August 14, 2020
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Parallel Journey

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Parallel Journey
AS planeloads of my desi brethren return home, having basked in the ersatz glamour of ritzy restaurants and tony boutiques that dot the fashionable streets of London, Paris and Milan, I return to Mumbai with wistful memories of a two-hour trek down the most idyllic lakeside in Switzerland. "You Bombay people might find it tiring," remarked my energetic Swiss friend who radiated a healthy, Heidiesque glow. Her marathon-runner, ski-instructor husband, now pushing 50, ran his fingers through his flaxen hair and casually admitted that the same trek would barely take him an hour. Empowered by nuclear India, the foursome from Mumbai didn't seem to run out of steam as we traipsed along the narrow, gravel path that coiled around a more humble terrain of the snow-capped Alps. Born in a land that is primarily agricultural, yet we were stupidly transfixed by glistening blue water and intoxicated by fresh, pine-scented air. Reluctant at first to be away from the opulent luxury of our hotel, we found ourselves gradually befriending a forest bathed in the most incandescent and heavenly glow of a perfect azure sky.

Listening to the forceful gust of a cool, clear waterfall, I realised that city dwellers like myself are terribly misinformed about urbanity and being westernised. The West for all the Davos-trotting types is this big, bad but magical world where deals are clinched in posh hotels, or designer labels acquired behind spanking, glass storefronts. But the same lot is also guilty of mistaking the West to be only a hotbed of materialism. So the humble Hindu prays for the safe return of his brethren who are travelling abroad, lest they be devoured by humongous shopping malls or blinded by the bright lights, big city syndrome. But I hate to admit that though Fransesca and Hans have often enjoyed the lavish breakfast buffet at Interlaken's snooty Victoria hotel, their weekends are idled away in the rustic pleasures of gardening or just plain moon worship. Yes, they shop in supermarkets, but that doesn't make them 'mall rats'. Weekends in the country, that's what every God-fearing, hard-working New Yorker, Londoner or Parisian seems to desire. And thus, these bustling cities which we consider to be vast casinos of material pleasure, are only a motorway away from God's own country, be it the East Hamptons, Surrey or Provence.

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