A sinful city named Hoi An

The sky was a beautiful shade of purple with a hint of orange. The town wasn’t noisy, but it wasn’t silent either. Motorboats were passing by in the river. Time stood still. It felt like a place where I could be happy.

Hoi An is a coastal paradise. Clear skies, still water and serene clouds, but beware of the red ants. They can bite.  hoi anImage: Franctan

I understand why people like Hoi An so much. It’s a charming city, and the romance can be felt everywhere when the red lanterns begin to glow at dusk and the old quarter comes to life.

This city is full of surprises. The biggest of which is rain. It brings lovers closer than ever before, under an umbrella (holding hands) and bodies touching. And as suddenly as the rain comes, it dissipates. The intimacy remains.

There are lanterns all across the streets. Red and yellow, and French street lamps next to the tall trees. Two lovers sit next to each other unaware of all the beauty and noise. There is gentle breeze in the air. They look happy.streetImage: Franctan

Many couples sit in a boat and get their pictures clicked. Pretty women in wedding gowns and handsome men in tuxedos. They stand together, a smile on their face, and the flash comes on. It’s beautiful.

There is lightning in the sky.  It always rains in the evening. That’s just how Hoi An works. People know it, prepare for it and enjoy it.

I run and take shelter under a bus stop, where a young couple is sitting. It is a small space. My presence is taking away from their moment. I walk out. I will find another shelter, they may never find such a moment again.coupleImage: mottvisualsweddingsblog

The locals can be pushy at times. They will approach and ask you to come inside their restro bars and coffee shops. But they are good people. Like the lady who insisted that I sit inside her restaurant when it started to rain.

A worker at one of the most famous pubs in Hoi An, Tiger Bar, ushered four gorgeous girls inside. He was holding an umbrella to protect them from the rain. The back of his shirt said, “Don’t be a pussy, be a Tiger.”
Lesson: It’s okay to wear silly clothes but perform good deeds.

Every restaurant faces the river, enjoys the same breeze, offers the same Vietnamese food and beer. All of Hoi An speaks in once voice. Forever ready to share its charm.rain

The Rugby World Cup is going on. I don’t think the Vietnamese understand the R of rugby. But every bar offers a live telecast and every local follows the game with interest. Every traveller becomes one with Hoi An and Hoi An becomes one with them. A never ending party.

Every girl here looks stunning and dresses in colourful clothes. Every man appears cool. Hoi An is a quaint town sweet and sinful, just like a cocktail.

I cycled to the An Bang beach, which is about seven kilometres away from the city. There are paddy fields half on either side of the road, an open sky and endless possibilities. Your heart will begin to dance. It’s totally worth the trouble.

The combinations of wave after wave and a gentle breeze is mesmerizing. Locals come here to enjoy themselves. Be it football, long walks or time with loved ones. Everyone is jolly and content.group

Image: thebigyearproject

In Hoi An, you don’t want more from life. You don’t want less. You feel content.

There is always some sadness in goodbyes. I felt it while leaving Hoi An. I grew attached to this town slowly, then all at once. Some day our reunion will be just as sweet.

 

 

A wise old man in Vietnam

I saw an old man standing behind his desk and drawing Vietnamese characters on a sheet of paper in Hanoi. He had small hands, a slim figure and pants tied way above his waist. He was devoted to his art. Enjoying the creative process. I hope to grow old like him.

man

Still creating. Still enjoying it.

Lessons from a lake and mountain in Kashmir

It’s not always about comforts and luxuries. Sometimes we get attached to, feel a connection with simple things in life. A remote place, a wooden bench in a park or even a rock. I felt such a connection with the lakes in Kashmir.

I sat on a rock for hours (a notebook in hand) and listened to the sound of water in the lake. There was a nice rhythm to it.

