Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Someone said it right; change is the only constant thing in life. Well, it holds true in my life atleast. Change of places, people, schools…have always been a part of my life. By the age of 18 I’d studied in 10 different schools. Yes, you read it right! Not because I was kicked out or anything, we just kept moving because of my dad’s job. 

Then once I was in college, I thought ‘This is it, for three years I won’t move anywhere’. But within 6 months I left that college and joined another University. This time, outside India.  The change was tough especially since I REALLY loved my class and teachers there. But I bucked up and soon found myself in the tropical jungles of Semenyih, Malaysia. Kidding, our Uni is just 30 kms from the city (Which feels more like 500 kms)

But this change was definitely for the better. I made lots of new friends, from different countries and backgrounds. I was exposed to a whole new side of academics, which I fell in love with. And I absolutely loved what I was doing (Still do!)

One year and a semester later I packed my bags again and this time found myself in the UK for an exchange programme. This time I knew I was getting back to Malaysia so it made things a little easier. Initially I spent a lot of the time complaining about the weather (which continued till yesterday) and pining over Malaysia. I really missed my crazy friends and couldn’t find anyone crazy enough to be with me here. I still remember, as if it were yesterday, sitting at the orientation and wondering how I would make through these 5 months in this foreign land.

Before a blink time has flown by and my time here is up. I’m writing this as I travel from Nottingham to London, where I’ll spend a few days before I fly to Malaysia. Sitting here, whizzing through the motor way, I can’t help but feel sad about leaving.
Today I woke up early, without an alarm. After the last minute packing I went to my University here for one last time. While walking till there, with each step I felt this heaviness in my heart, knowing that this would probably be the last time that I’ll be walking through these streets. And a weird thing about leaving a place is how when you know you are going you suddenly begin to feel attached to the smallest of things. Walking to Uni, I knew that I was going to miss the small yellow wild flowers growing by the side walk, I’ll miss the noisy geese picnicking near the lake, the fresh smell of grass as I near Trent building…These things which I’d taken for granted over the past 5 months now suddenly seem so important. I feel like holding on to something and then just stay there. ..
Today Allah gifted me with a wonderful day with the bluest sky and the fluffiest clouds, maybe as a parting gift. And I grabbed this gift, holding on to it, savouring each moment, ever grateful to my Lord who gave me this opportunity to come here and experience a different life. Really, he has blessed me in so many ways that an entire lifetime’s worship cannot even begin to cover what I owe him. 

It’s not just the spaces that I’ll miss, but also the memories with each place. And these memories were obviously created because of certain people who were with me there. I’ll miss our kitchen at Broadgate Park. I’ll miss seeing Yoonhee, Michelle or Taylare cooking up something delicious. I’ll miss peeping into Farah’s room, while walking to the kitchen, to find her cheering for some F1 driver. I’ll miss Sabine coming up to my room and asking some random question about her essays. The walk to Wollaton park, seeing deer up close, exploring the ‘Bat Man Mansion’ wouldn’t have been as much fun if Farah and Mac weren’t there (Bullying me). Waiting 3 hours at old market square, amongst 35,000 people, for the queen would have been a drag if my friends weren’t there with me, cracking royal jokes. 

My weekend trips to Widnes were made worth it by spending time with the most adorable family ever, whom I got to know so well in the span of those few days.
If there’s anything I regret about this stay then it’s not spending more time outside, exploring the place. I regret each wasted day, lazing in my room, when I could have walked around the lake or gone to see deer at Wollaton Park.  I regret the hours spent in front of the laptop when I could have been meeting more people, making more memories.

The people and places together made my stay here in the UK so memorable that leaving this place upsets me. It’s like leaving an old friend behind, not knowing if you’ll ever meet her again. I certainly hope that in the years to come I’ll get another opportunity to come back to my wonderful friend and fall in love all over again. Till then these memories will suffice. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

The joys of a solitary traveller...

I have always loved travelling. People who know me well also know how passionate I am about it. Be it the cultural treasure troves of India or the charming cities of Italy, I am up for it all! I’ve mostly travelled with my family and, after joining college, with friends. However, UK has been a different experience. Here I’ve had to travel alone most of the time. So far I’ve gone to Liverpool, Cambridge and London by myself and to Scotland with an organised tour. Initially I was a bit apprehensive about travelling alone. Being the chatter box that I am, I couldn’t fathom keeping quiet for such long intervals of time.  Plus there was the thing about taking pictures, who’ll take my pics? :D

But after travelling solo, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not all that bad. When you’re in a group you have to always make sure that everyone is comfortable and have to compromise to make everyone happy. Travelling alone eliminates that. You can move at your own pace without thinking about what anyone else feels. So I spent a lot of time casually strolling through the Kensington Garden which I know wouldn’t have been possible had I been traveling with my nature-averse brothers. Plus, when travelling with others so much time is spent clicking each other’s pics that you forget to live the moment you are in. Then what you remember is just the photo that you took, your memory sifted through a camera lens. This time I spent more time just looking at the places than constantly clicking pictures. I took a few good shots of the place and then enjoyed the moment and the place. After all, what picture can describe what I felt the moment I entered Rose garden? With the scintillating combination of different scents coming at me from all corners, and beautiful flowers in full bloom beckoning me to take a closer look, with bees buzzing in and out of red roses and quick squirrels playing hide and seek…. 

