Walk the walk

I can’t call myself a traveller just yet, but I have moved around enough to pretend I’m one. Truth be told, I have wished I was travelling instead of moving at more than one instance. When I was struggling to bridge the cultural gap or make up for it, when my previously successful sense of humour fell flat in a different time and different language. My confidence wavered, speech stuttered and personality went through absurd changes. I always came back to who I was when I found my people, but I was most at peace with myself when I was out there by myself, exploring this new place and falling in love with it.

Sticks and stones

Walking through a well-manicured park in Melbourne, I see a stick between the blades of grass. It’s a long-enough, thick-enough, less-than-a-branch, more-than-a-twig stick. The kind that stands up, crosses its arms and dares me to pick it up.

The 8-year-old Indian schoolgirl in my head wants to pick it up. She wants to drag it along the sand, all the way from here until the end of the song on her lips.

That’s another thing I miss about India. Random lines dragged along the path from nowhere to somewhere. Marking our thoughts as we walked back home from school.

Or stones. You’d always find stones gathered outside homes. Stones from 2 blocks down. From where that day’s dream began. We would kick it as we walked home. As we imagined, dreamed, sang.

It’s always the simplest things that stay with you, and it could not get simpler than this. Just a stick and a stone, mapping the short walk from the bus stop to my doorstep.

Not that we needed a distraction, because there was never a dull moment in India. Not even when everyone, including the birds and stray dogs, were having their afternoon siesta. We did it as a dance to accompany our wild fantasies. We did it to make the walk home shorter. Or longer. We did it because there was a stick, a stone and an open path.

Get lost

It must’ve been a day like the one I was having when Lawrence Durrell wrote in Justine: In the midst of winter you can feel the invention of spring.

I was still new to Melbourne and on my way to a job interview. The tinniest hint of pollen in the air had given me the confidence to venture out on my own. Naturally, I took the right tram going in the wrong direction. So lost was I in the winter-spring-ness, that I didn’t realise my mistake until I was at the opposite end from where I needed to be. So I wound up enjoying the ride twice, as I took the tram back to my destination.

After my interview, I jumped on the same tram for the third time that day. I stepped off at a random stop and got lost. Lost within the laneways, brick walls, café-behind-a-café, shop-within-a-shop.

One too many left turns later, I turned right and stumbled into the smallest op-shop (thrift store). The smell of dust and crumbling paper and fading clothes and fresh memories made it feel anything but small. The surge of happiness I felt made me laugh; I had just found a piece of my soul I didn’t know was missing. I was afraid the spring in my step might push me over the stack of mismatched cups and saucers.

With a bagful of treasures in one arm and a vintage milk crate under the other, I found myself drawn towards the aroma of freshly toasted bread wafting out of a narrow slit in the wall. Behind the slit was the beginning of my breakfast obsession; a quaint little café that completed my perfect warm winter day with a breakfast stack of a heavenly poached egg sprinkled with dukkah perched on a bed of wilted spinach and garlic mushrooms carefully balanced over a crispy golden hash brown laid out over a spread of avocado and feta on a slice of impeccably toasted sourdough. I know, the adjectives are practically drooling out of my mouth.

I found out a lot about myself when I got lost. I found out that I like old books with notes scribbled in them and curios that don’t fit into any style bracket. I like talking to strangers. I was still petrified at the thought of talking to strangers. I like eating alone by the window. I was bad at catching trams, and it was one of my best qualities. I found out that I was falling in love with Melbourne, one wrong turn at a time.

I didn’t get the job that day, but I got Melbourne.

Goosey Goosey Wander

Writing this post has opened the floodgates, and memories are gushing right in. The short walk from school to home in Kuwait, with the allure of home pulling me forward while the endless conversations slowed down my every step. Hot sand under my feet and hot gossip on my mind. Or early morning temple visits with my mum in India; the lane leading to the temple would be saturated with smells of breakfast being laid out and incense sticks and freshly scrubbed school kids.

Sigh. There’s so much more living to do.

I said MOVE!

6 months ago, my husband, son and I upped and left our cushy lives in Melbourne to embark on a little adventure, to work/live/play overseas. One last adventure before it’s all PTAs and football/dance practice. Or the first adventure to kick-start PTAs and football/dance practice? We were nervous then, and bloody nervous now. We’ve been having too much fun to get actual jobs, so here’s hoping our savings learn to copulate and make little money babies.

Packing up was a bitch. Between selling stuff on Buy, Sell, Swap sites and tossing things in the bin, I re-lived all my stupid decisions and ever-evolving (read confused) personal style. I’ve been through the mass produced phase to the exclusive boutique collections and now I find myself quite happily perched on my op-shop/ thrift-shop high horse (Pre-loved horse, naturally.)

So I packed up all my faded vases, torn suitcases, rusty typewriter and $2 dresses, and ran to catch my flight. Of course, I helped my husband and 1-year-old pack their slick new things in their fancy 4-wheeler suitcases, but I’ll include them in this blog-thingy when it suits me, unlike in real life.

1 week in India, and I’m already heavier with all the home-cooked deliciousness and drunk on the power of laziness. Laundry, done. Cooking, done. Cleaning, done. Ah! The joys of being home with your Mama. Unless I’m your Mama, then you better start cleaning up. And get mama a cheese sandwich when you’re done.

The heat here is nothing like I remember. It’s almost vindictive. Like nature is punishing us for all the abuse we hurl at her, for taking her for granted. I’d agree with her, but my wits are melting along with my face, and my blue hair is dripping blue sweat down my sweat-stained shirt. Sweat.

Two 60th birthdays, one 70th birthday and two big fat Indian weddings later, we may be ready to get back to reality. Apart from the usual noise, pigging out and chaotic fun that is every Indian function, this year I got to try my hand at event planning. From designing centerpieces to writing & directing little skits for the families, I found a way to put my neurotic control-freakness to good use. Let’s earmark that as career option #23.

I’m an engineer by qualification and a copywriter by profession. Making this move means I get a chance to try out another career. Editor, teacher, suit, party planner? I barely qualify as a copywriter, so these other ideas that float into my head may be as far-fetched as they seem. Or maybe I charm my way into any field with my…umm…okay, maybe not. I’ll just wing it.