Looking sharp

Cactus - Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas

Cactus – Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas

Not crowd’s favourite

those who’re sharp on the outside

still, sustainable

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The concerts

For the first time in my life I was at a live concert. I had no idea what to expect as I treaded my way on the grass that led to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in the Millennium Park—heck I wasn’t even sure I could walk on the grass.

But it was the middle of summer, and every night the city of Chicago lit up as people gathered around the iconic open pavilion to enjoy free concerts. And there I was looking around, a lone traveller, stumbling upon a music extravaganza of a lifetime.

Saying it was the greatest show on earth takes an extraneous effort to lie. However, it was a good concert that showed me a new lifestyle altogether.

We don’t have free city-organised concerts where I’m from. Not only was the music new, but so was the idea of gathering people together for such a social evening.

It was unfamiliar, but unlike most unfamiliar experiences, this one didn’t leave an uncomfortable aftertaste in my mouth. Instead, it left me at peace. I felt so calm and relaxed as I listened to the expert player caressing the strings of her violin.

All around me couples and families had set up picnics. They’d brought dinner, candles and wine, beer and snacks, and desert with kombucha. It was as they’d come for a day at the beach. I sensed a hum of satisfaction hovering in the air—as if everyone there knew they’d spent an entire day on hard work, and so deserved the complementary break time the state offered them. They kicked back, laughing away, sipping a glass of their favourite drink, happy.

It was nice being a part of that atmosphere—where nothing was wrong with the world, where utopia was achievable. Of course, when the concert ended and I exited the ground the entire reality of life came down on me, but the calm during the concert was one to always cherish.

I loved Chicago for that.

Although I later understood a lot of western cities have similar public events, Chicago holds a special place in my heart.

Break time

Metromover in Miami

Metromover, Miami

Peace, round the corner

even for a cluttered mind

in lengthy train rides

Airport head

It was an important day. I was flying to the United States again, and I couldn’t be more nervous. It happens every time. A huge believer in Murphy’s Law,  I always consider everything that could go wrong and dwell on anything that will go wrong.

This time, it was immigration. What if the officer asked a question and I stumbled because I was too nervous? What if they think I’m lying? Argh, the horror of having to face my friends, after bragging to them about the trip—every little immaterial flashed in my mind as I stood in the lengthy queue outside the Chennai International Airport.

While I struggled to get my head in order, people around me were having the time of their lives. Kids played with bulging baggage as their adults chit-chatted away without so much of a second glance. A couple of women debated in a frantic foreign tongue. Assuring her companion, the first woman made a phone call and after a few rushed moments later, disconnected it and smiled at her friend—all was well.

Except it wasn’t. My stomach was still refusing to digest the butterflies that’d taken to it as home.

Just then a line of professionals appeared—they strode with mild aloofness and sheer confidence. The security gave them precedence, and off they went, smiling, sharing jokes, and even making swooshing gestures with their hands.

It was the flight crew—pilots and stewards making their way to the next city on their schedule. They had not a care in the world, except they had to care for those flying the world.

It was strange. Watching the pilots, I thought how much they’re like any of us—with a job as any of us. They carry the weight of thousands of lives every day, and yet, it’s only a job. Here I was panicking about a simple trip, but in front of me relaxed were those who assumed such massive responsibility. And they took it in their stride. How much experience and gut courage would they have, I wondered. They don’t let the fear of the unknown and the unchallengeable affect their peace of mind. They’ll give their best every time. And that’s how you keep your cool—you be you and take life as it comes.

And with that realisation, I walked a little easier towards security. I only had to be calm and speak the truth. I might stumble and fumble, but it’s what it is—it happens. And when it does, I will move past it. It’s no big deal.

It was war

“Do you have all the bullets? We can’t afford to lose again. We have to make this our best effort yet.”

Mark was pacing as he always did before the final face off.

And as always, Karl was there to assure him. “Don’t worry, I’ve got them all.”

“Good,” Mark replied, punching his right fist into his left palm, “those imbeciles won’t know what hit them!”

Mark had always been too competitive for his own good. But even his partner, Karl, knew this was a pivotal point in their lives. If they win, they’d become the senior school debating champions.