When hungry, eat fear

Stop two and three of my solo sojourn in Spain have been in the Basque country and the Asturias. And it’s everything that San Sebastian was not.
You see, San Sebastian is a beautiful European city that’s full of arts, history and culture. It’s very friendly, open and relaxing. You walk by yourself all you want. Sit wherever you want. Eat in any place you favour. For a city dweller, living here comes easily.

But the moment you step out of the city, you’re all alone with nature. The Basque country is dotted with charming little towns along the coast. But a hidden treasure is Zumaia and its Flysch. And I’m proud to have found it in my research. The Geoparkea, which runs tours in the area, had a 3-hour hiking and boat tour at 10.30 in the morning. Now the only problem was, the tour was only available for the 26th, which ate into a day in the Picos de Europa–another little gem, this time, a suggestion of a friend.

Had sanity prevailed, I would have given up Zumaia and headed straight to the Picos, which in itself wasn’t a straightforward route. I had to change buses and then catch a cab to cover the remaining 30-40 minutes of the journey.

But, the very fact that I’m writing this should indicate that sanity did not prevail. 

Headstrong I was. My heart was set on the Flysch. And on I went, deciding to reach the Picos late in the night. Fear point 1. Or so I thought.

That morning, I woke a little early by vacation standards—at 8. Quickly packed and left by 9. The train station was only 5-10 minutes away. So I thought, hey, I have enough time to reach by 10.30. It was just about 35 minutes away, after all.

What I didn’t check was the train schedule. I missed the train at 8.50. Instead, I had to catch the one at 9.45! I prayed hard that I don’t miss the tour. Even practically scrambled from the train station through the circular and confusing streets. Gmaps, wrong as often is, suggested taking the highway! But, as you can expect, I ended up missing the tour.

Of course, when you travel, missed connections are often good. Turns out, it was a Spanish tour and my payment did not go through. Plus, the lady at the tourist centre was kind enough to explain the whole tour, and enabled me with three-four maps so I could do the whole thing myself. I explained about my tight schedule and she even helped work a way around it. Yay! Happily, I set off.

First, I armed myself with knowledge at the museum so I don’t look dumb at the actual site. Then I set off to the Flysch. 

Now, this post is not about the Flysch and its geological phenomenon. But here’s a quick look at the site. 

The real story begins on the top of these hills near the small church. Here:

See the ridge that extends towards the ocean? Now, that’s a small hike. It’s fairly flat and easy. 

But, here’s the thing. I realised I am a little bit prone to Vertigo, especially considering how I have two left feet while walking. Plus, it was a narrow ridge, which frankly, made me rethink if I should go. Also, it didn’t help that I wasn’t dressed correctly, and was alone and physically unfit for any hiking excursions. Fear point 2. (Or 1, if you want to follow the correct chronology)

But, as it turns out, this was just a trailer. And the trailer ended here:

This was the easy part.

Again, I realised I overshot my time. Ran back some how to the train station to miss my express bus by 2 minutes. This meant, I would reach just 15 minutes before my first bus to the Picos. Oh boy! Never before have I tried to run so fast carrying my large, heavy haversack! Unfortunately, even though I reached on time, I had to wait in a long queue to book my tickets. Aaannnnnd the bus left. Fear point 2!

Then, I did a little bit of research (yay, internet!) and found that my second bus from Bilbao originated in San Sebastian! And that was about an hour or so later. So quickly, I booked a ticket, got the same seats and lo behold, was on my way there.

Now wasn’t that seamless! 

The tricky part came at the end of that long bus ride, that ended at 21.30—there were no taxis! How do I go from Llanes to the mountain town of Arenas de Cabrales, I wondered. I knew there weren’t any buses too. Fear point 3!

Thankfully, there was a sweet boy at the station who was originally from Mexico. He asked the locals for taxi stands and offered to walk me there. Boy, am I glad to have accepted his offer as the taxi operator was shut. We moved around a bit, asked a few more locals, until finally a lady offered to call a cabbie friend who happened to be going in the same direction. Muchas gracias, senorita!

Finally, at 10.30 in the night, I reached my hotel, tired but very much entertained by Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba music on the way.

The next day, I got ready for the mountains after lazying in the cold bed, warm bathtub, and over a hot coffee. The sweet lady at the hotel helped me narrow my list of hikes/trails that suited my time limits and fitness levels; booked me a taxi to reach the starting point, and bid me Buenos dias. I conveniently chose one that wasn’t too long or too hard. 

