Monday, October 6, 2008

Raisin' Toast

January 2006: It was more than a perfect holiday. It was the best 6 weeks of my life of 24 years…with the people I loved most…and a brand new continent to explore.

I boarded MH182 at 12:00am on the 25th of Jan 2006. The thrill of my first overseas flight…that would take me to a little wonder named Rai. Even with a not-so-friendly Japanese man as my companion in the first flight, the four hours did not seem quite a waste. I let my eyes feast on the land below…the land of a thousand glow worms. The lights on the unknown lands I crossed…and the darkness of the seas! It seemed as if the window was a painter’s dynamic canvas…where the paintings kept changing every minute. I could feel my eyes shut with happiness…and they woke up to Kuala Lumpur at dawn.

It was not going to be as dreamy as I thought it would. What with the entry of a new character…a mustache less, bearded man from Bangladesh, who seemed to be the brand ambassador of some god-forsaken toothpick company? Well this character had a major role to play during my journey from KL to Sydney. He was one of a kind…kept cleaning his teeth with the toothpicks he carried. He was quite passionate about it I thought….for to do it for 8 hours at a stretch needs passion if not patience. At one point of time I wondered if his passion would force him to volunteer to clean my teeth as well. Thankfully he didn’t. But he did me a great favor. He shattered all my school girls’ dreams of romance on a flight…and reinforced my disrespect for illusive Hindi movies.

Then my eyes got its greatest gift. I saw Rai…in Didi’s arms. It was the best picture I ever saw…because it made me happy like nothing else ever did. I took that bundle of joy in my arms…and knew immediately… it was going to be the best 6 weeks of my life of 24 years.

And the next 6 weeks! All I can do now is to think of those days and smile…and perhaps raise a toast. So here’s raising a toast!

Here’s raising a toast to the raisin toasts in breakfast…and the sausages and the bacon. Here’s to the big house packed with the people I love most. Here’s to the trips to the city on the train, and the amazing conversations we had. Here’s to the food courts…and my exploratory appetite that was keen to try anything from octopus to kangaroo. Here’s to the bags full of goodies that I held after each shopping expedition… clothes that could dress up an entire nation, chocolates that could feed a generation, bags that could carry anything from a coin to a cauldron that could fill up a museum.

Here’s to the amazing places that Partha da took us…

Melbourne: The city of gardens and trams. It made me realize why poets chose to write about gardens of all things. The Federation Square, the open theatre, the little stalls decorated for Chinese new year, the walk along the Yara river…and the glitz and glamour of Crown Casino.

Puffing Billy: Catching the train was quite an experience. As in Hindi movies, we chased the train and managed to board it at day end. The journey down the green mountains, when the sun and the air played strange games with us has been one of the most refreshing train rides of my life. If the Bombay local trains made you feel like life was a constant struggle against being pick-pocketed...this made you feel like life was an eternal jackpot...that you always won.

Philip Islands: The gallery full of tourists from all corners of the world….waiting in silence as the moon shone down. The chill of the air and the sound of the distant waves proclaimed that we were one with nature. And then they arrived…tiny creatures emerging from the vast ocean. They glistened on the sand as they made their way to the shrubs. The penguins were a sight I’ll never forget in my life.

Ballaret: It took us back in time to the 1850s. This gold mining town has preserved history in the best way possible. Men in garters and women in gowns …horse carriages…the sight of raw gold being solidified into a bar ….the colonial marching soldiers….the candy and candle shops at every bend of the road. This journey back in time filled me up with the strangest of emotions.

Gold Coast: It was beyond my imagination that a tourist spot like this could exist and I could some day make it to that place. We visited the Movie and the Sea Worlds on this land of theme parks. At Movie World we met all the characters that populated Hollywood movies…from Austin Powers to Scooby Doo…from Shrek to Harry Potter…..from Tweety to Batman. I rode roller coasters (on land and in the water) ….caught a 4D animation movie….saw the hilarious Police Academy stunts….and the famous march of the movie characters. We were drenched in rain…and shivered…in cold and in excitement. At the Sea World we touched the star fish, saw the dolphins dance, and watched the sea lions put up a performance and the polar bears having supper!

Brisbane: The walk along Southbank at night. The roads smelled of some exotic flower…and our hearts yearned for the distant boats on the river.

Here’s to the Great Ocean Drive and the Twelve Apostles standing in the sea …watching the tourists for years. They gave me a creepy feeling…as if I had come to the end of the world. The river cruise from Paramatta took us to the city ….where the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge greeted us as they had greeted millions of tourists before us. At the beaches…Palm, Anna, Kiama, Coonjee….I saw all the shades of blue that I thought existed only in paint boxes and imaginations. Here’s to the waves…the shells…the trees…and the sand.

At home we relived old days….our childhood being analyzed in hindsight. That’s what makes siblings so special….they have a repository of memories to talk about for the rest of their lives. Rai was a constant entertainment…gargling away to glory….swinging her million dollar pony tail and smiling to make us all smile.

I discovered that my taste buds danced at the mention of Thai food. The steak at ‘Lonestar’ brought out the carnivore in me. And I never had too much of the good old fish and chips …

Some things change the way you look at life….and some things change your life. I am not sure what this vacation did to me…but it definitely reminded me of my favorite proverb ‘Doing what you like is freedom/Liking what you do is happiness.’ These 6 weeks gave me both freedom and happiness….and here’s raising a toast to it.

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