Khamis, 9 Februari 2017

Journey To The Land of The Mughuls ( Part 3)

It was a total happiness when I found myself waking up next to him every morning. I was a beauty to have him sleeping next to me, to feel his warmth came into contact with my bare skin. Each morning every time I opened my eyes, it took me a second to accept the fact that this was not a fantasy. I was really not in my daydreams. I was in the same bed with the person who had been haunting my life this whole time. I couldn't believe I had really flown to him and now he was so alive and real, breathing and lying close to me, beside me, wrapped up in the same blanket on the same bed in the same room. It was long since I had yearned for anything like this and the effect on me was indescribable.

Being fully aware of the fact that the one who had caused me towards mania and insanity, was actually here with me in real life. This was indeed an incredibly unbelievable truth.  I stirred my body closer to him soundlessly, as I didn't want to wake him up. I loved his manly scent and warm skin that I kissed him on his cheeks while he was still fast asleep. I doubted if he was responsive to what I was doing to him but he frequently moved and breathed heavily everytime I brushed my lips against his cheeks.  I could not guess if his response were signs of comfort or displeasure. I dared not ask him as I did not want to hurt the mood. I rubbed his face adoringly as he looked so appealing even in the dim light. I held his hands and brushed them gently, while gaping at his features in the shadows of the light for as long as I wanted. I couldn't take my eyes off him, like a desert wanderer afraid of mirages, I gazed at my oasis, but he was real.

And everytime at all times I made myself very clear that this was not going to last eternally, it would come to an end very soon. I would be leaving this heavenly paradise in a day or two and that he would only continue living as a reminiscence.  That was really giving me a cut to the heart. I began to feel the pain, the empty feeling inside and my chest was heavy with feelings like that of being stabbed with a knife, like the heart was being removed. The saddest part of one's life is when you woke up from a beautiful dream and eventually realized that it will never happen again. I was out of breath as I tried to hold on the tears back into my throat as I would not want to create a scene or made him be aware that something was not right with me, thus messed up the fun of the whole plan. I would just want him to believe that I was enjoying this heavenly clandestine moments with him.

However, I hated and lamented myself for that unexpected embarassing incident. I couldn't understand what was wrong with my body myself.  It had distracted me a lot. Since then my mind was preoccupied and miles away and that I couldn't fulfill and complete myself as I should have. I left the worries deep down into my involuntary mind and I bore all the woes because I wouldn't want this one time rendezvous ended into an entirely failure and dissapointment, at least not for him. I wanted to cuddle him more, to embrace and show how I missed him so dearly but I was hindered by my own inferiority. He was too good for me. Too much perfect and that I valued him. He was indeed my best found, but the hardest to have.

We spent the next three days strolling around Delhi city. He took me to almost all the places of interest and tourists attractions. I was so amazed and impressed by those historical ruins, monuments  and landmarks of the great Mughul Era. I was a bit awkward when he kept busy taking shots of me with the camera. He was like a hired paparazzi and I found it quite humurous as I had never been focused that much in my life as though I was a model or something. All his snaps were photogenic and picturesque. He got the talent of being a pro photograher. No wonder he kept insisting me bringing my Canon along as he claimed that I would be surprise to find the results of his shots.

We toured on the speedy, well-driven autobikes, the most popular means of transport in town, crisscrossing heavy traffic and routes around the streets. The drivers were fast and furious and also well-versed of the routes to our destinations. Sometimes I was somewhat curious of where we were heading to, as we were brought to pass through dark narrow alleys, and daringly went against the traffic flow but just as fast as lightning, it turned into the opposite lane safe and sound.  "He's taking a short-cut", I was made clear. It was pretty scary on my first ride but I could get by with it steadily, and of course I never doubted my partner as I always have the dependence on him. He safe-guarded me with full care.

