Mornings in Melbourne

Fighting back

For every tree felled
another, spreading its wings,
defies challenger

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Melbourne, a note

The moment I disembarked from the plane, I knew this was going to be an experience I’d never have imagined. As I walked into the chilly Melbourne streets shrouded by patches of dark and light clouds, melding into one, meandering through the skies, I fell in love. 

It wasn’t the first time that I’d taken such a string liking to a city. Melbourne is home to millions of heart beats, yet it thrives with a unique pulse that matches none other’s. Every iconic city is iconic for a reason, and I was about to discover Melbourne’s.

Sure enough, when I left my hotel ten minutes after checking in, it was still mid afternoon on a Saturday, and the central business district (or CBD) bustled with wanderers—tourists and locals alike—coffee or iced tea in hand, exploring the various nooks and crannies of the painted city. The first noticeable thing about Melbourne is the immensity of people. Though not as dense as Chennai, where I lived for six years, it’s still a haven for lots of shuffling bodies.

Stumbling into people from all over the world, I followed the directions on my map to an alleyway. Melbourne is the only place where alleyways are so versatile that they’re tourist attractions, shelters for the homeless, getaways for smokers, canvases for artists overflowing with talent—all in one.

One side of the city boasts vintage Victorian architecture, every brick instilled within screaming grandeur, while on the other side are rows upon rows of these oiled up walls carved with emotions, philosophy, and outcomes of deep-rooted fear of (and for) society. It was as if the artists of the city exclaimed, “Look, wall!” and went crazy all over it.

Nodding to a tune in my head and smiling at the tens of unrecognisable languages that floated through the air into my ear, I realised Melbourne is far more multicultural than any other city I’ve been to. And I’ve been to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Although, in many aspects, Melbourne resembled New York to me. The city’s weirdness reminded me of the vagueness and unpredictability that hung around me in NYC.

My gut feeling only solidified as the day wore off and darkness blanketed over the neighbourhood. All of a sudden, musicians popped up in street corners, strumming their creativity through empty glass bottles, metal serving plates, and brass cymbals.

Unsurprisingly, onlookers gathered, dropping jaws, filming videos, cheering on, laughing and dancing to the tunes. It was a carnival on the street, where everyone forgot their problems—overdue bills, medical appointments, insurance claims, tax returns—for a few minutes and surrendered themselves to the moment.

It was past 10 pm—bright, noisy, teeming with life. Wonderful.

The next day when I stepped out of my hotel, a pop-up coffee vendor greeted me with a wide smile and a “Hiya, mate!” I didn’t think—my mouth split wide in joy and I reciprocated with all the enthusiasm I could muster. His hello kept the spring in my step throughout the day and I felt myself bouncing on my toes as I walked down street after street, marvelling one moment at the brilliant architecture and then at the lack of creativity in naming roads—Little Burke Street came after Burke Street. Then came Collins and Little Collins—I felt amused, but also thankful for it was easy to remember.

While the CBD sported such names, a little further away, outside of the heart of all the bustle, weirder and quirkier names popped out at me. Hosier Lane was home to some of the greatest graffiti I’ve seen. Literature Lane, appropriately named, was rather glum and ignored. Chopper Lane sported a dog that watched a fish swim away, and AC/DC Lane celebrated the height of rock music that once moved the world. Colours bright and dark mapped faces, caricatures, buildings, and stories, narratives that’ve survived years of camera flashes, oohs, and ahhs, and pointing of fingers.

Melbourne turned out to be so much more than I imagined. It was bright and airy and cheery, but also dark, dreary, and gothic. I loved every bit of it.

Floriade festival 2019, Canberra, Australia

Sibling rivalry

Big sister, tulip,
shoved aside in a rose world
too plain to notice


Photo: Floriade festival, Canberra

Spring greens in Sydney

When I moved to Australia in April, we were gob-smack in the middle of Autumn. Five hundred shades of red and yellow and green filled my eyes with wonder and brimmed my soul with glee. Every time I heard the crunch of whittled leaves, orange-ing before browning, before being swept away in a flurry of breeze, my heart skipped a beat. All my life I’d dreamt of fall and the moment I saw it, I fell in love.

And then came winter. 

And I realised the first experience of anything is always cherish-worthy. I lived through my first winter shivering, but also dropping my jaw at the barren white eucalyptus trees whose land we’d encroached. I walked along the Lake Ginninderra every day, inhaling breathtaking freshness that came with a stinging white breeze. I was so inspired and awestruck that I showered my blog with haiku and photographs. 

And now it’s spring.

I spent the last couple of weeks travelling to Auckland, Sydney, and then Melbourne attending corporate conferences and presenting in each city. As nerve wracking as it was, I still managed to get away, to get time for myself to scale volcanoes in Auckland and to tread on a sheen of valleys in Sydney. 

The first time I was in Sydney was last June, and Vivid Festival was in full blow. As is customary for any traveller, I took the ferry across to Manly and back. It felt like a massive achievement. But alas, I couldn’t visit the botanical gardens.

This time, I knew I’d rectify my mistake. And I couldn’t have picked a better time to go. On a Saturday morning, I checked out from my hotel early (I was flying to Melbourne later in the day), and wandered off to the botanical gardens. It was a mere five-minute walk from my hotel—perks of travelling for work.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

When I got there, an expanse of green waved at me. As always, my mouth slipped into a permanent smile. First volcanoes and now this—I was having the trip of my life. A little light headed and a lot light hearted, I made my way around the garden. It’s a massive space full of native plants and flowers, studded with small waterfalls, fountains, and rock formations.

Thousands of flowers were in their prime, blooming out of trees, from behind bushes, and peering through the ground softening up dry parched land that winter had left in its wake. Pristine is an understatement.

As I climbed up a flight of stairs towards the street, saying goodbye at the gates were the four seasons and their dedicated statues. Autumn and winter held goblets, as they should, and summer considered shedding her cloak. And darling spring with a halo over its head, smiled in silence as I bade a reverent farewell. 

Statue of spring - Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

Until next time.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

Competition

In a fierce face-off
between nature and mankind
plants outgrow buildings


Photo: Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney