- I know, I know! I have been away for what feels like ages. And the more time passes without writing anything, the harder it gets to write...
But anyways, here's what I have been upto...some highlights of the days gone by:
- Landing in Bucharest, Romania and getting that familiar rush of excitement to think that I am in a whole new country, a new continent. Somewhere where I have never set foot before. Even jet lag can't kill this feeling. I sit back in the car and drink in the sights and sounds on a chilly Sunday afternoon.
- That same evening, I literally run into the warm restaurant fleeing from the chilly winds chasing away the daylight. My hosts tell me I should have brought something warmer. I tell them I am wearing my warmest jacket. It is an Italian restaurant with dim lighting and clinking glasses. I remember feeling nice and fuzzy - almost intoxicated by the ambience, the food, their friendly chatter and the unfamiliar accents and my exhaustion which was rapidly beginning to catch up.
- Waking up to a foreign city shrouded in fog - making it feel all the more alien. Thoughts of Count Vlad a.k.a. Dracula float through my head and send a delicious chill down my spine
- Another evening, another restaurant. This time high above the city. I sit close to the glass windows and see the daylight fade. I taste foie gras for the first time. And some amazing chocolate cake. And listen to our beautiful host tell us about Dracula...about how he has been demonized and victimized. Hmm...
- I am having dinner. With Romanians, Serbians, Bulgarians. At times like this, I really love my job. It's given me experiences I never dreamed I would have.
- Final day of the presentation is at a palace. Really. Stirbey Palace on the outskirts of the city. The grounds are full of wildflowers and bare trees. There is a lake where White and Black swans are gliding. Across the wooden bridge is a meadow where I can see a pony grazing. Can it get more idyllic? The palace itself is slightly sinister though in keeping with East European folklore.
- Is it strange that the moments that really stay with me are when I was out for dinner? It's a beautiful evening, our presentations have gone off well so I am happy. It's our last evening in Bucharest and we are at a restaurant playing soft rock and serving great Italian cuisine. The ceiling is made of white drapes and the big glass windows look onto a street lined with mansions that house various embassies.
- I am returning on the day India plays Sri Lanka in the World Cup Cricket final. I love being a part of experiences so it is excruciating to sit patiently in the flight waiting for irregular score updates from the air-hostess. When I try to gently prod her to deliver more regular feedback given the urgency of the situation, she nods sympathetically. "Yes, I know. But the pilot has said he can either fly the plane or check for updates", she says apologetically. That settles that. The pilot is not Indian or Sri Lankan methinks.
- As we get ready to make our descent into the Mumbai night, the aircraft hovers over the city and I can see fireworks all over the city. It is one of the most awesome sights I have ever seen. That's how I first know India has won the World Cup. After 28 years. Passengers aboard the aircraft pump their fists in the air and congratulate each other. There are cheers and applause as the captain confirms the win. My first SMS on landing is from Romania - our client wants to congratulate us on becoming world champions!
- Before I can quite recover from my trip, I have to plan for another. But this time its pleasure not business. Off to Puri on office Annual Retreat. Have been waiting eagerly for it because it means a chance to catch up with friends and unwind - something which has been in short supply for some time. I am gleeful as a child as I pile my luggage into the train and start clicking photographs before you can say "camera"! we laugh hysterically at stupid jokes as we fall asleep lulled by the movement of the train.
- One of the first things we do, is hit the beach. But first it means trudging, slipping, ploughing through hot sand. And then at last, I can let the cool waters wash over my tired feet. the sea never fails to thrill me. Its roar pounding through my ears, the strong breeze making my spirits soar. As I sit later beneath the colourful umbrellas and sip on tender coconut water and look out at the sea, I feel like I can be this way forever.
- The Sun Temple is fabulous. I am mesmerised by the thought of people striving to create this work of art so many years ago. 750 years ago actually, as our guide kept saying. I am captivated to know that the idol in the inner sanctum was kept suspended in air by being placed between two strong magnets. I wonder if this is true as I picture the scene and feel enchanted.
- The guide is funny. He takes the boys on a special tour which is apparently censored stuff. Someone says temples had erotic carvings to encourage people to procreate. Whaaa?
- Chandrabhaga beach as the sun is setting. We savour the moment, walking a far distance along the beach and writing our names in the sand.
- Party time at night. Haven't danced like this in ages. I am so exhausted that I can barely stand straight but I don't want this night to end. I don't know when I'll get to dance like this with my friends again. I am so tired, I am almost high. High on happiness.
- Withdrawal symptoms for a day or two as I search desperately for something else to look forward to. Till someone reminds me about the extended weekend coming up. Yay! Laziness is welcomed with open arms. Sleep, eat, read.
- Peace and quiet at work after what feels like aeons. Rocky Road shake at Mocha. Sitting with a friend in silence. Listening to 'Iktara'..."sun rahi hu sudh-budh khoke, koii main kahani, puri kahani hai kya kise hai pata..."