Or so I thought. 

The kind cab driver (whom I shall meet again, btw) explained that there’s a view point separate from the trail. And it’s ‘just’ about 1 kilometer. So I decided to start there. 

It seemed easy. It was not. Turns out, I can walk 23,000 steps seamlessly. But I can’t walk even one kilometer if it involved fighting gravity! 

It was beautiful, though. And after yesterday’s scares and consequent victory, I pushed myself to slowly climb the six zig-zag curves. One break at a time. One curve at a time. 

I think I managed about four U-bends before my mind started playing games. “What if you go back? Can you really make it? Your lungs are killing you. Please give up,” it kept whispering to me. 

And then entered my biker knight. He saw me slowly walking on and stopped to offer a lift. I look at his Ducati and my heart soared! How perfect. I really missed biking along mountain slopes and so I gladly hoped on. Within 5 minutes, we reached. 

To be honest, though, it was a little bit of a bummer. There wasn’t much of a view that I didn’t get already. So, we went back. I asked him if I could tag along with him, my heart greedy for more motorcycle ride, and less walking. He was happy with how good a pillion I was (puhlease! I am experienced enough. Pffff) and agreed. 
After a certain point, we reached the start of the trail. 

Let’s now introduce fear point 4!

Let me tell you something. I have never gone trekking. Nor did I think I’m fit enough to go on one. Especially after the climb earlier. I huff and puff even on one flight of stairs. Forget about what looked like a steep hike. It was nowhere close to the easy walk I expected!

Thankfully, J, my biker saviour, decided to go on the same route. I swallowed my fear and told myself, “you can do this!” It helped that he expected more flatter surfaces further ahead.

And finally we set on, with lovely camaraderie and intelligent conversation. What followed is history. I’ll let the pictures tell you the rest of the story. 

And here’s the Ducati I climbed on as well as it’s rider. 

(BTW, can you find the goat in the background? It may not be easy!)  

———– x ———–

When I started writing this piece, I had finished the trail and was grabbing a break at a nearby hotel. I needed sustenance before I began my return journey, safe in the knowledge that I’ll get a cab back home. Guess what happened next? 

Nope, no taxis around! 

I waited for a bit. But there was barely a soul around. So I started walking back to my hotel—about 4-8kms away. 

To be honest, I was more scared of this than any of the previous experiences. Imagine waking on a highway-like road, alone, without a path to walk on! There were a few blind bends. And a car driving past may not have seen me in time to veer away. But I had no choice. 

So I walk on, initially trying to rewire my brain into thinking of it as an adventure. 

And then, I remembered the countless movies where bagpackers point their thumbs backwards, asking for a lift. Hitchhiking! 

Never done it before. Never needed to. Until I had to. 

Few cars went by. One car offered a finger. Two scooters said sorry. Then, one couple was kind enough to stop. It was barely a fifteen minute ride. And then, thankfully, I reached the hotel. Got a cab booked for the bus stop. And met my old cabbie again. This time, he was warmer and stopped at various places to let me click pictures. He also jabbered on a bit about fields and farming. Then, he realised I haven’t seen Llanes and it’s beautiful beach. So, he took me on a mini tour free of charge to the look around in Llanes.

Here’s my now-favourite taxi driver:

In all my life, I’ve seen my parents accept fear a handful of times. And even on those few occasions, I’ve seen them eat their fear, light a fire in their bellies, and move on. Come what may, they’ve not cowered. So all I did was tear a page from their book. 

I realised today, courage is not about a lack of fear. It’s about what you do with it that counts. 

And sometimes, I guess, it also includes asking for help and support. Anything but stop and pull back!

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The Walking Irony

Images with a quote are all the rage these days. Every single person active on social media (guilty as charged) has liked, posted or shared at least one such image.

What started as a beautiful thing earlier, has now, according to me, gone out of control. As with everything else, a mass democratisation (as our media studies professor called it) brings down quality. In English, this means, when something becomes too popular; when you have to cater to the masses, the quality often drops.

Take this image quote for example:

shitty-quote

I call this the Walking Irony. Here’s why:

Let’s start with the meaning of the quote. The connotation is quite clearly negative. People are usually thankless and not sensitive about the effort someone puts in for them. It is only when that ‘help’ stops that people stand up and notice.

Agreed. So far, at least.