On the second last day, he took me on a train ride at the Green Park subway terminal - a short ride through a few stations before we boarded off at Kalkaji Mandir station,  then took an auto ride to the Lotus Temple which was situated in a beautiful small well-trimmed garden, planted with fruitful lime tress which were at their peak, bearing bunches of eye-catching orange-color fruits. It was a perfect place to meditate and give oneself a deep thought of our existence and the creation.
Later we dropped by at the Humayun's Tomb at Mathura Road, a magnificent garden tomb, built nine years after Emperor Humayun's death by his senior wife, Bega Begam. It was an enormous airy view. 
The Humayun tomb is located at the centre of a huge garden complex. I loved the cool and fresh environment surrounded by ruins of gigantic stone carved fortress and hush greenery. A perfect place for  picnicking and  relaxing. I was so indulged in the impression that I forgot about the wrap up  I was holding - the three pieces of Indian scarves I bought earlier at a store after a quick window shopping. I was unobserved about the package I was having,  not only afterwards when we were just about to leave that he became aware I was not carrying it. I was so thwarted with myself for being so absent-minded. Fortunately we got it back safely. Thank you both to the kind lady who helped to pick it up and passed it to the security guard on duty, and to my best friend, my tour guide, for putting up with my lack of care. "Things happen," he said forgivingly. He was such a considerate  person and I found him even more irresistible.

We jumped into another auto ride where I was taken to the Lajpat Nager market square at Central Road. It was a busy shopping spree. I had two pieces of knitted sweaters and went hunting for my most wished sovenirs to take home- the Indian colorful bangles! I craved to have everything on display - and I regretted that I ignored the blues ones. I wore them almost everyday and I am proud of these over-romantic accessories. They were tokens and momento of my days in this land. I just couldn't afford to let them go even if my friends pleaded and asked to have a few pieces for themselves. "He bought them all for me," I gave them an apology.

It was on our last day together when he took me to sight the world's largest rubble masonry minaret, The Qutb Minar at Mehrauli. Qutb Minar is a soaring 73 meter tall, a tower of victory, built by the first Muslim ruler of Delhi in 1193. Everything felt like I was counting down to those last few moments before everything about what made this trip wonderful- ends. Everything becomes the last time. But as they say, good things must come to an end. Yet you get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place because you'll never be this way again.

We went back to Greenpark to pick up the luggage at the hotel and hired a taxi to get to the airport. My departure was not until 11.00 pm, but he had some tasks to attend to, so he had to send me off early. The night before, while we went sight seeing at the India Fort, he was so overwhelmed over the most anticipated note he received;  the news he had been waiting for the last two years-  a place for his doctorate.  There, on his screen, I read and shared his joy - he had finally got an admission at a University, 300 km to the south-east of Delhi. I saw how thrilled he was and that he made a call back home instantly to break the fine news to his old man and family.

I was sensitive that he missed chipping in this good news and celebrations with his friends and colleagues, so I recommended voluntarily to be sent off to the airport a few hours earlier to give way for him to rejoice his accomplishment and that I guarenteed him that I would be fine on my own at the air terminal.

Ahad, 5 Februari 2017

Journey To The Land of The Mughals (Part 2)

I had always been so apprehensive about how he would retort when he first put his glance on me in person, however the bliss and enthusiasm which had wrapped me up that evening, made me naive over his judgment and whether he had favorably taken me that night at the airport. What mattered most to me was that we were now together and that for the next five days we would make full use of the limited time being in high spirits and joyful.

I failed to judge his mind through his facial expressions as he often looked calm and gentle. I predicted that he wouldn't want to hurt my feelings and hence spoiled the whole trip. Even so, I sensed his displeasure - the nonfulfillment of his hopes and expectations. I was certain that he just would not want to let out his dissapointment just yet. He would treat me with great hospitality as I was his guest even if he discovered that I was not as what he hoped for. Those were his vows and assurance  on every occasion when  I was in doubt. And he did keep his words and promises.  I should only have to be appreciative and grateful for his good care and concern to my well-being, comfort and safety as well as his great tolerance during the five-day stay. I should just have to keep on coping with the situation and that I must never be sentimental and emotional. I had come up to this far and let just accept things as they were - either good, bad or pain. I would bear and endure everything as I came here humbly on my own free will, neither to gain nor hope for more than just some respect and care as a human being, as a visitor and an over night guest. And he had gladly given me the most wonderful experience- going sightseeing at almost all the amazing places of interest around Delhi which I owed him a great favour all my life.

He had taken me around as far as Agra, a city on the bank of the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh to gap at one of the wonders of the world - The Majestic Taj Mahal built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jehan in remembrance of his most cherished wife, Mumtaz who died giving birth to his 14th child.

