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Around The World In Eight Days

Hey.

Oh Hi.

I see that you are writing again.

Well Yes I am trying to. I would appreciate it if you would not peek over my shoulders.

Shouldn't it be  'Around The World In Eighty Days'?

It would have been the case if I were Jules Verne. Seriously, I would like some privacy while writing.

Oh I get it. You are writing about the film festival, aren't you?

Thank you for spoiling my write up. I was keeping the IFFK twist for the end.

Come on. It's elementary, Watson. Go on with your piece. Happy writing.


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Around the world in eight days. The ticket cost you just five hundred rupees. What an irresistible offer. I signed up without much thought. So did thousands of others. The trip was to be in the month of December. We waited impatiently. Enter December. Begin festival.

We reached the launch pad half an hour early. All seats were already taken up. Rest of us ushered ourselves to what available spaces remained. The take-off ceremony began precisely at 6. 

The neighboring Afghan was our first stop. There we met Nabi, a fine young ambitious man who was fleeing the country due to some feuds. We wished him good luck. That night we had a long flight and reached Colombia the next morning. Simple village. Mostly religious lot, though the youth have started questioning the religious institutions. The priest at the local Catholic church seemed a grumpy man, and was in a standoff with the villagers. I sincerely hope the folks don't bow down to the whims of religious fascism.

From there, we took off to a lonely place somewhere in the French-Swiss border. The crew decided to take a short break, and thus we checked into a hotel nearby. That's where we overheard a conversation between a private investigator Aloys and a lady. There were discussing telephonic-walking. Though the concept seemed interesting, most of what they spoke did not make any sense. I felt the couple of hours spent there as a waste of time. 

Soon, we crossed the borders of Croatia. A couple of government agents welcomed us there and took care of our stay. Funny people. Their line of work was strange, yet interesting. Overall, the time spent there was relaxing. Belgium would complete the Europe leg for the time being. The wonders we saw there would appear too strange for the normal listeners, so I am not detailing. Let's just say that love is blind.

That night we returned to India for a short visit. Not Kerala, of course, but our journey was through the rural villages of Gujarat. That's when we realized that the Gujarati model of development was not as cool as marketed. Physical and sexual abuse suffered by women at homes, aversion to education, dominance of khap panchayats  all painted a different picture of India.

We flew overnight to the war torn Egypt. Clashes by the supporters of military and supporters of Muslim Brotherhood could be seen all over. Our hearts went out for the civilians of the nation famous for its ancient culture. We planned our next voyage to Mexico as an escapade from the horrors we witnessed here. Mexico was a pleasant space. We camped near a warehouse, and met a peculiar person who had spent 39 long year working at the warehouse. That was his retirement day. How coincidental, right? We may have not seen him if we were a day late.

We traveled south and reached Chile by evening. A lovely lesbian couple welcomed us into their home that night. We sat by the fire and spent the night singing songs. It was fun, though I am not sure the teenage girl Sara approved of it. That's when we thought how could we complete a European trip without visiting the beautiful France. We rushed to Paris that night. Paris may be romantic at night, but beware pickpockets roaming around. Paris brought our weekend to an end.

Turkey was visited on Monday. I remember meeting Elmas, the young girl who had to deal with so much so early in her life. We spent a whole day there, witnessing clear and obscure cases of broken relationships.

We returned to Africa on Tuesday. Not to the war torn Egypt, but this time to the remote village in the middle of nowhere in Ghana. Our hearts were shattered by the incidents experienced there. The whole village was ridden by horrendous superstitions, and exorcists loomed large. Incapable of witnessing the horrors, we ran away and reached Iran by evening. Though developed and rich, what we saw was male chauvinism and strive for freedom of choice. That's when we realized that though culture, language and religion tend to be different, the mindsets of people remained largely similar.

We decided to end the world tour and return home. There was no direct flight to Kerala, so we arrived at Mumbai on Wednesday, where we spent the day. We were having a walk by the lanes of Andheri, when a young woman by the name of Charu showed us the photograph of a person and asked us if we knew him. Apparently, he had gone to her apartment for a painting job. He collapsed while at work, and died later at a hospital. Her story made us contemplate our own identities and existence. Who were we without the numerous cards and documents describing us? Each of the millions of faces we see on streets have a story, but what do we know about them? That was an eye opening experience.

We reached Kerala by Thursday. Before heading to home, we first went to the dense forests of Wayanad to chill. The state police had camped there, allegedly after the presence of Maoist militants were detected. You know what - we actually met one of them in the forest. We got to hear their side of the story too. Perhaps it was all about survival. About the right to live. We returned and did not inform the police about our chance encounter.

With a satisfied mind, we returned home after the week long travel. An enlightening experience indeed.

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Nicely put, buddy.

Thanks.

Why did you not tell me about this trip? I too would have come with you.

Oh, did not realize you were keen about stuffs like this. Don't worry, we shall go next year. And with better planning, we could cover more places too.


With Pavo Marinkovic, the director of Ministry of Love.

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