But the second connotation of this quote is that people ‘never’ notice; people ‘never’ notice. But that isn’t true, is it? Everyone, at some point in time or the other, has appreciated or noticed timely help and effort.

So, the quote essentially ignores all these times.

This means you can apply the rule of the quote to the quote itself. Hello, Irony!

Move on

“Move on.”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

“…..”

“Why?”

“Because it would be murder. All those memories we painstakingly collected, they will be long forgotten. No, I’d rather smile and cry whenever I remember you and our memories. Some day, the edges of these memories are going to get frayed and dog-eared like a beloved book read again and again. I’d rather our memories too die a natural death. I don’t want them to meet a preemptive end. You move on. You need to. I’m happy here.”

Lost someone? Maybe this can help

Source: http://www.openlounge.org/settee/falling/
Source: http://www.openlounge.org/settee/falling/

Who has never lost a person in their whole life? Show me one such person and I will give you a million dollars (or any other currency, take your pick.)

At some point in time, we all have had to let go of someone, or have been let go by someone. It may have been a friend, partner, relative, sibling, or some other important person. At the end of it, though, we have that person-shaped hole in our life to fill; those memories to avoid—at least until it stops to draw blood, it stops stinging at least a little.

It is said that the process of getting over something or someone has multiple stages – denial, anger, bitterness, sorrow and finally acceptance. But what after that? You still have that hole. It never goes away, does it?

So what do you do? You learn to live with the hole. You try not to go near the edge, lest you fall over, open the wounds raw once again and then have to crawl back bleeding to reality. It is a constant effort, one that takes time to master.

Since these are times of listicles, let me jot down some other activities you can undertake to help yourself.

We all are trying to figure out what is best for us. I too am. These helped me at various times in life, and I hope they work for you. Or if you have a better alternative, you can share it in the comments.

1) Explore the regions… of your heart: Imagine a room, which suddenly developed a huge gaping hole in one corner. You will then look at the other parts of the room right (before calling someone to fix it, of course). Exactly the same way, there are other people in your life and heart—friends, family, co-workers, pets, your favourite Barista, take your pick. It always feels better when you know you have someone. So, concentrate on this part of your life—the good stuff. Meet that friend or person who realises that you are loved. Spend time with your co-workers who make you feel useful at work. Count your blessings today. It may not work right away. But slowly, over time, you will realise your own self-worth. And this, my dear, will be your first step.

2) Work: If you happen to be one of those lucky few who like their work, engross yourself in it. Work so hard that it pays. And this payoff will be sweeter. Not just monetarily, but also in terms of your self-esteem. Because not every boss is mean and not every co-worker is trying to put you down. Some are genuinely appreciative. It helps perk your spirits up further.

3) Go artsy: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls,” said Pablo Picasso. I don’t know if he really did say that, but those words sure feel wonderful. And it is true, too! Have you ever gotten so caught up in a book, poetry, writing, painting, music or movie that you forgot time existed? This may sound clichéd, but it is true. I have first-hand experience. Time is not your friend when you are trying to forget someone. And it is this time that we are trying to spend by dipping into art. The best part is that your soul comes out refreshed after those timeless moments.

4) Learn something new: It is sad that we stop learning new things after getting out of school or college. And even then, we were trying to study only to make a career. How many of us really had the light of curiosity in our hearts that trudged even after the exams ended? Who says a Physics or Commerce student can never want to learn about Psychology or Literature, or an Arts student would not want to learn computing? Take up something new today. It may not exactly come handy in your life or career, but you are increasing your knowledge. Most importantly, it helps eat time.

5) Take up a hobby: Yes, it is fairly clichéd, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it does help. There is a reason why you like doing something—it gives you joy! At a time like this, joy is what we need the most! So go spread your wings and take up your hobby again.

6) Travel somewhere far: Life is a journey. You have to put things behind you and start walking. Moving on is the term. It may help to take this literally too. Put some real distance between you and the person. Travel to a new place. Get yourself lost in the wonders of a new place. It is always refreshing to face new experiences.

7) Play some mind-games: Your mind is in your control. ‘Mind over matter’ is my mantra. Here is an exercise for you: Close your eyes. Think of your kitchen. But don’t think about the vegetable cutter, the blender, the grinder. You imagine precisely the kitchen. In life, when we notice someone’s absence from our life, we tend to look at things that we miss. Those essentially make you think of things that probably make you feel whole. Now, how were you before you met the person? You were still happy. Your happiness was not dependent on them. You are the same now. Now, think of abundance. Count on things what you have and what makes you happy. Then, slowly, they will show up.

