Sunday, 4 September 2016

London Diaries - Midair Travel Musings

Travel enthralls me. Undertaking a journey excites me. Flying balances these emotions and brings in  perspective.

New places bring unique experiences. The rational mind learns and the spirit is enriched. Up in the air, away from the worldly responsibilities, routine and distractions; the past, present and the future connect.

Today's journey is special. It has brought about mixed feelings. Sitting miles and miles above the ground I can see the path I have travelled and that the future is only better than the best that has happened.

I moved to London 13 years ago for a summer internship when it became home. A novice to this giant global melting pot, I brilliantly, at least with my then experience and skill set, negotiated a short rental for a musician's Chelsea apartment. I travelled an hour and a half to work one way but all that trouble was worth the opportunity to absorb what London truly meant. That summer I graduated from wearing sandals to boots.

6 months later I returned; my bags with my dreams in tow, but pockets that were screaming for refuelling. As I scurried around for that opening that would make me proclaim, "I am not a nice gal, I am a banker" I had no money for recreation; I spent a night camping at the heath, star gazing and watching Canary Wharf shine in splendour. One chill evening, worn out, forlorn and feeling beat, I let my tears drop into the Thames only to catch the brilliance of the illuminated Westminster smile back at me from the floating waters of the river. Soon the winter receded, my qualms thawed and my wings were airborne! My boots now had a suit to go with.

A few apartments and flat mates later I moved into my own abode. I hung pictures and portraits, bought crockery and cutlery, curtains and cushions adorned the living room; and I had a small, but a walk in closet. Yet I could not enjoy my space as I would have liked to. Work was 24/7 as I moved from strength to strength. My suit came with responsibilities that were brute.

Then came a vision that is fit for all dreams. A balcony over the Thames from where the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, the entire London skyline was visible. Just in over half a decade this city had brought me a standing, a reckoning. I was finally well groomed.

After multiple struggles someone came knocking with an offer of potentially creating change. A change that would use my acquired skills to build new opportunities back home in India. I was elated and yet deflated. To grow my career I had to move. I took the call and moved. My only solace being that the balcony on the Thames would remain every time I came to visit. I would probably be able to enjoy my city, my space and my grace more freely...

So another just over half a decade has passed. My trysts with London have been regular. This pod recharges my pea every visit. Every sojourn brings more clarity on life, on me. But as I land this evening into a warm and welcoming London, it is to bid goodbye to my balcony on the Thames. It's the end of an era in a lot of ways. 

Sitting next to the pilot driving my cab (yes the driver is a licenced commercial pilot), I am photographing every part of the city where some part of me grew up, changed and made me a better person. I am nostalgic, a tad sad maybe; but as we drive past my first shopping den of Tesco at Earls Court to the then unaffordable Harrods I feel grateful. From Victoria, where I used to take the main line train to RedHill, to Upper Thames Street where I became a banker, I smile a smile of contentment. On the road from my first tourist spot of Tower Bridge to my most cherished balcony on Thames it suddenly dawns on me that another era has just begun...

London enthralls me. London excites me. London gives me perspective. Above all London completes me. 

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