It was first thing in the morning the next day, Thursday 26 January, we set off to the first capital of the Moghul Empire, 300 kilometres away from New Delhi, firstly on an auto bike, then to the terminal where we would board a bus, travelling along the Yamuna Expressway.  We left the Exotica Greenpark Hotel just after dawn and it was still dark but the air was so refreshingly cool. Not long after that, we got off at a roadside under a fly-over before we boarded an old dented, non- air conditioned bus. It was already full of passengers and we were seated at the second last two seats.

I thought to myself that I should not think or expect things would be as good as what we do have in Malaysia as this is India, one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Furthermore this was suppose to be a lifetime endeavor and that I should not be overparticular and picky. Anyway it was quite untroubled as I like the cool setting and more importantly I was with someone reliable and dear sitting next to me. Yet I was a bit not at ease by the rough and uneven roads. The whole journey was jerky and bone-shaking. I was sitting by the window and the views were not picturesque unexpectedly. Indeed India lacks of greenery and landscaping. My dear buddy was a day time sleeper and thus being on a bus at this very hour of the day was torturing to him. He was struggling to stay awake and that I offered him to have himself bend over on my lap to help him feel comfortable enough to at least fall asleep. Later on I caught sight a tall cone- shaped architecture, having the similarity to a lighthouse but there was smoke coming out from the tip of the cone.  I was made clear that they were actually kilns where bricks for building houses were processed. It was an interesting view indeed.

After a few hours the bus took a break for a couple of minutes at a rest station I supposed, but in contrary to what we have in Malaysia. It was not as busy and exciting as at the various Rest & Relax Stations alloted and positioned along our highways. Normally the R&Rs were loaded with tourists, travellers and road users drinking and eating at the food outlets and eateries. Here, the place was rather quiet and less busy.

The passengers started to get off the bus to get refreshments and easing themselves. To save time, we just grabbed two bottles of sweet cold drinks and a packet of crispies at the mini cafe for snacking.  My partner left me for a while to get him some cigars  when an Indian couple who was on the same bus noticed me struggling with the bottle cap that the husband offered an assistance to get it opened. I thanked him as I smiled at the wife who kept ogling me strangely as I knew I looked so unlikely. It was only a short halt and the journey continued.  As we traveled further, the landscape began to vary as we got nearer the city.

I began to observe rows of houses and small brick shops all along the soiled roads. The few trees and plants found looked chalky and less green. We had finally reached the outskirt towns of the city. The traffic eventually got heavier and the move started to slow down as we were trapped in jams. The honking of all kinds of vehicles were deafening and unbearable but later I came to learn that they were the melodies of the Indian streets and it was a normalcy.  I recalled experiencing such similar noisy situation during my trip to Indonesia a few years ago. I found it a troublesome as it was an uncommon scene for road users in our streets to keep honking continuously in the middle of busy streets and jams, but here in India, it was their rap music.

The bus finally arrived at its destination in front of the gate entrance of the Agra Fort. From there we made a decision to firstly checked in at our pre-reserved accomodation at the Tara Optimum Hotel before we carried on with our next iterinary for the day.

Khamis, 2 Februari 2017

Journey To The Land of The Mughals (Part 1)

I started the new year with my first journey abroad unaccompanied - the most daring act I had ever performed in my life. I have been planning for this particular voyage since last year after I met a young scholar on the social media who had inspired me to travel across the globe.

It was on Wednesday, 25 January when I flew from the town airport boarding the AirAsia flight AK 6433, seated on the 23D hub facing the window,  heading towards the Kuala Lumpur International Airport before I took the 1900 hours' D7182 flight soaring my wings to the Indira Ghandi International Airport, India.

It took me afloat in the dark sky for five fretful hours. I was reserved next to a Japanese guy, with 3 kids and his wife, who traveled from Hanoi, Vietnam before boarding to New Delhi from KLIA. I broke the ice and we chatted for a while and I came to learn that he had been to the now well-known Langkawi Island, 15 years back for his honeymoon.

As we rattled on I told him that this was my first solo trip to India and that I had someone waiting to receive me down there and coincidentally  this was also his foremost trip to this part of the world. Later on, I was made aware that I was in error about the time of our arrival in Delhi. It was supposed to be  at 10 p.m Indian Time not at 7 p.m as I understood- meaning that I would only land at midnight Malaysian Time. Oh dear! My friend was right about the arrival hour then. A few days before I flew, we had argued about this but I insisted that I was accurate and precise about the hour and that he should be there to get me on time at precisely 7.00 in the evening.

