Memories, they curl away. Eventually. Like the corners of coffee-stained pages from an old notebook. Shut tight and laden with tales, pressed between the covers. Heavy, ready to wilt, saddled with magic and dreams, like a belly full of secrets still untold.
Words. And memories. Of times past. They sit in neat little rows, like freshly bloomed flowers. Sandwiched, an inky transition between then and now. And in that space between, is me. Like a rock stuck in a brook. Precariously balanced, delicately negotiating between what was, what is, and what will be. Holding on to what footing my round egdes can catch, weighing out the choices, plucking moments like undoing those annoying folded doggy-eared pages. I fix them, straighten them, press them out so they can breathe a little. Unfurl. Uncurl. Let the air pass along the crease, only to clamp them shut again. Return them to their spot between then and now. Squeezed tight like the whitening knuckles on my fist. They slip into the gaps and fill out.
I pick another one. Open it up, and watch the words, like the stains of memories, a record of moments set adrift. They dance out, standing up like little girls doing ballet. Toes pointed, bodies taut, teetering along in dotted rows down a brittle, fragile, crust page thats aged over time. They make their way to the edge, balancing gracefully, gently moving closer to freedom. Only to curl away, turn the corner, and disappear.
It’s been three days of listening to the incessant churn of the sea. That necessary hum that pretty soon blends into the background, just enough not to intrude but always loud enough so you don’t forget where you are. And why you’re feeling so relaxed.
It’s been three days of waking up before the crack of dawn (yep, VC made me do it) to catch the sunrise.
It’s been three days of extra long days (because, refer point above) of unending, extreme relaxation. Punctuated only be breaks to drink, eat and sleep. All my time has been spent mostly horizontally, or semi-horizontally. Reading. Chatting with VC. Giggling. Watching. Taking it all in.
It’s been three days of being drunk on relaxation and waking up with a shadow of a hangover. From feeling very relaxed, of course. Not too shabby a start to year 32, I’d say.
Maybe it’s the holiday glow, or maybe I’m just old, but when I look back at the post from last year, all I feel is a tremendous sense of calm. I can see just what has changed from then to now. And yet, I know exactly what hasn’t.
Part of me was a little worried we aren’t getting out and roaming around enough. That we’re missing the sights and the tourists spots. But I quickly realised that’s not who we are. We exhausted our sight seeing enthusiasm on day one. Our holidays always boil down to this kind of relaxation. And that’s okay.
To begin the year in peace — with my phone out of reach from most, sitting on the balcony facing the sea, watching the sun creep out from behind the hills, chai in one hand and my book in the other, hungrily reading away, doing absolutely nothing else. This is a lot more than I could ask for.
The last time we went on a big fat holiday it was because I was worn out and saddened by what my work had become. I used the time to switch off, decompress and de-wire. I wasnt on Facebook, hadn’t been for two years before, and I hadn’t discovered Instagram. That mini-break eventually became the serendipitous realisation that what I really needed was a life that I didn’t want to constantly escape. A life that didn’t make me desperately crave a holiday. By the end if the holiday I had found what I was looking for. The much needed courage to take a sabbatical from work even though it seemed like the craziest, scariest thing to do at the time.
This time around things are very different. When we planned this one, part of me did it because I suddenly realised one day, that OMG-it’s-been-three-years-since we last took a break. And part of me did it because I wanted VC to take a real, solid break. I, frankly, don’t deserve this holiday. And going by the levels of sloth and luxury that are panning out as we go, this feeling only gets stronger. My regular life though busy and hectic as it is, is still very simple and I like it that way because it is fulfilling. It has fashioned itself so simply that when I want to take a break just driving out about ten minutes to hit rolling fields, catching a drink on a beach nearby or just spending a Sunday cooking suffice. Actually not just suffice, it totally hits the spot. I don’t know when or how it happened but when I did the math, I realised that as someone who felt the itch to go somewhere once a month, I may have turned over an all new leaf.
This time the feeling of wanting to escape life is missing. I am happy to be away from my routine but that’s about it. It was meant to be a gadget-free holiday. I ditched my laptop at home like I always do, but armed my ipad with a couple of books. When I turned my phone off on boarding the flight at Bangalore I was prepared to be off the grid completely. I thought I’d perhaps not be the over-sharing picture-taking tourist for a change.
