It is bemusing that I find myself tapping away at a screen when I had previously lost the motivation to do so for many months. Today, I am travelling with people whom I rarely knew before this month, and it comes as a revelation that travelling with almost strangers could be more enriching than with the dearest of friends. For of these people I almost knew not, I piece together bits and pieces and try to envision the family we have become. Behind me, lays a chubby old lady who seemed to be one of the most indifferent people to me before this encounter; yet now I see the soft aspects of her. Her hard caucasian features have always been a source of fear for me, for what are nuns to do except discipline children and instil the fear of God in them? Yet now, as she lays with her feet swollen and eyes closed, she makes me reminisce of my mother. An educationist seemingly hardened by the years, yet as soft as dough from the inside. And yet, as practical and hardened as she seems, her main source of hope and support remains God. As I massage her sore shoulders and head, I remember why she keeps so many dogs and children around her. After losing almost all her family, her only comfort remains in these innocent and docile creatures in a land as foreign to her as this one is to me.
At the front of this bus, sits a lady with blue eyeliner and pink eyeshadow. Her eyes always radiate energy, and despite old age she still remains full of life. All my life, I had born a slight resentment against her because I was always the chubby child at the back of the class, never noticed as much as others. Yet a day earlier, I had seen her shaking with fear upon losing the money my mother had entrusted her with for me, and she hugged me, cold and trembling violently until finding it. Her eyes looked like ones of a small frightened child, and after years of teaching children, her inner child hadn’t died. Her memory ails her; she had battled cancer at the end of her thirties and the aftereffects were still prevalent upon her personality.
There sit other girls around me who are more intellectual than me, more responsible than me. They are soft and kind in their own ways, yet there are things their maturity has not yet reached a level to make them understand, and I shall not bother with telling or explaining; after all, time is the greatest of all teachers.
And then there is me. Nine or ten months ago, I remember seeing the picture of the inside of a beautiful place in Cordoba, and I remember posting that picture and crying, praying to God to let me out of this place, to let me see places like this far and wide. I desperately wanted to travel, alone perhaps, but with the reassurance of love in my heart. I felt like I was homesick for places I hadn’t seen yet, but that was a thought long lost and buried inside me until now. Coming here was no plan, in fact it was a miraculous set of circumstances that brought me to that very place. In fact I did not realize it was the same room in the picture I found those many months ago until I was well inside it. I held back my tears from falling because it seemed surreal, that this small room in a very far corner of the world from where I lived would be seen by my own eyes. A place that till now, I didn’t even know the name of. And it just so happened that it was in a mosque and cathedral merged together. So I prayed to God again, and thanked Him for bring me here. For listening to the smallest of duaas that such an undeserving person like me could make.
The sun is setting behind me in this country where everything follows an eerie monotony. Where even the trees and herbs are lined up neatly and the hay stacked symmetrically. It bears a stark contrast to my home country; where the houses are built in a haphazard way and the hay is always stacked in messy bundles. And as picturesque as Europe may be, I belong to chaos. Where we have shaped the walls with our mistakes and flaws. The gentle bray of my heart is constant, as constant as it was ten months ago. Yet things have changed. And now things that are meant aren’t spoken. I have always disliked small talk yet that is what we resort to now. Perhaps growing up does mean hiding what you feel, no matter how useless it may be. And even if we won’t admit it to ourselves, we walk upon these streets and think of little else.