Fiercely independent – That’s the usual First impression people have about me. And most of the time this assumption is indeed true, except when it comes to travelling Alone. Now, I am not afraid or hesitant. It’s just that I have never gone anywhere alone. A family member or a friend is always with me on my short or long distance travels and thus I had never experienced being all on my own until… Until, that year of 2008 when I went to the UK on a work trip. Travelling with people you know is ideal, isn’t it? I thought so too, but then one day things changed. My Life changed. My perspective towards travelling alone took a 360 degree turn and I emerged as a new person, a better and braver version of my older self.
It was the month of August – the much sought after English Summer had arrived. During my four months stay in the UK, every weekend was dedicated to exploring the beauty of Suffolk and other parts of that picturesque land. My trips to Cambridge, London, Scotland and Glasgow were exhilarating. It goes without saying all these travels were made with my work colleagues and friends. Then, one fine day, I heard about the famous Notting Hill Carnival which was scheduled to take place. The carnival was on my “To Visit” list. A couple of my Indian work colleagues who were also on a secondment and sharing an apartment with me, decided to go along. We were 2 girls and three guys. On the Bank Holiday weekend, after an hour and a half journey from Ipswich, when we finally reached west London, we were in for a delight. The place was swamped with colors. People were dressed up beautifully in costumes I had never seen before. My eyes were savoring the artwork in front of us in the form of the carnival parade. The dancers were walking around in their attires with complete ease.
It was hardly 15mins since we reached the carnival when my girl colleague said, “This is outrageous. Let’s get out of here.”
“What is outrageous?” I asked half interested, eyes still glued at the vibrant colors at display.
“These women… Our guys are ogling at them openly. I am feeling uncomfortable here. Let’s go.” she hissed.
“We have come all the way just for this carnival. We were going to spend the day here. How can you decide to leave?” I looked at her thinking This can’t be happening.
“Well, I am going and the others are coming along too so you have to decide whether you want to leave or stay.”
I couldn’t believe that the guys had agreed to leave. Maybe they felt responsible and protective of her, but all I could think was “This is Ridiculous.” I kept mum though. I felt helpless and at the mercy of someone, but I didn’t want to miss the carnival too.
“I am staying,” I said calmly and immediately saw that it wasn’t expected. The look my colleague’s eyes were of disbelief.
“Ok. We are going for London sightseeing. Meet you at Liverpool station at 6pm?” My colleague asked a little worried, but not worried enough to stay back.
“Sure. See you guys at 6,” I said with half convinced heart. I wasn’t sure anymore if I would last that long. That’s 6 hours to go.
After my colleagues left, I spent a good 20mins glued to the spot, not sure what I should be doing. I was a stranger in a foreign land. Except for the language, I didn’t know much about their food, culture or behavior. I was almost tempted to run after my colleagues and join them. But then a parade group in White, Red and Black arrived. There were at least 100 performers who were playing the Drums. The Music they created reached my ears, tugged my soul and made my feet tap. My body swayed to rhythm of their steps and soon I forget about all the misery of the world. At that moment, I had another thing common with them – The Music.
It was the Music that gave me strength and courage to be on my own. It was the Music that made me trust strangers and believe in myself. As you must have guessed by now, I did spend the next five hours at the carnival. I walked up and down the whole street, ate lip smacking delicious food at various counters, spoke to complete strangers, sat on the street and cheered for the music bands, clicked hundreds of pictures and in a true sense felt one with Life. That’s the first time I have ever spent a day out on my own and I loved the feeling. I loved the freedom and the experience of doing and seeing far more than what I would have done if with a group or in the company of others. Music helped me discover myself. Today, whenever I am travelling, a book and my iPod are my constant companion, for then I am Never Alone.
Here is a video clipping of the carnival. Though the clarity is not great, you can hear the beats of music loud and clear