I was fourteen then. Everything that caught my eye caught my mind. Life was school. And school was a routine bore, with a few interesting classes thrown in at times. My text books and note books were all just calculations, corrections made in red ink, and the occasional green signature.
It was yet another day, yet another class, with yet another teacher asking us to turn to page three hundred and ninety-four. The faint Harry Potter reference was all the entertainment we had. That was until I saw the picture in that page. It was an English class and for reasons still bewildering, the lesson was about gondolas.
For some odd reason, I thought of orangutans. Perhaps it was the sound of the two words, or the colour of the picture facing me. Nevertheless, when I took in the word, gondola, I could only imagine an extra-large orangutan crouching itself inside a deep brown boat staring at the camera, and at me.
It took me a while to erase that image from my mind and look at the topic of discussion: Venice.
That’s how I fell in love with gondolas.
Now that I think of it, I don’t even remember the contents of that lesson. Except that it spoke of the no street Venice and the gondolas people used for transport. The idea fascinated me. I was never a fan of the Indian roadway system. Somehow it always makes me regret my food choices.
But this, this was genius. Travelling through the city in boats. I could picture the beauty of it, the environmental awareness in such a system. This was a time when global warming and pollution were so huge that they were essay topics for school students. Here was a city that boycotted them all. And I wanted to experience it, despite my aversion to all water bodies — I had taken swimming lessons for three years before my mother realised I wouldn’t do anything more than holding on to the edge of the pool with my head high above the water.
Staring at that pixellated picture of the gondola and the people in it, I realised I wanted to go to Venice. Just to ride around the city in a gondola.
For about three to five years after that, I didn’t think about Venice at all. It had become one of those school-days’ fantasy that people only cherish when they grow too old to pull themselves off their armchairs.
But one day, I thought back to the tingling sensation I had felt when I saw that picture in my text-book.
Craving for more, and clearer photos, I went looking for Venice and gondolas in Pinterest. The next thing I knew, I had created a board to collect all the beautiful Venice photos I could find. I still don’t know what good that would do, but that’s how love works: you never know why.
So Venice is my ideal destination. I’ve spent a lot of waking hours and much more sleeping hours wondering how I’d go to Venice. Or if I’d go at all. It didn’t take long for me to realise, going to Venice was no big deal. At least the dreaming part of it wasn’t.
I’d go alone. Because I haven’t found that one person who’s worth going with, and I don’t want to wait if I could go instead.
When? Tomorrow if possible, but this is just a plan so I’d leave the “when” to availability of flights and possibility of cash.
Where? Venice, of course. Perhaps once I’ve seen enough of Venice, I’d go somewhere else, but I’m not the kind to draw out detailed itineraries. I’d go where my gut takes me.
However, I’d like to make a stop in Bulgaria and Croatia on the way. I have no idea what’s best in either countries, but people don’t talk much about them, and I’d take that as a sign these countries need more travellers.
Oh, and since I’m already landing on Italian soil, I might as well pay a visit to the Colosseum, make a tribute to Madame Nightingale’s birthplace, and say hello to a few models in Milan. And once I’m done mingling with the tourists, I’d traverse away to some of the less known parts of Italy. Grab a pizza at Crotone, maybe, and spend a day watching Friends.
And then, when I’m ready to come back, I’d go back to Venice again, thank the gondoliers for a few more rides, and return with memories worth bragging about.
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