To love is to let go

To love is to let go

And yet, to love is to want with all your heart

The one person, to complete you

Funny, how it can mean sharing their joy

And basking in their excitement

While feeling bereaved

Oh that bittersweet twitch that is love

To love is to let go

But how can I tell my heart

The one who fills it with sunshine

Needs to be free, to be the sun

That two free birds

Are meant to be apart

To love is to let go

While the opposites reconcile

Great joy at their happiness

And deep sorrow at your loss

The need to be one, together

And to be one, alone,

Selfless. And selfish

To love is to let go

Watch them run to you

And also step away

With their back to you

Let go

No matter how hard

In search

Down the rabbit hole

I jumped in search

Of the voice, lost

Long back amidst

The chaos of every

Day’s monotony

Of feelings felt

But left unturned

Of thoughts thought

But left unpenned

Of the myriad opinions

Left to oneself

And the burning

Sagacious questions

Swallowed down without a care

For it’s easier

To go numb

And shut down the mind

The heart and soul

To shield

From the vagaries of life

From the cruel hands of fate

And the painful desperation

Of actions going wrong

And injustices being wrought

Of despair haunting every corner

Or hurt lurking under the skin

Just waiting to be sniffed out

From their glory holes

And turn every normal beating heart

Heavy.

For it’s easier, the ignorance

Than the raw nerves

Exposed to everything

Untoward.

But what a pity

For to truly build a fort

Must you lock in

Your self

And everything happy,

Hope, love, and change.

Displacement

Impulsive hair cuts

Expensive evenings shopping

Idle days online

Replacing the hollow

Inside one post, one picture

One dress at a time

Busy days, jittery nights

One more project. One extra glass

One pitcher of wine

Or whiskey on the rocks of hope

Maybe liquid will do to the gaps

That solid can’t fill

Science class from school taught

Displacement

Tectonic shifts

Earthquakes

Quiet aftershocks

But as they also taught

Mass & energy can only be moved

Neither destroyed nor created

So where did it go

That which filled the hollows

In search, travel

Pictures on Instagram

New friends, large smiles

Adventure. Excitement

Momentary joys

Shedding ties. Burning bridges

Blurring the way home

Losing track of time

Displaced emotions

Replaced objects

New hair cuts. Beautiful dresses

Monies spent

Renting happiness

How much did life cost?

The accountants count

X moments of joy

Long and short

Y million dollars

Your balance sheet of life

Written over your shroud

As it hides

Your fresh haircut, your bright new dress

Who teaches you to come back?

Travel—it’s a common theme these days. So many of the inspirational posts doing the rounds these days are about letting go of the vagaries of life and travelling.

Travel to your heart’s content. Travel until your feet can’t move anymore. Travel until your heart expands to fit the whole world in. And then, travel some more, they say.

It’s a beautiful concept. And travel one must.

But who will teach you to come back home?

Home with it’s chores and daily schedules. Who will remind you of their urgencies and the reason why you withstood the painpoints?

Home with it’s shackles and binds, heating your skin up that was, until a split second ago, cold from the breeze blowing against you on the tall cliff.

Home with it’s dull grey skies and polluted city centres, where only the young and foolish think they’re free. Wasn’t it not too long ago until you were one of those?

Home, where the parties have come to an end and the after-parties only rise and ebb in the chorus of the sonorous snores.

Home, where the 5.00 am alarm rings you, and you don’t jump out, excited about chasing the sun rise from the east. No, instead you drag your feet to the bathroom and drape yourself in the anonymity of dreary clothes.

Where all texts you get are from colleagues and a handful of friends left in the drainage pipe, ready to ride away the time train. Not, from friends made a few minutes back, making excited plans to discover a pristine hidden beach or get up close to a tall mountain peak.

No. How do you get back?

When all you’re faced with is the list of compromises you made to stabilize reality. When you have to relive the decisions—the friends cut off, the people you retain; the habits newly formed at the behest of old ones gone. Everything that formed the new skin you sew for yourself over time, shedding bits and pieces of the old one again and again, minutes and hours at a time.

Will you agree with each of those?

Would you take the time to mourn what you left behind long before you travelled? But adhere to what’s left?

Or will you rethink your life, change the compromise that’s no more comfortable, and chase after what you decided to leave behind?

How do you answer all your questions about yourself, the people and the world around you, when all you’re expected to do is be normal…again?

And so, you escape. You relive your travels again and again in your mind, avoiding the realities unfolding before your eyes. You forget the life you’re living, and love the past, holding onto it with a desperate vigour, all the while being painfully aware that those memories are fading.

Going, going…. Gone.

There. Now you’re back to reality.

Or are you?

Would you…

Would you hate someone in their presence or love/miss them in their absence?

