Introduction

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portugese flag

 

I will be spending three weeks in Portugal this December, including Christmas and New Year.

This section of my blog is dedicated to my expedition and exploration of the Iberian Peninsula. Through the course of my travel, I will visit multiple places around, experience local culture, taste different food and work on a topic.

My topic is “What makes you feel welcome in a city?“. This is a blog series for a project sponsored by Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe. The organization is funding a part of travel.

I will keep writing as I go through the country. My first destination is the picturesque, loyal city of Lisbon.

Watch out this section for the updates.

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The Lady from Lahore – a short story.

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I met a lady from Lahore there. She was visiting her son, he studies in Amsterdam.

I met them at a coffee shop. Coffee shops in Amsterdam are not to be confused with cafe.

A cafe serves coffee and bagel and breakfast and croissant.

A coffee shop is a place you go to get marijuana and other stuff.

The son, Arslan was teaching his mom how to smoke weed XD

I told her that she might be the coolest mom ever. They clicked a picture together and uploaded it with this caption XD

Amsterdam is so full of happy stories, I love the city.

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Being from India, we have a sense that Pakistan is a closed and reserved society. I was pleasantly surprised rather delighted to meet this lady. She mentioned, that she had relatives in Delhi used to visit before the visa norms. I parted by inviting her to Delhi and requested to visit me next time when she’s in town.

 

 

 

 

The Girl with the Blue Glasses

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“Excuse me!! I suppose that’s my seat”

“Oh! I’m sorry. I’m just looking for my glasses, I kept it here, next to the window”

“How does it look like?”

“Nerdy and blue”

“Is it that one? Next to the scarf on the upper berth”

“Ah! Yes. Thank you!! I’m Ayesha by the way”

“Shameek! Nice to meet you”

“The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux, sounds like an interesting book you’re reading”

“Yeah, I like travel stories”

“Do you travel a lot too?”

“My mom says, I live in the trains”

“Haha! I would never want to live on trains. Trains in India run late”

“There are more than 11000 trains starting each day in India, managing such an organization is no joke”

“Still, that’s not an excuse for being late”

Sir, Ma’am, would you like to have some warm soup?

“Yes, please”

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“Its delicious, at least the food in the trains is not so bad after all”

“Around 25 million people travel everyday, some are there for the food, you never know”

“WHAT?! That’s almost like the population of Australia”

“Could well be, though I don’t know much about Australia. But do you know Indian Railways is the world’s largest with a network of 117000 kms”

“How do you know all these things?”

“My dad worked for the railways, I grew up with trains all around me”

“Is that why you live in them now?”

*Both chuckle*

“I like traveling in trains. I’ve been on the trains at the highest of mountains all covered in green, passing through the waterfalls, in the deserts, on the coasts, bridges, rivers flowing beneath, through the tea gardens, mustard field, remote villages, all on the train. I have seen a lot because of the trains”

“Wow! That’s sounds beautiful. We are halted for quite sometime now. What station is this btw?”

“Its too dark outside, I cannot read the nameplate”

“Looks like a good place for a midnight tea. Wanna join?”

“Sure, lets go”

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“Its quite late, there aren’t many people on the platform”

“You see these platforms, they all have stories to tell. People you see there, some tired, of their journey, some anxious, some happy, some sad, some impatient, some have their ears glue to the announcement speakers, the hawkers are busying selling, the coolies waiting for passengers to carry their luggage”

“Never looked at the platforms this way, till you said it. You really love trains, don’t you?”

*Amused*

“Haha!! I guess so”

“The train is about of start, the engine is already whistling, we should get in”

“Yes”

“I’m a bit tired, I guess I’ll sleep now. Good Night”

“Good Night”

*Few hours later*

“Hey, someone’s up early”

“Yes, I like to rise before the sun” *wink*

“What?” *cackle*

“Look at this picture, I clicked it this morning”

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“Oh! That’s super nice”

“Watching the sunrise makes me cheerful”

“How far are we from our destination?”

“Few more hours”

“Oh! Look we are on top of the river, on the bridge”

“Yes, look how the river is shining in the bright sunlight”

“And there’s a road above the train track. I have been to such roads many a times, always wondered how the train track below looks like. I will get down and have a look at it”

“But be careful, you don’t want the train to leave you behind”

“Don’t worry, I’ll hop on before it whistles”

“Alright”

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*Train whistles*

“We’re moving again, I hope we don’t halt anymore”

“We’re almost there”

*Sometime later*

“Is this the railway station?”

