29 December 2014
Somewhere between London and Zurich
Nothing was happening to suggest that I would even remotely enjoy the last stretch of my long and arduous journey to Zurich from Balangir. To Zurich, the city of tech innovation and of bankers, of efficiency and of precision, in the center of Europe. From Balangir, a poor dusty little town in a remote part of a not-so-well-known coastal Indian state.
This was yet another trip of the several similar I have taken since I moved to Zurich about three years back. A journey not just across two places thousands of miles apart but also across two cities with lives and livelihoods in different ages, hinged at two opposite poles on the axis of human development. In my mind, I often regard these bi-annual, or sometimes tri-annual trips as really a journey across space and time (of course in a totally non-scientific and a completely poetic manner of speaking).
I have been flying for 12 hours now and been awake for three times as much. I spent the last day at my brother’s apartment in Bangalore. The plan in Bangalore seemed rock solid. To catch a flight at 7 in the morning, considering the travel-time to airport, I would have to wake up at 3. Now to wake up at 3 and to feel refreshed, taking into account my sleep patterns, doing a quick back calculation gives me a go-to-bed deadline of 8 pm. Any time later than that means I would be half-asleep when I start my trip and that can potentially make a red-eyed grumpy guy out of me for the next 19 hours of travel. A great loss to my progress in Richard Dawkins’ book-The Greatest Show on Earth which I have planned to finish before end of the year. An equally great loss for the unfortunate co-passengers who sit next to me and receive no friendly gestures and small talk whatsoever from me. And personally, I feel it’s disrespectful towards the humans-are-social-animals conjecture to not talk a word and share a smile with someone sitting next to oneself for as long as half-a-day at a few inches distance.
But whoever sleeps at 8? A decision was made. No going-to-bed. A late night show for the recently launched Hindi movie PK was booked and remainder of the time was planned to be spent on chatting and perhaps playing table games. The movie, as expected from the director-actor duo of Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir Khan, was superb. A nice satirical take on our societal system of blind belief and on our religious practices (especially, how the way they are financed and the utter irrationality of their sheer existence).
This explains my 36-hour no-sleep marathon. Now let’s come back to the present. I just boarded this British Airways flight from London Heathrow airport to Zurich. It’s an unusual winter late-afternoon in London- clear blue skies with a merrily shining sun, complete with its wet English chilly breeze. Looking out, I see the multitude of lush green grass strands in the meadows stretching along the runway, swinging back and forth. A swarm swaying in perfect harmony with the wind. The sun is at its lowest visible point, just about to disappear down the horizon. The color of its light at its best, the most majestic hue- a strikingly brilliant sunset red with hints of crimson awesomeness.
Just as the airplane is lifting off the ground and we are gaining some altitude, the wall of the entire cabin is filled with these amazing golden boxes, cast by sunlight slipping inside through the windows. And as the plane glides about, changing directions and doing maneuvers , the boxes move around creating a spectacular light show.
Outside, I see a spectrum of colors as the sun descends down the horizon. The bottom made by green grass meadows and farmlands of Greater London speckled with the browns and blacks of suburban house rooftops, the criss-crosses of asphalt motorways and the countless cars hustling across over them and finally the great spans of lakes around London, each one with its distinct hue of blue-green water. As one looks up, the green of the ground slowly blends into a mysterious shade of grey from the mist in the air. Then comes the magnificent orange-red-yellow band, the last of sun’s rays scattered in the air. The spectrum topped with a seemingly endless stretch of flawless, spotless blue, textbook example for the sky blue color. No wisps of whites from stray clouds disfiguring its sanctity.
As we climb higher, the specks of houses and motorways blur and blend into the greens of the meadows. The blue-black serpentine figure of the Thames comes into prominence- the river meandering its way out to the sea. As we travel South-East, the sunlight fades and the view outside quickly disappears and so does the beautiful spectrum. The ephemeral, yet intoxicating beauty of the scene captivate my senses and I take my notebook out to pen my thoughts.
While I head out to the night leaving this beautiful sunset behind, a sudden surge of emotions fill me. This was one of those few sunsets in one’s life that one remembers for a lifetime. And that it coincides with the end of year while I fly back to a new year filled with new challenges in life and in my start-up Shared Electric makes me feel strangely sentimental.
Now while we graze down the runway in Zurich airport, slowly coming to a halt, I steal a glance at the snowy winter white wonderland all around me. My heart, both brimming with emotions- ecstasy, anxiety, excitement and feeling the serenity of nothingness, at the same time.
As I lug my bag following the Exit signs in the airport building, I remember I have no photos of the marvelous scene I witnessed. Then I recall what a friend remarked yesterday- We take photographs so we don’t forget the moments, yet we forget the photographs themselves. As for me, I would rather be lost in moments than be found in lost photographs.