Which picture can do justice to the peace I felt then? What I remember of it now is fresh in my heart, where it’ll remain. If I was travelling with someone I would have missed the small things which I witnessed during this trip.
The journey without travel mates also gave me a lot of time to reflect. I was away from the internet, no friends, no distractions which gave me the mental time and space to actually sit and think.  And I can’t explain how precious that time is, when you can dig out your deepest thoughts and run it over with your heart.  When you can look at your past and dream about your future without any care about the present. I think about faith, about my relationships with those around me, about my studies…even the silliest of things!

When travelling alone I observe those around me. Sometimes while sitting by the window at a cafĂ© I can look out for hours at end just breathing in the life around me. Yesterday I had such a wonderful time eating at a Thai restaurant, savouring the spices in the meal and taking in the scenes outside. Mothers pushing strollers through the pavement, occasionally peering into the pram, checking on their babies. Teenage girls returning from school, texting while walking, avoiding lampposts with heads down. Businessmen in crisp suits, with suitcases in hand, rushing home from work. Kids on scooters, racing each other, oblivious to their parents’ warning.  How could I’ve seen this if I was busy talking to someone over my meal?
It was as though life knew I was a bit lonely, so she gifted me a few snapshots of herself and love around me, just to keep me company. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Today I woke up dead

Today I woke up dead. My body lies immobile on the bed as my soul travels in and out of spaces searching for something. I can see paleness seeping into my skin. My wife is sleeping beside my cold body. She is unaware. How long before she finds out?

The alarm is ringing. It's on the bed side table next to me and I can't switch it off. She is opening her eyes now. Then, as always, she turns over to my side and embraces me. At the touch of my cold skin she recoils, a small shriek escapes her lip. I can see fear in her eyes. I can see thoughts of a shaky future whizzing through her mind.
Her hand’s inch forward again, propelled by a dying hope. She nudges me, shakes me harder and then the first tear escapes. Her cries agitate our baby who was sleeping in innocent oblivion which will continue for some years till questions about me rise in his mind.

Now my daughter is at our door, rubbing sleep out of her eyes, her hand still clutching her doll. She walks closer and sees her mother crying and then looks at me. She comes near and gives me a kiss on the cheek, which would usually make me growl and lift her into the bed, enveloping her in a bear hug. When this doesn’t happen, she does it again. I try to lift my hands, but not a finger moves. No exertion felt.

I am naked now. Some people are washing my body. My shame doesn’t bother them as I am just another body to them. They cover me in a white cloth and take me to my family.

By noon my family and friends are here. I can feel the moisture of tears in the air. I am now in the living room, in front of the tv.  I lie on the table. People come into the room, solemn, some holding back tears, some blank and some mustering false sympathy. My wife and kids are inside the bedroom. I wish to be with them, but they don’t seem to be willing to spend more time near my dead body. My son is crying now, probably startled by all these people. He is not a people’s person. Neither am I. I can hear someone walking around, with him cradled in her arms, trying to calm him down. That never works; he can sleep only when we are sitting still in our garden and sing a soft lullaby to him. I found this trick in his third month when my wife and I had developed large dark circles from virtually no sleep.

In batches they pray the Janazah prayers in front of me. I hope that they pray for a trial free grave for me. I know that I’ll be taken to my new home soon and I am too scared to even think what’s waiting for me there.

Soon some men enter the room and say it’s time. They shift me from the table to a flat stretcher. My girl stands there, silently looking on. My wife comes out then and hugs me, one last time. I can feel her wet face as she kisses me. Then her mother holds her back as they lift me out.

I am at the graveyard now. There’s the smell of freshly dug mud in the air. They lower me into the ground, gently, knowing that I can feel it. One of them enters the grave and positions me correctly. And then they place a slab on me. A blanket of darkness envelops me. 

I can hear the sound of mud being thrown over the slab. It gets stuffier and I can’t breathe. You may laugh saying I am dead, but I really can’t breathe.The pressure is building up. Now I can hear footsteps walking away, leaving me here. Alone. 
Then a presence. 
My results are out.