I’ve started to travel 3 hours a day again. Working from home obviously has its enormous perks but there something about being on the road that just thrills me like nothing else.
For one, there’s always something exciting happening on the road -travelling from one corner of Bangalore to another is in itself an adventure. But then there are days like today when instead of rolling your windows up and looking away, you look into the eyes of a homeless old lady and smile, even if you don’t give her any money. There is something about acknowledging the presence of a person that does more to their day than any other financial or material resource.
I know this because the old lady had a smile on her face, tears in her eyes and she blessed me – she held her hands up in a “Namaste”, told me she wishes God would bless me and make me happy as I had made her. She really sounded like she needed it. And it would be a lie to say I wasn’t overwhelmed. I did nothing but smile and yet, someones day was infinitely better for it and my level of energy shot up a 100%
The power of words is often overstated, don’t you think? Today, I’m campaigning for the power of a wordless zing.
Amidst the concrete jungle that is the heart of Kuala Lumpur, you often find lush green gardens and parks that you could stroll in for ages. Quite like magic, sometimes you happen upon cool lakes and fountains in which you can rest your sore feet. This is an amazing place to not just get away from the noise and restlessness of corporate Malaysia but to find yourself in the middle of vibrant stories.
Like of old men who walk slowly but with purpose with their canes and backs bent without a care in the world. They have little bags under their armpits – old, faded, leather. Sitting on one of the benches of the park near a water fountain, I observed how the whole park was dotted with similar looking old men.
Eventually they made their way to these unique benches and took out their priced treasures from their leather satchels – well used chess pieces and begin some of the most entertaining matches I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Sometimes, there are languages that transcends words – the li’l grunts on frustration or victory, the fist bumps, folding your hand over your chest and the most impressive of all, the toothless grin. These are universal and wherever I go, I keep my eyes peeled for them. They tell the best stories.
Read more of my adventures abroad here – a story about my first time in Europe and the things I had to teach myself! : )
We decided to camp out because as warm nights usually go, this one was beautiful. The stars stretched infinitely above us like we were actually just in a planetarium – yes, I’m trying to compare the Tanzanian night sky to HD quality video. Sad, I know but you’d have to see it to believe it.
We had a bonfire going where we were roasting strips of meat as was customary and while enjoying our bottles of Serengeti, the topic of local legends came up. And then stories of fairy-tales and magic turn to horror stories.
MK – This isn’t anything like your Mohini/Noorie story from the other week. Our ghost is not a ghost. It’s more like an evil spirit-creature called Popo Bawa that goes around sexually assaulting its victims
Me – Of course, nothing says horror like “Bat Wing“. You sure you aren’t basing your hero on the DC Comic?
MK – Shush, stop interrupting. Legend has it an angry sheikh once summoned a djinni to take vengeance on one of his neighbors. And as you know, djinns are not to be messed with cause they are so clever. This one, like all others, obviously learnt how to dupe his master and escaped.
Me – Obviously. And then it proceeded to make home in a lamp?
MK – Ha. Ha. It wouldn’t be as funny when it comes looking for you.
Me – Not really a problem. All I have to do is keep a look out for bats. Right?
MK – Hilarious, because the Popo Bawa is a very proficient shapeshifter that attacks at night. It enters a house, sodomizes all the family members and then threatens the family that if they don’t tell everyone about it, it would come back whenever the fancy struck it.
Me – Yikes, how do you keep it away?
MK – Apparently, a fresh trail would smell like sulphur. When that happens, the entire family huddles outside by the fire and stays awake all night. Some have said that reading a few lines of the Koran will banquish it the same way holy water does.
Me – You’re then going to tell me about staying inside salt circles and using silver bullets aren’t you?
MK – Popo Bawa has been sighted only near the coast – don’t think salt will have any effect. It’s curious though because the creature only seems to strike during great political unrest. There were reports of it during all the major elections that threatned to get ugly. There are even doctors that are willing to testify that they have treated numerous alleged Popo Bawa victims. They all say they haven’t seen the creature but have seen giant bat wing type shadows fall on them before the attack.
Me – No one’s tried exorcisms? I’ve been threatned a number of times with it cause I’m so “weird”
MK – There are some tribes that place charms at the base of fig trees or sacrifice goats and use its blood to guard their doors. In one village, apparently it possessed a young girl called Fatuma and had a deep man’s voice as it spoke through her and they heard the sound of a car revving on a nearby roof.
Me – WHAT? This is obviously a very new legend. You sure you didn’t just make it up after watching The Dark Knight?
MK – Hmmm, I might have to take you to the mganga (socerer). Evil spawn of the Popo Bawa.
I know that my last few posts have started with me apologizing for not writing for a long time but fuck it, my life has been pretty sweet of late and I’ve been more outdoors than actually at home. It’s not likely that I’ll forget how lovely it is, most days, to live out of suitcases but it’s nice to do it every few weeks, just so you don’t become too stuck in your comfort zone.
So what have I been doing? Erm, everything – because and I quote “YOLO Bitches!” I mean, all this time we were living multiple lives and if it weren’t for Drake, we’d never have realized that we have just one life to go crazy over, okay?
Well, that brings us to lists and photos – because the awesomeness has accumulated more with every day I pushed off writing this. And because I’m so nice, I’m just going to post the highlights!
I had never been to a holiday for the sake of a holiday till I was 24. This shouldn’t be surprising considering I’m born to self-realised Social Activists/AidWorkers who can never really draw the line between work and anything else and it would be hypocritical of me to complain because in this field, work is life. And I’m pretty much the same. Still, any holiday we took as children would be combined with a work detour. When we went to the beach, we also made a side visit to the fishing villages that were struck by tornados or a giant tsunami. If we went away elsewhere, there would be villages with a flood situation, with food scarcity and with sheep I could kidnap.
For every essay we had to submit on Shakespeare and the Skeletal System, we had a summer of adventure to look forward to, so much so that the idea of just getting away to do nothing seems preposterous even after all these years. I went backpacking across Europe to end up volunteering in a small village in France. I went to Africa to see the place but ended up working for 7 straight months – even in places where I went to take a break. You know where this is going right? Classic movie sequence of epiphany that hits because of something a stranger observes that you hadn’t even realized before? Yeah, that.
That was my first holiday, and like all firsts, you remember it fondly. I went to Zanzibar thinking I’d spend one day looking around and the evening at the beach and the next day, volunteering at a Madarasa. I ended up staying a week and doing nothing but sipping gin cocktails, making friends with a cat that was older than the island and taking in sunrises and sunsets on the Indian Ocean. I had quite a bit of unlearning and letting go to do.
Earlier this year when I realised I could go away again, I picked a place because my grandmother, who I’ve come to know only through the stories I’ve been told, was born there and came away to India by a treacherous ship journey that took months and months. I learnt that she used to be royalty in Malaysia and when they came to India, they lost everything. And she had her adventures- she was the first of her family to study in a British School when they opened up the schools to Indians (It was the same school my sister and I studied in) She fell in love and married an orphan boy and lived a life she never thought she could/would.
When I booked my tickets and got my visa, people asked me why I was going – I had a massive Sméagol fit.
2 weeks on a holiday doing nothing but exploring? Not going near a volunteer project or a social cause? Not on any freelance travel writing project? An empty itinerary/list of things to do? Just going with the flow? And then I was finally able to say it.