Sunday, February 01, 2009

Budapest In Budapest

I walked into a multiplex yesterday. I didn’t know which screening to attend as I attend most of them fairly regularly. So I picked the special screening. It was called ‘Budapest In Budapest’. And I returned overwhelmed.

The multiplex of my mind has many screens…Screen One is what’s flashing in front of my eyes – of the present; Screen Two is parallel universe – of how I would have liked the present to be (this screen does not have screenings very regularly); Screen Three is the future – of how I see or would like to see things shape up…my day dreams; Screen Four is the past – the one with the regular screenings of memories, fond or otherwise…and then there is Screen Five which is for special screenings only – where my heart digs out an obscure memory…one I thought would just remain buried but turns out to be otherwise. It is this screen I walked into yesterday.

When I was a child, my father used to call me and my sister as Budapest and Bucharest…maybe he picked it off the news about the ongoing conflict then (we were called Trincomali-Batticaloa at another point in time…even Akdu-Pakdu when The Jungle Book was all over Doordarshan)…maybe he liked the way it rhymed…maybe he wanted us to be good at Geography. But off and on, we used to be addressed by these nicknames. And they stayed in the mind like that…not as capitals cities but as our nicknames.

And then other memories piled up. And these names became like books lined up at the bottom of an old trunk…where one has carefully stored all keepsakes.

But then I came to Bratislava and serendipitously discovered that it was located just a short train ride away from Budapest. And suddenly it was like reopening that old trunk to pull out an old favourite book. And I wanted to do justice to that book. So I decided to read it by visiting this city of which I had heard only from my father.

So yesterday we set out to visit the beautiful twin cities of Buda and Pest…for me it was a pilgrimage of memory. The train journey on the Eurail was slow and allowed one to see the wonderful landscape of Europe at leisure. The people in Budapest were friendly and helped us find our way around the Metro System and Bus System whenever we asked for help. The locales of the Castle Hill were charming with only cobbled stone roads around and not too much of a crowd. One could get lost looking at the view of the city from various points around the castle wall but most of all from the Fisherman’s Bastion. I kept clicking as many pictures as I could to remember this first visit to Budapest and kept missing my special ones throughout the day…most of all my Dad…he would have been happy to see pictures from this gem of European History.

We met another Indian girl in Budapest and she joined us as she had no company. We were then more and merrier and we saw the whole place together and had lunch together too. This was one of those encounters that are destined to happen, paths that are meant to cross for some reason. We were late in the morning at Bratislava and caught a train that was quite late. Had we taken an earlier train we might not have met her at all!

I had been desperate to see the Parliament lit up from across the river but it did not seem like we would get to as we were almost out of time. We wouldn’t know where to go to see that brilliant sight and would have just gone straight to the Train Station. But then we met a man at the Metro Station who asked us if we wanted a picture of all four of us together (which has been a rare occurrence in Europe so far). Then he asked us if we were from India and greeted us with a ‘Namaste’!

He went on to mention all the things he knew about India – Haathi Mere Saathi (he has a DVD!!), Chapati, Samosa etc. He asked us if we were tourists and were returning from Budapest immediately. And then he said why we were not going to see the illuminated Parliament because it is so beautiful. He told us to get off at the very next station, get out of the station, take pictures in 5 minutes and get back! It was all I could have asked for on this trip. He said that his Indian name was Mahesh. And then he said (and I still haven’t understood why because it was totally unrelated to our conversation) – ‘I am your angel. I will disappear in some time. I have someone else to help’. And I believed him…Daddy must have sent him so I wouldn’t miss a breathtaking sight : )

I returned from Budapest with a feeling of contentment. I had paid my homage to the man who had made my childhood such a special place to be in…even in memory. This was one of those rare times when screens changed midway though the screening from Five to One. I enjoyed it immensely anyway. And I hope Daddy enjoyed the fact too…

1 Thinkers Pondered:

Utsarg said...

Miracles do happen. Especially to good people. I am sure it was your father who showed up as your angel at that station. That night many more souls have seen the beautiful sight of illuminated parliament building through your eyes.
You have recreated the entire magic very beautifully in the post. Loved the thought of "multiplex of mind". This screening will fetch you an award or two for sure :-)