek-a-boo in the land of Dutch! To be throttling down on the crazy rollercoaster rides on the hottest day (warm would be an understatement!) of the year was indeed the last thing to do on the checklist. But as Miss. Luck chuckles at her own games; there I was spiraling down dizzying heights and falling into nothingness at Wallabi Park when the temperatures soared and soared. So, the weather Gods considered my complaint against the plummeting degrees this seriously? 

 

It was fun to welcome the good ol’ Sinterklaas from Spain, cheer the cheeky Zwarte Piet and queue up to grab handfuls of ‘pepernoten’ and ‘speculaas’ in the streets of Breda on an icy (for my taste!) cold evening. Mr. Santa Claus suddenly seemed a distant uncle.






When the sleepy yet glorious Sun set over the gushing water and mighty dikes at ‘DeltaWerken’/ Delta Works; the prodigious phenomenon unraveled itself and evoked only awe in its witnesses. The placid diminutive lagoon at ‘Deltapark Neeltje Jans’ whisks you away to a fairyland. A slight breeze gently rippled the water every now and then, in the inlet on one side; while the dikes kept churning and taming the roaring water on the other side. 



The undulant pathway through the waters continued to beckon ever mystically.  Stories unknown, worlds unseen appeared to await at the end of the road.
A walk through the calm blues and gurgling waves offered to guide to a mythical dreamland.


  
 
Roaring sea lions waddled around in the Expo Park amusing numerous eyeballs. Curious sharks swam around in the aquariums yawning or sneezing once in a while, only to scare a few souls glued to the glass window innocuously :-)



 A colorful and artistic creation out of junk intrigued me at the entrance hallway to the park.


Not far away from ‘Neeltje Jans’; the exotic Saturday night at small town of Middelburg offered to drape in its warmth as the night befell. Savoring a dish of ‘garnaalen’ (shrimps); my eyes ran up and down the late-gothic town hall adorned with proud statues of Counts & Countesses of Zeeland. Illuminated in the ethereal glow of surrounding lights and standing calmly under the starry night; it dazzled and bewitched onlookers and created a surreal aura of its own. 

Bewitching wintry evening walks continued in the city square of Haarlem. The place I had long identifed as the host place for a random data center; suddenly had flesh and meat added to itself.


Snow footed 'Christmas' tip-toed into the sparkly velvet caves of the otherwise sleepy town of Valkenburg; and brought the exquisite mural paintings to life. As the markets buzzed with cackle of excited voices, jingle of heavy coins and twinkle of merchandise; the misty air reeked of elfish magic. I would not have been surprised to bump into a few wizards or witches down there :-) (Thou messed with our minds forever, oh Rowling!)




Shivering and chattering, stuttering and stammering when the temperatures kept dropping steadily and blood froze in its course in veins; exploration of the ancient castle ruins on the hills turned out to be a test of survival against odds. Drizzling icicles and merciless patter of rain droplets still did not mar the beauty of the place.   



At a stone’s throw from Valkenburg; the old cobbled city of Maastricht presented a unique amalgam of distinct cultures. Nestled neatly and in close proximity to Belgium and Germany; the historical walkways of the city had strokes of the Medieval architecture, wafts of French air,  tingle of Spanish liveliness, touches of Roman proportions and a pleasant openness to it.  The playful aura of the place refused to conform to Dutch austerity and chose to infuse gaiety. 

 



A memoirs of Netherlands would never be complete without a chapter earmarked on Amsterdam. The capital of fun & frolic; lights red & whatever you can conjure ;-). The hunt for the (in)famous streets, hushed shops and a grand rendezvous with Heineken makers; the city gives you memories you would recollect and laugh at forever! I can never look at another brownie without a giggle. 
















P.S: The title of the post is inspired from a book that one of my favorite Mr. Dutch Manager gifted me as a parting present. :-)