BUT. Sri Lanka has put a massive spoke in all that yougaiizzzz.
With it’s strawberry blushing sunsets. Thick, acrylic skies that make you question science. Happy, cheerful people who you want to grab and hug for no reason at all. Beautifully clean, quaint and undiscovered corners. Pristine colonial sights that make you want to have chicken sandwiches and tea. With it’s gentle marrying of religious serenity and transactional tourism. It’s incredible capacity to make me want to hang on to every memory in tedious detail. It’s ethereal moments that catch me off guard. With it’s colours that pop. And it’s charm that beguiles even the cautious travellers that we are.
The last time I was on a big, fat holiday I turned off my phone and escaped life. I had nowhere to share my pictures and I didn’t care to either. My holiday was all mine and I wanted to soak myself in it completely.
This time it’s so different. Sri Lanka is too pretty not to be photographed. I’ve turned my phone off, but I can’t stop taking pictures. I’ve come so far away from home, but I haven’t escaped. I’m having an impossibly good time but I want to share snapshots of it all with you. Maybe it’s because all those lets-get-back-home-and-write-all-about-it moments never materialise. So instant over sharing makes sense.
V said this morning, sometimes you’re making memories, sometimes you’re living the life you’d envisioned already. Maybe this is one of those few times that it’s possible to do both. At once.
Our original plan was to pass through Kandy without spending too much time in the hill town itself. It reminded me too much of Ooty. A cleaner version of Ooty no less, but with that same crowded, busy, commercial energy. We wanted to skip it entirely and proceed further onward to Sigiriya or Dambulla, to something of historic or geographic significance. But when our hosts at Colombo insisted we spend some time in Kandy we gave it a thought, imagining that Sri Lankans can’t possibly go wrong with something so basic.
A whole day of roaming around Kandy I was convinced we wouldn’t have missed much if we had skipped it and moved on as originally planned. But I’m on holiday with a geek whose sole mission is to find the next best location with a dramatic view (preferably with a fantastic foreground). So with optimism brimming we wandered around some more. Sipping chai in a mountain view cafe called Slightly Chilled we spotted the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue atop the hill in the distance, across the lake we had just walked around.
Let’s go there, my geek said. And because end of day redemption with sunsets throwing promising parting shots, leaving us breathless, seems to be a thing with us, I agreed.
The confidence with which the tuktuk guys agree to navigate the steep hill slopes makes you want to believe them with all your heart. But a look around shakes that confidence just as easily. A swift Sindhi-style negotiation later, we put our faith in a newly befriended tuktuk walla and began a rather winding ride up, that seriously made me reconsider my estimations of what a mere auto rickshaw is capable of.
Finally on top, at the feet of the Big Buddha, all 88 feet of it, with splendid views of Kandy all around I was overwhelmed. How does one take it all in? So many sights, so much pretty light, such beautifully oversaturated colours, stark puffy clouds dense and overpowering. And the mighty Buddha seated in such serenity.
And because we’re as different as chalk and cheese, I wanted to take big gulps of it all. Hurried, greedy, big gulps to get it all, and as much of it as I could. While of course VC was more interested in the little things.
A bush with bendy flowery swaying gently in the wind, squinting at the sky to see if the clouds were moving fast enough to set up for a time lapse, rows of prayer flags that seemed to go on for miles — all the little nuances that in my haste, I had missed completely.
But I digress. Massively.
The point of this post was to tell you about end of day redemption. Which to me came in the form of this little critter.
Surprisingly, she showed zero signs of fear at my feet stomping and vehement shoo-shooing, as she playfully yapped at my ankles and chases after me, right at my heels, completely oblivious to the big moves I was making to get away from her.
It became evident that sign language and random noises were not going to work. So I had a chat with her. Girl to girl.
And she stood around listening intently. Nothing perturbed her. Oddly unafraid of being admonished, she placed her fuzzy chin on my knees looking at me with goop-filled puppy dog eyes that said But why won’t you just play with me?
She seemed determined to make friends with me. Circling me, following me and trying endlessly to get to know me. Looking and behaving uncannily like the black puppy we lost last year.
Maybe it is her, VC said, looking away from the sunset that had made his day. And that, right there, my day too, was made.