For the truth is, you can love some people only when there’s enough space. Sometimes, getting close gets too close, like walking over people…in a stampede. And distance, well, it’s like a breath of fresh air, oxygen without which the bond can’t survive.

Tell me, would you rather like a person without loving them, or love them without liking them?

The world we live in tells us to choose the other, for what’s greater than love? Even if it comes at the cost of great strife and quarrels. Fights and insults, are but an extension of love. But tell me, wouldn’t you rather chose peace? Wouldn’t you rather want a person because you like them, because of a strong kinship, rather than be forced to be with them because of an impestuous force called love? Maybe it lacks animated passion, but it’s full of understanding and selfless empathy.

Would you rather spend nights awake in the misery of love or sleep peacefully having known none? For if you’ve never tasted it, you’d never know the high highs or the low lows that it can bring about, don’t you think?

Then why does the world tell us to prefer love over caring kinship? Except for this beautiful beautiful piece

Lady Gaia

An attempt at poetry after years of dry spell

Lady Gaia
In peace, she rests
With a Velveteen cover
Of bright green hues
Dark green lace
Rotund mounds and humps of dew
On a Bed of blue
Pillows of white
Chirping music in the background
Lovely fragrance
Of lush nature
Whiff of tea, lemon grass and pinecones
And whatever wild trees are made of
Light brown veins
Carry her lifelines
Who she let’s live on her
Caring, caressing
Sometimes they tickle
Sometimes they poke
Most of the times they scurry around
Unlike her other multilegged sows
They savour. They support
Her body like she does their life
The two-legged ones, though
Don’t treat her right
But a mother is as a mother does
On she loves
On she leaves
With peace, she let’s them be

Thank the butterflies

Many years back, I watched this movie called The Butterfly Effect. It was quite captivating. The premise of the movie is that, the smallest of the changes in time can cause cascading effects. Many movies and books have dealt with this aspect of time travel.

And every day, I wonder what my actions have led to or what actions of others has led to the reality as I lived it. It’s quite fascinating. I wonder if some alien is looking at the myriad permutations and combinations of events like the scene in Men In Black 3.

Of course, even if there is one, it could very well be a figment of my imagination. But what I have noticed are things that may not have happened if the event preceding hadn’t shaped up the way it was.

And boy were there many such combinations of coincidences that happened during my trip.

For example: Had my flight to Brussels not been delayed by 4 hours, I wouldn’t have been so tired in the first few days of my trip.

This tiredness got carried forward to my second stop in San Sebastian. Then, I wouldn’t have been laid back on the first evening.

As a result, I may not have bumped into two lovely ladies from UK or spent the night chatting away to glory. Nor would they have told me about the lovely free city walking tour. And had I not gone on it, my day may not have turned out the way it did—long, tiring but fulfilling.

Then, I may have woken up earlier the next morning and not faced a series of delays and missed buses/trains as I toured across the Basque County.

And if I had not missed the buses, I may not have seen as much of the county as I really did. I certainly would not have taken the bus that took the coastal route and went through many small towns and villages. The beautiful video I did capture wouldn’t have happened. Thank God!

(YouTube link here: https://youtu.be/8_lsphOCub0)

Neither would I have gone to the end of this cliff:

Oh, this series continues forward.I may have then reached the Picos earlier in the night or been less tired.

Thus, I may have woken up earlier the next morning in Picos de Europa. I may have then taken the longer trail over the Carres George as I had intended too, instead of the smaller one I took.

And I would have never met the lovely Australian gentleman, who’s now turned into a beloved pen pal (through email, though).

Barcelona would have been a different experience too, without the debilitating knee injury caused by the hike. But then, I would’ve exerted and roamed around more—making the trip more hectic.

Instead, the series of misadventures helped me slow down and take easier breaths. Quality, thus, trumped quantity.

Similarly, when I got to know Sierra Nevada would be deserted, I had to make a choice of staying back or moving on to another location. I chose to stay back.

That one decision opened the door to meeting and learning from this lovely Barista, who was originally from Morocco.

I spent the next two days with the lady. She opened up to me about her story, teaching me so many lessons about life and living. Not to mention, the wonderful hospitality that she offered.

On the second day, she directed me to another branch for better food. There, I met this beautiful Swedish couple and a German cyclist.

One thing led to another, and the next day, I found myself with the Swedish couple heading to Costa del Sol, which was my next destination. Thanks to them, I saw one extra city, got to see more of the sunny coast AND reached much earlier than I otherwise would have.

Lovely, isn’t it?!

Many such coincidences happened over the course of my travels. Not all of them were palatable. Many were most definitely not great. I’m sure quite a few people would’ve let these ruin their mood or given up.