I came to Kashmir to find my own voice. Not bits and pieces. Not whispers. But its source. Sitting on the rock, next to the lakes. I heard myself loud and clear.kashmir1

The stars are slowly emerging from the shadow of  sun. Food is getting cold. They are calling me inside, but I wish to stay here (on this rock) longer. I haven’t seen a shooting star yet. A beautiful woman sits next to me on the rock. It’s dark. I can’t see her, but I can hear her soft voice. She believes in God; she has faith. I am a cynic. Perhaps we can learn something from one another.

kashmir2Illustration: Pramati Anand

I am sitting alone on a rock. The laughter of fellow trekkers is audible. There is a strange noise coming from the lake. I wonder if it is a crocodile. They scare me to death. The sun tried to shine through the cloud cover. It failed. Sometimes we lose despite our best efforts. The sun will try again tomorrow. So should we.

There are mountains, meadows, goats and horses everywhere. But I love the lakes the most. The ripples and reflections on its surface are hypnotising, almost an invitation. But if you get too close, it will sink you. It reminds me of a woman.

I jump into the freezing lake. It is one of those things you do even though it’s foolish. A cold current passes through my body. A few days of fever is better than a lifetime of regret.kashmir3The lake looked beautiful yesterday evening. Not so much today. A thick layer of dust has settled close to where I sit. Even the most beautiful things have an ugly side to them.

The morning sunlight is giving warmth to my back. Just yesterday evening, I was shivering  to death sitting on the rock. Time changes, people change and so does the weather. Everyone deserves a second chance.

I crave for company and companionship in Delhi. When I found both in Kashmir, I ran away. Came and sat on this rock. I am looking for something; I never wish to find. Is that what they call being lost.

I think this is the end. I will step off this rock and return toSrinagar. There won’t be any mountains, rocks or lakes. Only chairs and  Cabins. You know what I mean.

I have been sitting on this rock and writing for hours. Everyone is ready to leave. I look at the mountains one last time. Close my eyes and hear the sound of the waterfall. Hopefully, it will stay with me.

I want to write more. I don’t care much if I get lost or left behind. I will find my own way. Or lose myself in the mountains. The prospect doesn’t scare me. But what to do. The ink has run dry.

My search for questions

We are constantly hunting for answers; from the beginning of our life to its very end. In school we are forced to seek formulas that can solve perplexing math equations, skip to adulthood and we look to demystify love, passion and ambition.

Unfortunately, in my case, I haven’t yet come across the solutions. I still don’t know why the girl of my dreams left. I don’t understand where exactly my tennis career crashed and burned. I don’t even know why I can’t get along with my own family when I am at ease with sinners and saints alike.

So it occurred to me let’s stop looking for answers (just for a brief moment). They are evasive. Instead, I decided to ask myself a million questions; questions that define my values, ideals, leanings; my very being. And I came across some interesting facts that were right in front of me but unseen like the trapdoor from which a magician vanishes. Perhaps we need to focus on the right questions and the answers will present themselves.

hiran

I asked myself what I wanted to do with my life. The answer was staring at me. I always wanted to write a book that was sincere, heartfelt and moved the readers to tears and laughter.

Why was that important? Writing is sacred to me. I don’t scribble to please anyone, for monetary gains, fame or need for survival. I do it because it gives me joy. Lessons 1# always do something that gives you joy.

What kind of a person am I and how different is it from what I aspire to become? I reminded me of Yogi Uncle’s devotion to becoming a better human, Shikha’s sincerity, Kazi’s kindness, Abhinaya’s zest and Gursheen’s simplicity. I realized I didn’t want to be the brooding, moody person that I had become.

The most difficult of all the questions was love. With the best of intentions, I have tried and failed repeatedly and I have absolutely no clue where I went wrong. I draw a blank. Perhaps this was an invalid question. Things didn’t work out because they were not supposed to work out. There is no answer, no explanation to it.

It reminded me of a quote from Ruskin Bond, “I loved someone. Someone loved me. Both loves were unrequited. Life moved on.

The only thing to do when someone leaves is to ask them to leave the door open behind them, turn of the music, listen to the quiet whisper and say thank you for stopping by.