I instantly felt guilty and restless and started to jump into conclusions, having all the negative thoughts about the whole situation. My dear friend could have got bored and left the airport because of my miscalculation and I should not hold him responsible for this mistake, as that was my fault. I prayed hard hoping for him to tolerate the long wait and that he could have figured out as I had told him a dozen times on the phone that he must be on the dot otherwise I would not move a single step out of the airport if he was no where to be seen when I landed. As always he was calm and gentle, ensuring me to have faith in him and that he would appear right on time like a hero! Recalling those frequent intimate chats we had , I had the confidence he was a person of his words. I sat back and tried to calm down.

Even so, I actually was enormously worried and it was a long awaiting moment before at last the ship made a smooth touched-down. The Japanese guy was kind enough to assist me as he did putting up and bringing down my hand luggage from the over head compartment. I thanked him repeatedly and we both said farewells and good luck before we moved on. My heart started to beat furiously. I was shivering of nervousness. I could not imagine what would be waiting for me next. Would there be any mistakes, I would be doomed. I had not the slightest idea where I was going at that moment.  I couldn't believe this was really happening to me and just how determined I was to come this far. I trailed along with the other passengers towards no where until I came to a dead end. I had lost sight of all the familiar faces I managed to recall on board, even the Japanese man himself was invisible. I slowed down my steps and looked around trying hard not to panic as I did not want to look lost and abandoned. I did not know what I was supposed to do. Everybody was busy, some were seen so focused on writing on the counters, some were queueing up in long lines and they were mostly westerners as well as the Indians themselves - tall and gigantic to my eyes.

Then I spotted a lady wearing a scarf at the counter where everybody was writing something. She looked like an Asian so I approached and greeted her. Yes, she was a Malaysian too. She couldn't give me any assistance to my inquiries as she was also a first-timer there and that she was looking to get an Indian Simcard too when I asked her whether she could direct me to a kiosk or stall for a simcard as I wanted to make a phone call.

I was getting more scary. Then I recalled on how I should react once I got there. My dear friend had reminded me to look for someone to help me make a call to his number.  I surveyed and I caught hold of a young Indian boy I saw busy tapping on his phone. I politely interrupted him and asked him a favour to call to the number I gave. He seemed busy making calls too,  however, he halted and attended me for a moment, but kept assuring me of no guarantee that the person I was trying to reach would pick up his calls because everybody was busy for it was on the eve of 26 January, a public holiday in conjunction with the Republic Day celebration and I understood he was implying that the whole Indian nation was rejoicing it that night. I recalled my friend making myself clear that the date of my arrival would be a busy day and that there would be traffic jams and lots of securities in the streets.  Anyway the young Indian made the call though. He took down the number I gave him and later told me that there was no answer. It was done so hurriedly that I doubted he really dialled the number I mentioned for certain . But I thanked him anyway as I turned white and pale. I could feel my andrenalin rushing through my veins and nerves.  I took a deep breath and tried to be focused. Then I decided to approach one of the  custom officers who were mingling among the crowds with walkie-talkies  in their hands. I asked him where is the T3 Terminal as I recalled my friend's last text stating that he  would be there to fetch me, and the officer responded, "Here is the T3 Terminal,".
"Where is the way out?" I added.
" That is the way out!" as he pointed his hand to the left. "Have you filled in the forms?" He questioned. So that was why everybody looked busy at the counters, a declaration form had to be filled and presented to the custom authority before exiting the airport. I told him I had not, as he directed me to the counter bench. I took a form, and started filling in the particulars- my name as written in the passport, DOB and Passport Number. It was lucky that I had saved the image of the booked hotel I was supposed to stay at, which my friend had sent me earlier. He had reserved me a room at a place called Greenpark Garden.  I rummaged around for the image in my cell phone while my hands were unstoppingly shivering and that I had my worst handwriting on the form. I had to disclose the address I was staying in India as well as the contact number. Besides, I was to declare and made known the purpose of my visit too and I ticked 'Tourism'. I put down my signature and moved into the queuing.