8) Live a lie until it turns into the truth: Do you know who is the best liar? A person who manages to believe the lie so much that it is the truth for him or her. If you start believing in it, your body will rarely give away your lies. Similarly, start telling yourself you are living a good life, a happy life; you have enough people in your life who care about you; you are happy. Keep chanting this mantra. Wear a wide grin in your face. Try to bring a skip in your step. Make people believe that you are happy and bubbly. Slowly, as time slips away, your lie will become your truth.

At the end of the day, it is easy to wallow in self-pity and live in distress. It is bitter-sweet, the feeling. You want to relive the moments again and again in your head, playing different scenarios. This is the part of you that doesn’t want to let go—of the beautiful thing you shared. But the truth is: you have to let go!

Jungle of emotions

It was the time when dusk turns into twilight. That moment when the sky is a brilliant, but diminishing, hue of colours. The day was still young.

That was when I met him. Me walking slowly along. Him, riding by on his bike.

It was the bike that attracted me, although it was nothing unusual. It was not even a trendy-looking sports bike. Just a usual one, like him. Yet, it attracted me for the stories that I knew it would help me learn. After all, walking through every nook and corner in search of stories is tedious. Quite so.

So, when he stopped and offered a lift, I jumped at the opportunity. Even at the cost of giving up my freedom. Even at the cost of agreeing to be swept under his wings.

I can only guess what he thought of me, or what he expected when he took me aboard. Actually, I can only think I can guess. In reality, the truth may be far away from my guess. Who knows, really!

I, though, wanted to get swept by the current that was life. I was learning to let go of my inhibitions and living the moment. That, I believed, would allow me to experience and learn far more than the safety of peaceful shores would ever allow. I wanted to ride the raging waves.

So, on I went with him on his bike, marvelling at the way the wind tussled my locks. It felt like freedom. Wild, dirty and yet fulfilling. Soon, I forgot I was actually letting go off freedom.

Boy, was it an enriching experience. We did exactly what I wanted to do — roam aimlessly across nameless and faceless streets and roads. Stopped wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. My face was constantly shrouded in merriment, wonder and a huge grin that spread from ear to ear. It really did, I kid you not. Those memories still shine like they were made from gilt.

Soon, we crossed a border into a new territory. It was confusing to say the least. Yet, we went on, confident from our previous escapades that we would win this strange land too.

And that’s when the jungle started. Our bike gave up in defeat to the wildness in the jungle. We had to walk. I could handle walking better than he, so used-to he was his bike.

Imagine how harsh his first lesson in walking was. There were no paved roads, but uneven treacherous land. There were mosquitoes swarming over our heads unlike civilised lands. Not to mention the prickly bushes and branches that we had to sweep away with only our hands. I should have realised we were in waters way over our heads. We should have stopped and turned back.

But that’s the folly of the youth. We think we know our strengths. We scoff at limits. Yet, life is full of limits. Respect them and you will escape with minor scratches.

You know what is the other folly? Denial. He never budged from his stubborn denial. I humoured him. After all, I was under HIS wings, not vice versa. He was leading the way, not I.

I had heard of the jungle, but never understood why it was so scary. I thought every thing in this world had a logic. If one could only get a hang of it, the road would be easier to travel.
I was quite wrong. That is not the universal truth. The real truth is that everything has an exception. And the jungle was the exception to the rule that I thought applied. The jungle had no logic. Emotions have no logic. It is just a big mess. The antithesis to logic. It is chaos. Utter chaos. And we were in the middle of it.
My friend, the lead, finally had the sense to show me a separate path, one that could lead me out of the jungle and back to the roads I knew. He, though, was injured. The jungle had already played its game. He was stuck in the illusion of a quagmire. One that was slowly sucking him in.

I was being played by the illusion of a fog in the jungle. It hid away my vision from me. I was blindly stumbling along, with only my muted gut feeling to guide me. So, I agreed with every word he said, ignoring the rising wariness in my gut.

That’s when he told me he could see a way out. He told me to get help. He told me he will have to stay. It was his game, you see. Bless his soul. All he wanted was to get me back to safety, even at the cost of his own life.

I considered for a while. Standing there was hopeless, he said. It would do no good. My logic agreed.

