A few years ago, when my work world had become routine and familiar, I went on an exploration of all the wonderful gardens in Delhi and its surrounding areas. Every Sunday was an adventure. A new green zone beckoned. Getting there often involved getting lost. In the garden itself, there were dangers unknown in the form of packs of stray dogs that ganged up and attacked our little doggie, cookie. There was also so much beauty to discover. Drinking in new sights and discovering a shining green lawn that lights up with dewdrops as the morning sun kisses the blades. Old buildings and corners and caves where we often found couples in search of a few stolen moments of seclusion. All sorts of surprises greeted us as we discovered the beauty of nature in our urban jungle.
The last few years however have been so full of the unexpected that I find myself now seeking out the familiar. To walk down a garden path that I know well and enjoy the feeling that I am visiting a world I once knew. The comfort of trees that I know will greet me when I get to a particular spot, that friendly park bench, waiting for me to sit and have a cup of tea. All in exactly the places we left them before the great lockdown. To go and find them as they were and enjoy that safe, secure familiar embrace of nature is now the novel experience.
In search of new and novel experiences has been a thing for people for the longest time. I just realised that a new experience for me was going in search of the familiar. With so much change, finding familiar is what I found joy in.
I went on a work trip after two years. A day trip to Bangalore. Once again, the same thought strikes me the once familiar is the novel experience. I must have done hundreds of day trips over the last 10 years. But this early morning departure felt new and energising. Getting up at the crack of dawn and enjoying the silence of an early morning drive to the airport. The awe-inspiring first glimpse of day as the sun rises to greet me through the window of my airplane. Lost in thoughts miles above the clouds. The familiar feeling of being up in the air with just my thoughts for company. Disconnect from the world for a few hours. The tug of the mask behind my ears and the bite of its bridge into my nose brings me back to my new reality. It was not the same but a hint of the old world I knew and a taste of the buzziness and busyness of a day spent rushing from one meeting to the next was another example of being transported back into a world I was familiar with.
And yet I am not sure if I like what this speeding up of the merry-go-round means for me. I like the adrenaline rush it gives me, but everything is now starting to get a bit blurry again. The details I could see when the carousel was moving at a slower pace are now just one whirlwind of activity again. One merging into the other to create a feeling of progress. Is speeding up a good thing? I miss being able to see things clearly. To have meaningful conversations. To enjoy a quiet meal. Now I don’t have time for those simple pleasures. It’s a hurried snack eaten when I whip off my mask for a few minutes between meetings. Phone calls with Dad which had fallen into a predictable routine are now not so easy to make time for.
A return to the familiar is so tempting. And yet there is this feeling lurking just out of reach that says “Do I want to go back to that merry-go-round? As it speeds up I fear I will lose sight of some truly important things I learnt in the last few years”.
Making space for the unplanned moment needs some planning. Allowing for the unexpected allows for a magical moment to touch our lives. We can plan to climb a mountain, and we must have a route map and a compass. But the true joy comes from the gurgling brook that gave you the gift of a cool sip of water as you rested for a while on the way up. I am in search of a few stolen moments of certainty in an uncertain world.
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