There were two different counters written e-Tourist and Foreign Passports. I was confused which one to choose, so I just took the nearest lane at the e-Tourist group among the other foreigners. Then suddenly someone in front greeted me in my language. I looked up and he was a guy, from Kuala Lumpur he told me. He was with his wife. He asked me who was with me, and I responded confidently that I was all by myself and that a friend was waiting outside. He had his turn to the custom checkpoint counter but he was directed to the Foreign Passport side as he had taken the wrong lane and that I supposed I was no exception too but I waited to be directed formally. I moved to the other lane and had to wait for another few minutes before my turn came. Meanwhile my mind was loaded with all kinds of unanswered riddles, wired by arguments and uncertainty. I was sweating and almost in tears. What would be the outcome of my situation in this alien land? It was beyond my control and there was no turning back. Then I was signalled to the front desk and clarifications were made successfully as I was allowed to exit but the stern glance of the female custom officer scared me a little. I took for granted that she had sensed and noticed my nervousness which I guessed was clearly shown on my face.

I ushered myself out passing through stores selling colorful goodies and sovenirs while dragging aimlessly my purple luggage bag along. The surrounding was not as hustle and bustle as at KLIA and I felt more distant and remote. My best friend was not there as I imagined - he should be there eyeing to have the first impression of how I would look like, what kind of a person I was and so on. And that I would notice him among the waiting crowds, watching him moving towards me with his long strides and that I would rush to him to feel safe. But he wasn't there. I was almost out of control and emotionally disrupted when I bravely stopped another man and again asking a favour to help me get the number called up. He was cooperative although he seemed in a hurry. He tapped the number and asked me to whom that he was calling.  "Yousuf" I sounded short and choking. I was aware that there was someone responding to his call. When he hung up, he told me that my friend was waiting for me outside. Oh thank God! I suddenly felt so light and clear. I took a really deep sigh of relief as I drew in as much oxygen as I could into my lungs. I closed my eyes for a second as I followed the kind man who led me out as he was also heading to the same direction."Where are you travelling from?" I asked him after a few steps. I was feeling more confident then. "I'm from Mumbai" he retaliated as we exited the airport building.

As soon as I was outside, I sensed the cold air as soft breeze blowing onto my face and it was drizzling too and that it made me even freezing inside, however I felt more alive as I breathe in the fresh air. No wonder I was earlier continuously told to take with me a few thick outfits seeing that the temperature was dropping in January as the north winter winds has brought effects of cold air to the regions. The tarred roads were wet and slippery, lined with all kinds of vehicles so different from my usual sight of models of transport back in Malaysia. The building roofs were tall and spacious, brightened up  with white florescent lamps giving the effects of shiny glitters to the puddles of rain water. However, the smell of the fresh after-rain air made me feel less stressful and more at ease. The Mumbai man was still ascorting me as I looked around hunting and fishing for that one face.

Then I caught sight a figure-  tall and slim looking young hombre, wearing a dark blue jacket standing facing backwards. I was not in doubt that he must be the one I was hunting for. I halted and stood still to reaffirm. Taking a few seconds eyeing him from a distance I was confident and unhesitated that the young dude was the guy- my Kashmiri friend I came here for. As he turned his face a little to the left, I recognized him that very minute even without fully looking at his face. It was him! The one who had made me grew my wings and soared the earth to disembark on this amazing land.

All my fears and nervousness had completely gone. I did not have the perfect phrase to describe how I felt the moment I saw him standing-  looking anxiously waiting for my arrival at the loading pavement. It was like a dream come true. My heart started pounding hard once more. I instantly quickened my pace towards him, forgetting to even say thanks to the Mumbai man. There was only one thing on my mind that I wish to do right then. All I wanted was to run into his arms to feel safe and for the first time to come into contact with him physically. I wanted to hold him tightly to break away all the sorrows and the missing feelings I had been enduring for almost a year. I haven't had enough of him only through chatting online. I wanted him alive body and soul.

Confidently I walked up to him and tapped his shoulder. He turned around looking rather surprise and before he could utter anything, I dropped down my luggage and spontaneously put my arms around his neck holding him very closely to my chest and gave him a brisk kiss on his neck. "Im sorry I made you wait for so long," I recalled murmuring my words to him which were barely heard. I was overcome by the feelings that I had not have for a long time. I felt safe and protected. The comfort feeling I had when I was close to him was beyond my expectations.  I forgot about the differences and gap between us. I was celebrating the contentment and pleasure I was having right then. I was heedless to his retort towards my manners. What mattered most was, we were finally joint. He spent the whole evening waiting for my arrival and that I took it for granted he was as restless to meet me as I did to him. I tried hard no to spill any silly tears as we looked into each other's eyes for the first time in the dim night light, in the coldness of the Indian ambience.🌷