So a new phase of life finally begins; in a city I had no idea I would come back to. It was 2006 and there were 5 of us who had come to this city for a short project. Without much money in our hands, we had walked through the length and breadth of the city, trying to optimize the MRT fares. We all were a living encyclopaedia of what to do and not to do in Singapore. It was the first international trip for most of us and we wanted to ensure we made the most of it.
As I was flying into Singapore, alone and just a little scared, Woody Allen came to the rescue. Singapore Airlines had Midnight in Paris playing on their system. One of the recent quirks of the master film maker has been to romanticize Europe. And he paints the most seductive picture of Paris. But the best part was the originality of the screenplay. Suddenly, it occurred to me, this was so very Bengali – Loving the past, always reliving the golden ages, wishing that one was born before his or her time. The treatment was exquisite and Owen Wilson managed to pull it off to a large extent. Yes, probably someone else could have done a better job at showing his surprise. Imagine me running into Tagore. I would have fainted then and there.
The protagonist is a writer facing a block and one night he suddenly meets all his literary idols, and is transferred back to the golden age of Paris – 1920s. He has an option to stay there or come back. The subtlety with which Woody Allen shot the movie was sublime to say the least.
But most importantly, as I was about to land in a new city to start a new phase of my life, it taught me to treat nostalgia as it should be – like a memory that helps to keep you going, not hinders you by pulling you back.
5 years ago the city had struck me as being operated on clockwork. Nothing seems to have changed much. Yes, it’s a bit more crowded, definitely warmer, the Changi Airport keeps adding terminals and there are trains to take you from one to the other, the roads are smooth, chewing gums can’t be found in grocers, the food is super costly, the food courts are buzzing and the MacDonald’s have the ability to come to the rescue of a hungry nomad.
How the story turns out to be only time can tell. I believe stories make their own paths. They are alive and even if we try we can not dictate how they will turn out to be. Maybe yes, the best we can do is to give a nudge here and there. But that’s about it. A nudge. Life ensures that every story goes through their own twists and turns.
As the plane was getting farther and farther away from my country, I sipped on the most brilliant mocktail I have ever tasted - Awaiting the Golden Dawn. Maybe, it was just the mood, the memories, but somehow, when I said cheers to myself, as Owen Wilson decided to stay back in Paris, I realized I was lucky to be able to fall in love with the cities I go to.
Best part? The weighing machine in my room shows my weight to be 10 kgs lower than it was last week in Mumbai. Now that’s one welcome that can floor me any day. May the good times continue.