So, I ran. Away from him. For his sake. And for mine too, if I were honest. I was tired of the jungle. I was getting tired of following him blindly. My gut feeling was getting exhausted by my constant, conscious ignorance.

I stopped for a while and turned to look at him. I needed one last glimpse of those twinkling eyes, those dimpled cheeks, the familiar contours of his face, and the steady strength in his tall figure. I memorised the glance until it was etched in my memory. It still is.

I continued to run after that stopping for nothing. I ran even as I heard something break behind me. One. Two. Three. I counted as I ran. I was afraid to look back and see what was breaking. I ran with greater urgency. As if my running could stop the breaks.

He was right. It did lead me out of the jungle. As the vegetation became sparse, I could see my beloved road. But it was empty. I didn’t know which way to go. Surprisingly, it was still twilight. It was not night. The day was still young.

Inertia is the reason why people can’t accept change. You hold on to the past. I held on to the idea of him. The idea of our friendship. The bike. Those memories. Yet, only silence remained. A silence that spoke of the end.

I looked back at the jungle. Smoke rose from a distance. It was him. As I stood collecting my thoughts and my breath, I knew he was done. His chapter in my life was over.

I turned and started walking the way that took my fancy. I often looked back, wondering about the jungle. His thoughts were my steady companion. I tried to quell the questions. What if…

But there is one thing I do best. I move on.

And on I walked, away from the jungle of emotions. Away from him. With my lessons learnt.

A letter to the lost friend

Dear friend,

How time works its way into our lives. There was a time when we were strangers. Then we became friends. Then best of friends. And then like every empire, which reaches its peak and declines, our friendship too had its downfall.

There was a time when not an hour went by without speaking, sharing, and laughing. There was a time when the days we didn’t meet were rare as a dime. There were days when we were thick, so much that people asked one for the other’s whereabouts. We spoke in the plural. The ‘I’ lost in the ocean of words. We were an open book to each other, a book that wasn’t shared with the world.

Soon, we reached the grey area that separates friendship and love. The place where the platonic and non-platonic meet. We strived to draw boundaries. But who has managed to draw lines in the sand and kept it safe from the waves? The lines had to be blurred. Sometimes I would overstep, sometimes you would. And then we would reassure ourselves that we would make it through, that we wouldn’t let it spoil.

It did, though, didn’t it?

Somewhere along the way, silences took over the words. Distance filled the spaces, which were once masked by hugs and kisses. Eye contact got replaced by far-away looks and hidden glances.

Once, we congratulated ourselves on our maturity to handle life situations. Then, life tested us of our capacities to handle hurt and difference of opinions. And we failed. It is easier to handle hurt inflicted by strangers and those we loved, but remotely so. But hurt caused by our own mirrors? Our own friends, those we considered more important than anyone or anything in the world? That’s the hurt that can undo most. And you were that for me, my friend. And I for you. Probably more.

And so here we are, left with nothing but memories of the laughter; the moments we whiled away with naught a thought of anything material; moments which were an impromptu celebration of life over a small cup of hot tea at the corner of a road; moments where our eyes lit up with love, joy and laughter; innocent moments which now stand like shards of glass in the long road of the past.

Moments, which we cannot touch without drawing blood.

I wish it weren’t so. Yet, here we are, dear friend. Here we are.

Today, we are together only in our shared hurt. That is all that binds us together.

Amazing how love can mutate into anger and hurt so easily. Don’t you think, friend?

And that said, there are days when I almost convince myself all is well. That some day, we can still get back our friendship. Some days, I can manage to spend shuffling through the pages of the past without a heavy heart. Some days, I laugh with the memories without drawing tears.

Today, though, is not that day. Today, I wish my friend were here, creating new memories. Today, I am only accompanied by the hollow space you left in my life.

Today is miles away from your past.

Dear Time

Source: http://consciouslifenews.com/3-ways-make-most-intuition/
Source: http://consciouslifenews.com/3-ways-make-most-intuition/

Dear Time, can you stop for a while?
So I can say goodbye,
to the moments that touched my heart;
Even the ones that made me cry;
End them with a full stop,
Instead of the three dots you’re known for.
Dear Time, can you slow down for a while?
I’d like to hug my friend,
Who’s no more in my life.
Or stare into those eyes,
that often filled my heart with warmth,
Before they turn all cold and dry.
Dear Time, can you pause and rewind?
I hate to leave my loved ones back.