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“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Murakami

And that, is exactly how it is, when you travel to new cities. I don’t mean on vacation, where it’s all one non-stop party. But when you go live somewhere unknown for a while. Away from the familiar and safe. When you get sucked into a typhoon which takes apart all the little pieces you are made of, churns them around, and then puts them back together again – but slightly askew. When you get rearranged just a little. “Is it better or worse?”, they ask you casually, as they go about their business. You pause, you take the question seriously. You know it is a polite question. You don’t want to say it’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. That you have experiences you will never be able to describe, and meet people you will never forget. That some days you have views to die for, and some days you die for a view of home.

You cannot say all this, because the words don’t find themselves. So you mutter “It’s…different”, and leave it at that. And then you go away and write. And since you cannot write everything either, you try to make a list of ‘changes’.

Over many miles, I have learnt –

– that sometimes you just have to trust people and hope for the best
– to cook enough to survive
– to differentiate between the critical, the important, and the unnecessary – and act accordingly
– airline food (no matter the ‘class’) always has a certain plastic-y quality
– that Whatsapp is priceless, Skype is invaluable
– that love has so many facets
– to mistrust washing machines
– to give people a chance
– the unadulterated joy of exploring new places
– that you are never too old to make friends of the ‘forever’ kind
– that no form of ‘media’ compensates for the physical presence
– that lemon is the best flavour
– that happy memories outlive the bitter ones
– that there is no excuse for not trying out new cuisines
– that life is just one big transit area, and we (and they) are only here till the next flight call
– that sometimes losing the map can take you to the best places
– how much I miss not living in a city with water bodies around
– it takes a day on either side of the travel to reorient your mind into the current world – and that has nothing to do with jet lag
– to end the party before the last tube
– to never say ‘never’
– that this list is fluid, and will ‘never’ be finite
– that your basic nature does not change ^