Scotland

It’s Tuesday morning after a long weekend and the pile of work staring me in the face tires me. I have no energy to trawl my way through it. The most innocuous mail irritates me, the smallest thing out of the plan I have for this day drives me nuts till I am swearing. Why this, I wonder? I am not so short-fused. The other day, when we were traveling to Scotland, just about nothing went according to the plan. We missed the bus, had to argue with the support staff no end to get alternate arrangements, wait in the biting cold for the bus which wouldn’t come and so on and so forth. But was I cool and smiling! Holidays are always welcome and get everyone charged up-that’s only fair. But life exists on weekends-I have a problem with that.

But then, such is life! On this Tuesday morning, when even typing is an effort, my mind goes back again and again to Edinburgh. I don’t believe in love at first sight but Edinburgh did sweep me off my feet. I always found London to be a city where the old and the new co-exist but Edinburgh was even better. Buildings made in probably the 18th century, cobbled pathway, ancient lamp-posts-that’s Edinburgh:Diagon Alley come alive. Almost instantly I like this city that wears her age with grace.
I am in the middle of the city and I don’t see a single new building. The old and the new don’t just co-exist in this city, they are intertwined so much so that they are inseparable-you can’t make out one from another and you just let their combination charm you.

My friends who had been to Scotland recently came back disappointed and told me that Edinburgh is just another big city. I want to travel the whole world but that comment made me inspect my whys. Is NY any different from London is any different from Shanghai is any different from Mallaig is any different from an Indian village? What exactly is it that I am expecting from a new place? Places like people, have souls. But I am on a three day grab-what-you-can tour through Scotland-do I expect her to reveal her soul to me? If I were Scotland, I would be offended by that expectation.

It was with these questions on my mind that I approached Edinburgh. But like a rich, ancient grandmother, she acts as a balm. Wealth has infinite shades-some subtly different, some glaringly so, different nevertheless. This place feels different from all other places I have been to…some people will tell me that this is only because I want to feel this way. That may be so, but who cares? It is what I feel, after all, that matters. So long as I feel it, this remains true.

We are traveling from Edinburgh to Mallaig from where we would take a ferry to the Isle of Skye. The train route from Fort William to Mallaig is said to be one of the ten most scenic routes in the world. As I look out from the window, I know that if anything can be more beautiful than this, surely I cannot imagine it. Comparison, I don’t think, would have been in the original scheme of things.
Its 8:45 PM and the sun doesn’t even hint at setting. This sure is going to be a long day. Every event since the of universe was meant to lead to this evening when I am traveling in the train and the sun stays up late so that I don’t miss a thing.

How do I describe this? I want to take this feeling back home-not its snaps, but what this scene makes me feel-to the people I love but how do I describe it? How do I tell them that there was this clear blue sky, and clouds scattered across it and that the shadow of the clouds painted the mountains and the shadow of the mountains painted the river and that the breeze created patterns on water-lightest ripples, infinitely similar yet infinitely different…how do I tell them that this makes me feel intensely alive and how do I explain why? I give up.

The mountains in the distance are covered with small white patches. We take bets on whether the patches are due to snow or water. It turns out to be snow. I remember someone telling me that during winters, the snow covered peaks are a sight to be seen. When these peaks are covered with snow, they are magic; when they are not, they are magic. When the water runs down their sides, we stop and stare at it; when it freezes in places, the sight is incredibly beautiful. This, what I am looking at now, is world in God’s own image and likeness. My deepest desire is to belong to this scene.

It’s past eleven in the night when we reach Mallaig. The sky is still lambent with a soft light, like a huge night lamp. Bed-time now!

Workplace seems to be riddled with landmines. I must watch every step lest I am blown up. You don’t even have to make a mistake to be dead-you just need to be; that’s reason enough to be killed. When I was standing by the sea in Scotland, I thought to myself that this is a place we read about in books or look at in postcards, and wish, without really wishing, we could go to. And here I am! I thought that when I am tired, frustrated I will think of this and there will be no yearning in me because I have been here, seen this. When I leave this place, I will not leave it behind. In my tired moments, I told myself, I will re-live this divine silence. I will listen again to the sound of bagpiper in Edinburgh and I will smile at the people lying face down on the grass without a care in the world. And that is what I am doing now-I am in Leavesden but I am in Mallaig, traveling to Isle of Skye, by a ferry.

It doesn’t matter where I focus my camera: every square inch is overflowing with beauty. Looking down at the deep blue ocean, I silently thank the people who have not thrown beer cans in the sea.

On the isle, I find more reasons to be thankful. Tranquility is a shade sea wears on some days, in some places for some people. It suits the ocean well and I am grateful for this.

The jagged rocks on the sea shore are strangely inviting. When I look at them closely, I notice that there are thousands of snails frozen dead on the rocks. How would this have happened, I wonder; and then this-these dead snails have become part of the rocks. The appearance that they render these rocks is unlike I have seen in any other place. The way it was meant to be, even death is beautiful. That which is not beautiful was not meant to be. Life without hope, sex without love, existence without meaning-these could not have been in the original scheme of things either.

Barely three miles down this rocky beach, we find a sandy beach. I have no doubt we can explain this, but can we?

I lie down on the sand. We are not really doing anything but we are having fun. This is perfection-when just being alive is fun; existence is a joy. Perfection is when Monday morning is like Friday evening and I believe that’s how it was meant to be. Life isn’t perfect yet but I will get there-slowly, steadily but surely.

Leavesden falls on the way to Scotland, though. Every place that I don’t want to be in falls on the way to the place I want to be in. And I want to be in every place that is on the way to the place I belong to. By God, living is fun.

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