But that’s the thing. What seems negative may just be so on the face of it. For all you know, it could be a blessing in disguise. It could be the reason you ended up with the happy opportunities. Who knows.

What I do know is this: I don’t jump the moment something seems to go off. Think, there could be another way. And this could just be an opportunity in the making.

Like the little butterfly that has to suffer and break through the shell of her cocoon to strength her muscles.

My friend calls this the Chaos theory. I call it my secret ingredient for happines. It’s easier to live and love the moment when it’s not a means to an end.

When it’s just a single moment, and you can bind many such moments to form a beautiful necklace of the jewels of memory.

Wish for more; wish for nothing

Have you ever had enough of something and yet wanted a bit more of it?

I never thought I did until I traveled. Until then, it was clear whether I wanted more of something or whether I had had enough. It was an ‘either or’ situation; they were mutually exclusive.

Now, though, as I hit the last leg of my journey, I find myself wanting different things that seem opposite to each other.

I can’t wait to go back home. I feel 10-13 days has been long enough. I’ve traveled enough to satisfy me for a few months.

And then, I wish I had a few months more—travel at leisure with weeks spent in one place instead of a day or two. Hang around and work a few odd jobs like the locals; backpack around for a fair bit; don’t look back at home for a year or so; maybe volunteer a bit too!

It’s weird because they’re exactly opposite to each other. I can’t eat the cake and have it too. I can’t be at home and travel too.

And yet, that’s what I find myself feeling.

As much as I love the new experiences, I’m starting to feel like taking it slow, giving a few places a miss, sit at one place for longer—few days even. And then the tiredness gives way to a craving for the comforts of home.

And yet, I find myself craving to be the person who had once wanted to volunteer and travel for months at a time; do odd jobs that earns you enough to let you travel from one place to another; get a glimpse of the local life; not be a mere traveller or tourist. Be an actual gypsy. 

But then, reality strikes. Neither am I the young gun who would’ve had the balls to do it. Nor do I have the will to actually proceed through. At best, I can buy myself travel-led freedom for two weeks. Maybe, some day, when I look back, I’ll feel it’s enough. Hopefully. Or maybe not.

I think the problem is of having had too much. An overdose of good things too can be problematic. It doesn’t give you enough headspace to appreciate, observe, feel and digest.

In a lot many ways, it’s a classic first world problem. 

Nonetheless, I count myself lucky to have been given this opportunity. And I won’t give up what I’ve experienced for anything. It’s been an amazing journey—better than I could have ever dreamt of! I’m proud of myself for having achieved this. And now, I can’t wait for more such changes and experiences. 

Until then, may be a little bit of home would be good. Or may be a little extra travel.

No gain without pain

Spain is my first solo travel. Until now, I’ve only traveled in groups, barring a few day-trips when I studied in the UK. It reached a point where I realized I am not too happy in a group. Such trips have always left me wanting a little more. I still had an unidentified craving left, even after spending two-three weeks on vacation.

I figured, maybe… Just maybe, I’m meant for solo travel instead. So, I jumped onto the idea of traveling in Spain without a second thought the moment opportunity arose. And more importantly, spent no moment waiting (or asking) for company. I wanted to do it alone. (Sorry, friends and family!)

Before the trip, I was both excited and nervous. Most people asked me to be cautious. Even my own sister who’s back-packed across Europe asked why I’m traveling alone. But I had decided, and there was no going back. I packed the nerves along with the rest of my belongings. It didn’t help that my trip started on a not-so-great note. My flight was terribly delayed and I missed my connecting flight.

It’s been eight days in the country so far, and I already feel like I’ve grown heaps. This place has given me so many beautiful experiences. Solo traveling has been everything I dreamt so far.

But here’s the thing. It’s not always sunny. There will be moments when you’re down.

Like this:

Or this:

Or getting scalded by a hot pane during lunch.

The first is called the Hiker’s Knee. It’s not serious, thankfully. But it does mean you stay in bed for a day or so with R. I. C. E. — rest, ice, compression and elevation. And maybe some Ibuprofen or Combiflam. And so, despite the knee issue, this happened:

The second is a weird bruise on my thigh that’s been travelling with me since the start (maybe?). I have absolutely no idea what I bumped into, where or when. But it’s there, a colourful company. Thankfully, it doesn’t hurt.

But this isn’t surprising. You always have to pay up to get something in life. There are no free lunches.

So far, I’ve paid with things like rings and coats on ever single trip of mine. This time, since life is offering more, it’s asking for more sacrifices in return too.

That said, why it would take only one of my favourite pair of earrings, I don’t know. Heh.

Maybe there’s a special place where all these sacrifices and donations accumulate, a warehouse of sorts. Maybe this is where gifts from too! Who knows.

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!