Redefining Travel- Knee by vagabond Knee
So I turned fifty and don’t ask me when. It was not without difficulty, because I’m just that kind of person who will not age. The signs have been coming at me, starting with knee ache, but, grace be upon me, only one of the two worthies; less than perfect digestion on over-eating- binge eating as it is fashionably called, way too much wine I am told, rising levels of impatience and the beginnings of spiritual leanings being the order of the day, most days, especially when the spirit is tried and tested, which no longer is as seldom as it used to be.
Be that as it may, the current year has been a good year, as it has been a year of tests and tribulations. International travel was thrown in for good measure, and I’ve had to pack those bags and run, from one airport to another. Then I’ve climbed the mountains, not once but twice over, and been over my head with creative themes, and such like. Overall, it could be called an unforgettable year of travelling; of being the bohemian I was born to be, of vagabonding around the globe; me and my ever-zealous, overfull bags. I flew by some atrociously zany airlines (Kuwait), and by some fairly decent ones (Emirates); I climbed in and out of trains (Shatabdi, Delhi-Doon express), catching them by a hair’s breadth, and drove in many an ill-equipped transporter vehicle across hills and dales, clutching at my belly for dear life lest I failed to contain bread pakoras eaten in utter gluttony along the mountain trail.
Did I enjoy every ride undertaken? Oh yes, I did, mostly during these escapades, if I may call them such; a little less after the vagrant gypsy in me had rested and caught a breath.
Vagabonded in New York
Visiting my daughter for her graduation was a great idea. Just the young lady and her not-so-young-anymore-but-refuses-to let-go mother, painting the town red. It was an enthralling thought, and I fell for it, hook line and sinker. After all, it’s only a twenty hour trip with my legs dangling for a fair portion of the journey 🙂
We did paint NYC in various hues in fact, but at a certain cost. New York has deep subways, and most from the pre-war era it would seem. So climbing up and down those stairwells certainly took a toll on my post-fifty knees. We were out and about every single day because for some reason, the daughter felt these were to be counted among my last few active years, and she must have me see it all, within a span of ten days. So we scoured, raced, gamboled, ambled (Central Park), went for a Broadway Show. We hit China or Korea town for a meal we had to wait for an hour to savour. We walked as one does when one doesn’t actually drive, and we talked, and lost track of the miles we covered. As we lumbered toward my last day, climbing up a rickety staircase, up to her 4th floor apartment had become an excruciating daily misadventure. I was satiated, and done with NYC for the next decade or so. My knees had suffered and shouted for respite. It all went unheeded. But I continued brave and unabated, lest my daughter feel guilty for giving me such a ‘good time’. She left before me to come to India to attend her cousin’s wedding, leaving me stranded with two very unwieldy suitcases, full to the brim of all the shopping at IKEA (yea, that too). Even the ordered cab played truant, and cancelled on me just as I had trundled my way down with those two heavies. I was done, and in tears. The ordeal had not bowed out just yet.
I ordered another who struggled to find the daughter’s apartment block, and the heavens began to pour on New York City. I stood on the pavement, flapping my arms like a mad woman with swollen knees, hailing down every passing car in desperate hope of being swooped up. Dame Luck had kicked me in that one knee, the bad one.
Finally my new cabbie waved me down from the other end of the road- Falling over my feet, with my two heavies and a backpack, soaked to the skin, I climbed in, both grateful and disgruntled. He smiled warmly at me, unaware of what seethed within me. He had not emerged from his car to help. Relieved to be under cover, and dry seats, I let him be. He then played the most divine Spanish songs from his country, the Dominican Republic, and very quickly my soul was reinstated in its rightful place, now speeding toward the airport, as I closed my eyes and allowed my feet to tap to the rhythm of a different land. On my return home, I was welcomed with cold and hot packs to relieve my body of its physical trauma.
Come February – MYSORE (band, bajaa, baraat)
The wedding of a sister’s daughter, how could I not participate with complete fanfare! Dared I complain and faff around? No! So I’m the only aunt, and within a week of the return from New York, I’m in business. I’m still in great pain, but by now skilled enough to conceal it, by hobbling, but only just.