“This is the yard, that’s what they call it, it just outside the main station. They prepare the trains here for their next journey. Do you see the overhead bridge in the far horizon there?”

“The one with lots of people?!”

“Yes, that’s the main railway station”

“Its super huge”

“..and very old too”

 

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“So is this it?”

“Yes, here we are, final destination”

“It was really nice to meet you, lets keep in touch. Bye Bye.”

“Sure, Good Bye.”

Kolkata Tram: The Time Machine

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During my last visit to the Kolkata, the City of Joy, as they say proudly I was pretty fascinated  by the tram lines running through the city. As most of Indian cities are heavily crowded, a tram running right through the middle of the road is not the best mode to commute. This maybe the reason, the operation of trams were discontinued in other Indian cities by 1960. But not in Kolkata!! People in this city, take pride in heritage and not much has changed here as compared to other parts of India.

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The tram for sure is one of a kind. It crawls in the middle of the streets or sarani (as they call in Bengali) maundering through the cars, buses even pedestrians. There are no specified tram stops and you can board a running tram or signal the driver to make a stop for you. Built way back in 1873, and electrified in 1902, it is the oldest operational electric tram in Asia. You can hear a loud noise as it accelerates, as the heavy metals scrub against each other. On boarding the tram, you’ll be greeted with a round faced ticket conductor, his spectacles resting on his nose and a handkerchief kinda a cloth on his collar. There are 2 cars in the tram, the one farthest from the driver being the second class. With minor difference in the ticket price, the second class has a fewer chairs to sit compared to the first class. The conductor sells you the ticket, and during the evenings a yellow bulb lightens the compartment. There are some announcements and warnings written in Bangla and English. An old ceiling fan caged in a circular metal barb airs the compartment. The inside walls are pretty much wood and seems like they haven’t been upgraded in years. While riding through, you can easily explore and get the hang of the city. If you want to deboard, the conductors, pulls a rope, running overhead the door on the roof, which hits the bell next to the driver. Having received the signal, the driver makes a stop at a convenient place.

The city of Kolkata as pictured in the stories of Satyajit Ray and Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay is precisely the same even today. And the Tram does certainly takes you back in time. Give the tram a try when you’re in the city.

Apartment E101

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The morning of 1st Spetember 2016 wasn’t the most cheerful one. I got up from my bed, making slow advances towards the kitchen to brew my morning coffee for one final time. As the old coffee machine made grumbling noises, I walked into the balcony for probably the last time.

My contract for Apartment E101 had been terminated and I was all packed up to leave. Having arrived in Finland, this apartment was my first shelter. I was gathering all my memories from the last three years. I remember the first time I stepped inside meeting my roommates, befriending them.

Rodolfo, Qang and me were the first ones to move in the apartment and later Johan and Maxim occupied Qang’s room one after the other. Rodolfo and me had always been in the “House of Pendjos” (that’s what we called it XD). Both of us had changed so much as a person from the time we arrived here in Finland. Waking up to Latin music and greeting The Mexican with “Huomenta”, “Buenos Dias!” was our typical morning routine. I first got introduced to Latin culture and learned more about China through my roommates. I recollected the flashes of all the parties and drinking games I had in this same kitchen, our friends coming over, trying out our Mexican and Indian cuisines. roommatesI sipped my coffee and sat in the balcony thinking about the summer evenings. I found myself smiling and recalling those moments. Towards the end of summer, the dusk always seemed bright. I remember how I used to sit long in the balcony and read books, it used to so quiet and peaceful. img_20160731_215527

When it rained, the drops would make a clicking noise against the glass window pane in the balcony. It always felt good to feel the freshness and hear the rain against the window and watch the drops trickling down the glass pane, gleaming in the sun.img_20160802_211012

The door to my room resembled that of a high school kid’s, with posters and stickers, some of them posted by Rodolfo.img_20160823_123225I walked into my room, so many memories confined here. It felt like these walls have seen and heard too much of me. I had lot of interviews, calls, fights, laughs, sorrows, joys all in this room. When I looked outside from my window, I could see the trees all green. I had seen them change color with seasons, turing to yellow, white and green.

 

When I’m low, I have a habit of surrounding myself with things that motivates me and keeps me going. These posters and messages on my walls and windows are a symbol of that. I tend to talk to myself quite often and these walls & windows helped me with it. Apparently, Apartment E101 was very good at it.