Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guest Post Series - Reflections

Note : This post is a part of the Guest Post Series.

Travel sounds so romantic. But the truth is that not all of us are built for travel. Anyone can be a tourist, but only a few of us are cut out to be travelers. What most of us actually want is to have some cool photos snapped at photogenic locations that tell the World how happy we allegedly are. A true traveler enjoys the journey as much as the destination, if not more -- and takes back memories and lessons that will last longer than any photograph can. Not always consciously, but definitely. Take this  post on how Shriya wanted very badly to visit Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. The post ends a bit anti-climatically with her not being able to reach her destination, but the journey of reading it is by itself enthralling; mirroring her own journey.

Shriya has been a long time reader of this blog. Since I had't written a lot in the first few years of the blog, it is fair to say she is a regular visitor who has read more posts than most readers. She does not always read the posts as soon as they are published, but she does read them eventually. She also takes the time to let me know when she finds what I write to be interesting, or when it makes her think; whilst staying politely silent about posts she can't relate with.  

I have rarely been able to describe physical objects, and I feel jealous of people who can do that well. Shriya has an enviable vocabulary, and she uses it to write excellent (that adjective is the limit of my vocabulary) travelogues. It helps that she travels a lot, that she reads a lot, that her travels are not confined to normal tourist spots, and that she does not seem to visit these places with a tourist's routine. The nicest thing about her travelogues is that they are not impersonal. They invariably have some personal anecdotes retold with a cautious humor that makes them very enjoyable. Add some gorgeous photos, and you always end up feeling a compelling desire to visit the places she describes. She is also a Couchsurfer, and she explains about it in her post The Couchsurfing Experience (On a side-note, couchsurfers are very active in India too). I proudly feel that this guest post is one of her best amongst the ones I have read. You can check out a few more. There is De-vine valley of the Rhine about the Rhine valley of Germany , Of culture, character and codfish about a little known Portugese city, and her posts on Scintillating Sintra. She also writes non-travelogues, such as 'Not-so-silly' putty which explains a part of her line of work, and my personal favorite : Rückkehrunruhe where she relives childhood memories that all of us have experienced.


On our recent trip to Bordeaux (France), a friend and I decided to amble around the city one night, after our hearty meal. We were visiting Bordeaux on a quick getaway. The only things I knew about Bordeaux prior to the visit were that its lush vineyards provide some of the world’s finest wines, and that a large part of the city is a World Heritage site. A quick scan through travel guides confirmed that I wasn’t forgetting anything special. Or so it seemed.

As we strolled along in the chilly night, chance occurrence brought us to a large square in front of majestic French architecture. A central fountain was flanked on an entire side by symmetrically aligned buildings. Apparently built in the 18th century, the buildings now house the ministry of Commerce. Aglow with amber tints, contrasting the darkness of the clear night sky, the setting made for a pretty picture. The square, called Place de la Bourse, spacious in its own right, was one of the nicest I had seen. As I stood there taking photographs, I noticed how there was an effect of mist on the other side of the main street, across the fountain. A fuzzy haze in the darkness, something seemed amiss. We walked towards the sound of children’s laughter and the patter of tiny feet. As we crossed the street, shadows of children running amidst the fog soon emerged. Why was there a localized mist?

The mist quickly faded away, and then we noticed where it came from. Many orifices were evenly distributed across the expanse of the ground ahead of us. They soon began to slowly release water, uniformly forming a film along the entire length of the floor. As I looked back to view the buildings that were now behind us, we guessed their purpose. Reflections. By creating a really thin film, a water mirror could provide for the reflection of the entire square.

‘Genius, pure genius’, my friend muttered beside me, while I cursed myself for lack of a better camera. We stood there, at the edge of the film, settling into a comfortable silence. Keeping our eyes peeled while waiting for disruptions to cease. Waiting for meek water to stop being slave to gusty winds. Winds that created ripples on the surface, causing light to scatter into a thousand little sparkles. Sparkles that would recombine at will to form a whole image. The loose nature of its fleetingness took my breath away and left me with goose-bumps. Like a reminder: Sometimes, you need to wait for beauty to show.

We oft caught glimpses of the complete reflection of the square: graceful fountain flanked by beautiful buildings. Serenely motionless in time, stubbornly contrasted by cars zipping by. The sight was made more magical when people occasionally walked across the film. The brazen sprint of a child, or the gentle, barefooted gait of a couple. Like Gods walking on water, creating their own reflections while crudely deforming another.

I was left feeling a lot of things that night. About how we don’t take the time to notice the gratuitous beauty around us. Catch a sunset. Listen to the sound of the rain. How, more often than not, we’re so involved in mundane routine, that we’re blind to obvious moments that can create feeling.

Place de la Bourse reminded me that some of the nicest memories are created by chance. It’s ironic how things we might remember for years to come stem from incidents that were given no prior thought. The unpredictability of the moment leaves quite an impression. To wholly embrace the present and know that there are lifelong memories being created now! Maybe that’s something worth reflecting on…

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