A daily rise to the commotions and activities of a marriage…ah, smile, don’t worry, be happy. Don’t worry be happy. Keep up the momentum and only let go when you’re done. I maintain it, my sustenance being all the joy and mirth flying around. The niece’s beautiful and serene stance has me in its hold. She is on call every minute of the day, and plays her part to the hilt, without flinching (why would she!) in utter merriment, marrying, as she was, her childhood sweetheart. I admire her more and more. She is my inspiration. I put aside all the pain for another day.
At the end of the day, it was a fabulous event indeed, and everyone around seemed pain-free. I had to work double shift, and participated with more gusto than i can recall doing anything else at all.
Who does not don a pair of high heels at such events? I know no one. – I did too, and danced under the influence of many a thundering shot of Tequila, and became Auntyji who performed without missing a beat, along with other aunties. Needless to say, the following morning I was in numbing pain, all worth it I told myself. The marriage of two lovelies was performed, and I smiled and waved and blessed their union with all the love in my heart.
On our return to our Gurgaon home, I slowed down considerably, and allowed the healing process to begin. And as soon as the knees and feet were able to, they took off to the mountains of Kumaon.
Come March (Knee-ling before Shiva’s Abode)
Himalayan Writer’s Retreat – Sona Pani
A five-day writer’s retreat is all my soul needed, and ascertained the healing of my body. The hills were beckoning. In my mind’s eye all I imagined was the sublime beauty of the snow clad Himalayan views. And so it was, pretty and oh-so-sublime. However, along with the view, were hills to be ascended, and climbed down from, all part of the beauty package. The forgotten pain and swelling crept up rapidly, as I cruised up and downhill, with courage as my armour (to borrow a poetic phrase). The agony returned, with an unknown ecstasy- and sleeping with both as bedfellas, now that is worthy of a mention. As we shared the same space, we befriended one another and a bond was formed. I was over fifty and my knees had reminded me that a difference had to be accepted and to marry them all. Not every older person has a bad arthritic knee. They may have sore elbows, or bad digestion, or double chins, or a belly that says, go slow on them carbs/alcohol, nifty calves, bags under the eyes (I have that too) etc. I had been gifted a mean knee.
Come May – Germany / East Europe
The Vagabond had rested for the month of April.
May brought great European joys on the plains. Boats and buses allowed this bohemian freedom from pain and while I walked up to fifteen kilometers a day, my body kept up with external joys, internalizing all the pleasures of tourism, in the ways of the world, with beauty and gastronomic delights being the order the day.
By early June, I told myself, pain was now a thing of the past, and I could live out the rest of my days in great sportsman spirit.
Come June (Rocket-Celery-Tomatoes: death by overdose)
Daily swims and eating healthy food in the plains of Gurgaon
Yet another trek to the mountains, for another writing retreat. Swollen knees after a riotous night of drunken dancing, oops, I meant, overdriven, overly enthused writing within a matter of two and a half days. A major unburdening onto paper, and verbiage of the author-speak sort.
Come August (Summer Girl Scout)
Camping in Spain, in the desert clime of the south. Rising heat, swirling dust devils and crawling in and out of a tiny tent sounded the death knell on my not-so-healthy knee. I returned home after long and excruciating walks in the Madrid and Dubai airports. My homecoming was short of joyous, as I began the process of healing my knee all over again. Sitting now with a cold pack on my left knee, I’m just getting over an allergic sore throat, a sad lower back and an ugly knee. But the vagabond in me is alive and kicking, because she is not ever going to be trapped by an aging body. The Bohemian spirit survives every onslaught of every trip, be it on the plains, or the hills. What I do believe is that I need to outsmart an age and an era which says, slow down, I need to believe I am smarter than my body, and its deep-seated beliefs. Am I my body or is my body – me? I say, in this installment : hail the never-say-die spirited ladies in my league!
September, October, November, December to follow in my next Kneeful travelogue assortment .