The Tourist

“Be a tourist in your own town”, the board proclaims. It is stained and dirty; it also looks weather beaten and has the look of someone that has bid numerous goodbyes without actually going anywhere. It doesn’t work that way, you cannot be a tourist in your town anymore than you can be a guest in your own home, no matter what the circumstances. The difference between a tourist and a local is that the local carries his baggage of memories; the tourist looks at the labyrinth of streets with a pristine slate.

On a dusty sunlit evening, I walk the cobbled streets of what once used to be an old abode. I realize that after a while the paths chart themselves out for you because you have walked them before. I no longer need to know where I am going, there is a set of hazy footprints to go by, sometimes I see it, sometimes I don’t but I have been here before and my feet will follow the marks. It is a slow journey, punctuated by sentiments that hang heavily around old reminisces. There is the side path just near the over bridge, you have to make way through the overgrown brambles and forge through the ankle-high grass till the road opens out into a clearing.

A small jump over an old unused drain and you are back on the main road again. A tourist wouldn’t find this; it is not on the map, not at least on the one that takes you somewhere. And yet, the path exists as a testament to the fact that there are no straight roads to get anywhere in a hurry, you must traverse the sidewalks before you get somewhere. There are the pauses that you must take before merging in with the flow.  We have been there before and we will do so again, how we get there this time is what counts.

Behind the old walking trail from across the main park is a tiny road that hums to itself and disappears behind a thicket. It does not matter that no one walks this road anymore, it is only the tourist that needs to live in the now, the local has his stories from the past. A long time ago there used to be a stream that flowed past the surrounds after particularly rainy monsoons. I had paper boats made of old grocery bills and I would watch them disappear on their journey in this seasonal stream. There was the thrill of not knowing when they would vamoose out of sight – I didn’t know it then but it was the closest I got to understanding that at the best, you can know where you are going, no one will ever be able to tell you if you will make it or how you will get there.  The boats would disappear, the monsoons would become a memory and the stream bed would hide under thick grass and brave new shoots. I never went back after a few monsoons, I never saw the boats again either. We both learnt that a goodbye is the first thing to pack for a journey.

Year later, as I walk those roads again, those that once matched steps with me are far away, and yet if I strain to hear them, I can hear a stifled giggle and the slurp of an ice-cream on a hot day. I turn around in a trice and almost expect to find a best friend from that age asking me to wait as she catches up. The roads are empty, a road full of strangers is always an empty street to some walking down memory lane. I sigh and keep walking. I cannot be a tourist here, they are too alive, those memories and sounds of another era.

Some more walking brings me to a road I have studiously avoided in the last decade. There are broken promises and there are unshared dreams here. Another time and another place, it led to a happy place. And yet as I walk down this path, the pain doesn’t come rushing out of the sidewalks like it normally does. The promises, even the broken ones (for we tend to magnify all that is incomplete) are hazy, the dreams are strangely harmless and incapable of hurting anymore. I notice the road for the first time, like it were a new thing. Time has dulled the intensity and age has given me a newness that feels like a beginning. The exorcism of the reminisces is complete, at least right here, right now on this street. I scan the road ahead with new eyes, I am tourist here now, and there is nothing that binds me to this place.

I am ready to be seduced by the journey again, a new chapter awaits….

PS: Have I ever posted this one dear people?  This post was sitting in my drafts for a really long time. Ah well, here goes.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rajavel
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 17:23:41

    That reminded me of something. Was able to relate to it to a frightening degree ! Dunno what you meant, but it meant a lot to me.


  2. Captain Nemo
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 19:37:47

    This is something everyone will relate to in some way or another and at varying degrees of intensities. Maybe they will not write it or even consciously think about it, but when they read this piece, there will be a sense of déjà vu.
    What could have turned into a morbid little piece if attempted by mere mortals has become a hopeful and cheery one in your hands… Superb.


  3. scarlettletters
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 09:09:44

    Thanks guys. It was very difficult to pinpoint the exact emotion but I do believe that places and surroundings can hurt or heal – with as much intensity as an animate being.

    Glad you liked it.



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