Read a tale of endurance, will & a daring fight against Covid. Click here for "The Stalwarts" by Soni Shalini.
Read a tale of endurance, will & a daring fight against Covid. Click here for "The Stalwarts" by Soni Shalini.

Dear Amaya

Dear Amaya

6 mins

I fly through Hirtenstrasse and cross the road illegally to catch the tram. 

‘This is not India, darling!’ I remind myself as the tram takes me in and I heave a sigh of relief, having narrowly escaped the clutches of a super sexy royal blue BMW M235i Coupe. I am heading towards my institute on Sonnenstrasse. The city is Munich, my favourite in the world. And I say that with experience, having lived in over 230 cities across 50 countries in my life. I am 28 and the world is still as unfathomable and as inexhaustible as it was when my passport had just 2 stamps against the current 50!

Munich surprises me. The trams, the Underground, the buses all run on time, and under-capacity. I always manage to find a seat. But, today is crowded and I do not mind giving up my seat to the cheerful old lady in the white blouse and the denim skirt. She pulls my cheeks lovingly and blesses me with a forehead kiss, her baby pink gloss leaving a little heart-shaped imprint on my third eye!

It is just 4 stops to my institute where I am pursuing a language course in German! I take in the now familiar terrain of Karlsplatz Stachus, the huge shops and the galleria looming over a spotless blue sky. It is pacifying to watch a sky so beautiful, so relaxing, in a city that is constantly on the move. But, relaxing is boring for me. Stay in one place for too long and you grow roots. You grow roots and you find it hard to cut them off and disengage! So, I stay on the move, too. Peripatetic by nature, I am happy being an itinerant, for I identify with those who were not meant for just one corner of the world. Another two months and I will move to Berlin. A month there and then, it is Luxembourg for me. Switzerland and the chocolaty Alps there, await me too. With  a spring in my step and the usual frantic pace with which I rush through my days -learning, reading, travelling, photographing, working, writing- I get down at Sendlinger Tor and the lady who I had given the seat to, disembarks too. She smiles at me and hands over a letter to me. She pats me on the back, leaving me at the station, puzzled and perplexed.

I unfold the creased sheet to find black words hugging the cream paper in a warm, friendly cursive.

The letter, surprisingly, is addressed to me. It says:

Dear Amaya,

Stop. And breathe. And breathe in a little more. You often forget to do that! Travelling is life. But, breathing is important, too. Trust me!

How are you doing, today? You must be the same, I know. Rushing from one place to another, surviving on cornflakes and cold tetra packs of milk and orange juice and weird kinds of bread and pasta! Eating is important, too.

In your quest to seek the world, do not forget that you need your attentions, first. I understand that there are 213 countries in the world and you want to see each one of them with naked eyes and also through the lens of this DSLR that stays by you, like a faithful bodyguard.

I smile and give my Nikon a little hug! But, who is the writer behind the letter. I guess, I will have to read the whole thing. Plus, it seems both interesting and scary at the same time, that this person knows so much about me! Well, let’s see!

While filming people and places, pay some attention to the movie of your life, too.

Do you know why you travel so much? Perhaps you have been accepting an illusionary answer all along! You get tired of familiarity. You get bored of committing to one thing. You seek thrill, etc. Excuses, all of them! And, you know I am right!

What makes you pick up your entire luggage and pack up and move and abandon the place you were so eager to come to, just a few days ago? Why does every destination, every road, every journey that looks promising initially, fades into nothingness, later?

Do you go back to the memories you have captured? No, you don’t. You just click and forget the pictures, letting them pile, one upon another, till they blur into a distant reminiscence.

Moving, moving, and moving! Change is good. Movement is life. But, for life to grow and expand, stillness and calm is also needed over chaos and confusion.

I am late for my class, but I plop down onto the waiting benches and sit down. The letter minces no words, laying bare everything I had evaded all those years ago when I had left home to look for…look for what, I really don’t know! I have been running across the length and breadth of the world, never pausing to breathe, hoping to learn all that there is to, but I am empty inside. Strangely empty, for someone who claims to speak seven languages proficiently, who claims to have seen a quarter of the world, who claims to be happy, but who is actually an escapist.

When you reach the stage I am at, today, these experiences will make you feel good about yourself. But when you go back to why you felt this need to see the world, tears will dampen your cheeks, like the droplets of rain that pour down onto my window as I write to you!

Stop running away from yourself. It will not heal the guilt of having left your loved ones alone when they needed you the most. It will not cure your sick father or your mother who expects you to return, to show up, after all these years. It will not serve any purpose. It’ll just hurt and hurt some more!

You are looking for solace, warmth, comfort and belonging. You are looking for a place that will make you feel at home.

213 countries on your list. 50 down. But, there is just one home. Will always be just one. Strange, isn’t it, you left it to look for it! I won’t tell you what to do, you are wise enough!

The world can do without you. You can do without the world. But home….home is a different feeling altogether.

Write to me when you feel you have come home, Amaya. I will wait, for as long as it takes. I will wait!

Yours lovingly,

PS: Don’t be confused. We are the same, both you and me. You will know, in another 20 years, you will know!

Is this reality, or a waking dream? I toss the letter into my bag, zip it up on the stairs to the classroom, and wipe away the tears. I will go back home. I know that it is the right thing to do. The peace I have been looking for will find me where I left it. With a smile, I request my instructor, “Darf ich herein?” (May I come in?)





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