Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Past and Furious

Belgium, for all that's said about it, is a colorful and powerful country. But the view of a traveler is so dramatically influenced by personal experiences, that abstracting out from travelogues is a gross approximation.

And that's especially true if you are a solo female traveler who meets an intellectual criminologist - a witty man who speaks English as a second language, using little-too-appropriate words and wren-and-martin grammer.
She had met him earlier, and now she was in his town as if by chance, but actually because she had planned this visit in her itinerary. He came to pick her up at Eindhoven, a small town in Netherland, and they crossed the border to Belgium by car. (crossing national borders so easily just doesn't come so easy to Indians).
Initially it was awkward, but he being him, went on to spout information, crack jokes etc. Even the silence got comfortable. They reached his house and directly headed for the lawn where they sat under the sun, drinking beer. They talked about travel, grass, music, wacky crimes, teaching, ex-girlfriends, cynicism (not connected to ex-girlfriends), poetry and people skills. They yapped till it was late evening. He took her out for a stroll to show her his part-time job - owning & managing a cozy and chilled cafe in his town. They walked along the wharf and watched the waves. After dinner, they went home where he put on world music and poured some wine. They danced - he did some solos and she laughed with tears in her eyes... watching him perfom his moves, in the candle light. It was a magical evening.

She then moved on in her travels, and he, in his life. It was a dream sequence of life that happened while she was transitioning from one state to another - one mindset to another - one roadblock to another.
It made a lasting impact - to have seen something very beautiful is to set a standard - to measure everything that comes consecutive on that yardstick - to see things not as they are, but in comparison to that most beautiful thing.

And then, after a few years, came the day when there was a new development... from old times.
She found herself amidst a newer setting - not the carefree and breezy one as that of a travel-junkie, but the grounded and pragmatic approach of a 'settled' mind. It made sense to play a game that was socially more acceptable and had more guaranteed returns, than the one which was suspended on hopes of reliving the fresh life of travel and love and everything free and liberating. One in hand seemed clearly better than two in the bushes of expectations and dreams.

This newer setting came home :-)
He chanced upon her belongings and picked up a tattered paper from her travel memoirs... it read "Cafe Zuidpool, Belgium".
He looked at her quizically and raised an eyebrow "Ah, that Belgian guy you kinda liked, na?".
It seemed like such a crass sentence. It was like describing Dhobi Ghat as : "A movie where a rat-killer fell in love with a photographer"... a true but painfully incomplete sentence with irrelevant details.

He dropped the paper and the talk. She picked up the paper and the thought.

Sometimes, a chance glance at the clothes while walking past the shop and wondering how they would look on you, is way better than going into the shop to buy them.