I had to reach home early as promised to my wife and as the clock struck 6 I dashed out of the office rushed to the basement to get on my motorcycle for a quick ride back home. Guests had already arrived at the house and I had been warned to reach as soon as possible. As I exited the main gate I was frozen cold with the sight that was in front of me. A huge procession of people across Park Street some dancing to the tune of a makeshift DJ atop a truck while some just dragged on. I got off my motorcycle only to realize that the procession was starching beyond my visual range in both the directions.
What I failed to understand as to what the people were celebrating since there were neither any gods neither any political flags. Upon asking one of the participants I was told that they were celebrating Bhim Jayanti which was actually the birthday of Dr. B R Ambedkar. The section of the procession which was passing in front of me constituted people from the cobbler community. From them, Dr. Ambedkar was like a messiah thus all the festivities.
The concept of a community-specific celebration or a place of worship is not that a new concept and this I got to know during my trip to Rome. My daughter was very much tired after walking for quite some time and she requested to rest somewhere. I found this quite place behind Capitoline Museums overlooking Roman Forum. It seems not many people come to this side and tourists after visiting Capitoline Museums either go towards the Colosseum or enter Roman Forum directly.
Which state in India is known as the Venice of the East? This was not a direct question to our team and I eagerly waited for the question to pass it to my team. This was during our school inter-class quiz competition which we used to have every year. During school days I was an avid quizzer thus all these answers were almost at my fingertips.
For years I have known that Kerala is often referred to as the Venice of the east especially the town Alleppey (Alappuzha) which due to its waterways is often associated with the Italian town of Venice. It was really fortunate for me to have traveled to Kerala quite a few times and the experience was just amazing.
One fine day all of a sudden an opportunity jumped into my lap, a chance to travel to Italy and I knew which place that I had to visit. Traveling to Italy and not visiting Venice would be to visit India and skip a chance to see the Taj Mahal. The planning had to be perfect since Venice is in the eastern side of Italy and within a few number of days, I had to complete my tour of the country covering what all could be covered.
What on earth is this I exclaimed? It’s a two-in-one you see replied my father. But this is not an ice cream to which he smiled and replied that it’s a two in one music system having both a cassette player and a radio tuner. It was the 80’s and it was the era of disco and boom box. My father had just got home a new Akai two one and I was stuck to it like a magnet. I knew what a cassette player was and even knew how a radio functioned with the SW (Short Wave) and MW (Medium Wave) buttons but this one had an FM button and that was something new to me.
At night my father extended the antenna and switched on the radio while he was locating radio stations by turning the tuner dial I asked him about FM. Frequency Modulation he replied, it’s like radio but with stereo audio but you won’t be able to hear anything now as there are no functioning FM channels in India. Maybe if you travel abroad someday you will be able to hear FM. By the way, he asked do you know who invented the radio? I did not know the answer so he replied that it was J C Bose who had first identified radio signals but it was Marconi who the world credit it to as Bose could not spread the word of his discovery to the world.
I was around six or seven do not remember the age but what I do remember was my birthday celebration that year. Many of my cousins had come and it was a gift galore. I was not much of a reader of books instead loved people reading my books and that particular year one of my grandfather (uncle to my father) who was a teacher gifted me a small hardbound book. I still remember the book cover it was light blue in color with a photograph of a puppet wearing a red outfit and what stood out was that the puppet had a long nose. It was Pinocchio that was gifted to me that year and it was my grandmother who read out the story to me.
Being the naughty child that I was my grandmother reminded me that I would have a similar fate if I kept lying about my various mischievous activities. I kept skipping through the pages to read the paragraph where Pinocchio’s nose starts growing longer as he keeps lying.
A lot can happen within a year, nearly a year back I was in Italy soaking in the summer sun with beautiful blue skies and plumes of fluffy white clouds. Who knew that after a year I would be sitting on a lonely Saturday afternoon and writing this blog remembering the time of my life.
It all had happened in just three weeks from committing to go to Italy with family to get my daughter’s passport done and finally applying for Schengen Visa. It was not a FAM or sponsored trip thus I had to squeeze every bit out of it somehow hoping that this trip of a lifetime will reap benefits later. As far as benefits are concerned nothing much happened no invitation from tourism boards no invited trips but what I had gained from that trip was to never stop believing that the impossible can become possible just be sheer willpower. Till date, I do not know how I managed to fund this trip and the repercussion of that trip can still be felt today so much so that I had to cut down on my travel plans for least another year.
The year was 1998 and Internet in India was at its bare minimum. My sister was traveling around Europe on a special educational tour and all the information that I could get were on text emails once a week. I had waited eagerly for her return and then the wait for the numerous negatives to get developed and then printed. She had meticulously cataloged various locations depending on their location and the one that fascinated me most was Italy. “This is the Colosseum of Rome” she exclaimed as she flicked through the album. I was completely mesmerized and wished that one day I could see the grand Colosseum myself standing right in front of it.