Life always gives us a chance. And sometimes it’s not the only one. I have always maintained that in the years that I have consciously lived so far and that has fuelled me with hope that no matter how desperate the situation, no matter how low the bottom I hit, there will be a chance to emerge on the surface. But this time around, hope dissipated away. There was so much of negativity and disparity of what I thought and what it turned out to be, that I didn’t have the faith of something good waiting for me. But life in all its majestic glory decided otherwise and gave me this chance.
For the initial one and a half months of knowing about my selection to present my work at the Nature Medicine conference, I didn’t feel a thing. It went by worrying about applying for travel grants, prepping my work and arranging for the trip. There was no excitement for my first ever international conference, no worries that I had to be there on my own, and no happiness that I will be presenting my work in front of some scientists I always had a wish to meet. Until I boarded my first flight.
Sitting at the terminal at Kolkata, I decided to reach out to my emotions which were somehow still elusive by sharing the news with my virtual world of real people. And as the congratulatory messages begun to pour in, I could feel that I was onto something significant. The initial few hours went in a jiffy, from flying to Delhi, to getting the immigration checking and boarding the connecting flight. This was my first international flight and all I was perked up about was the game of scrabble and episodes of Big Bang Theory on the ptv! I looked at the window and saw sadness smiling at me.
Reaching Frankfurt, I was aghast at the sheer vastness of it. Thanks to the lady captain I didn’t feel that I was airborne for the last 8 hours! Waiting for my connecting flight, I realized time had taken a backseat. I reached Hanover at a little after 11 in the night. As I watched the silent and empty streets zooming past by in a Volkswagen, I fell in love with the city.
Central Hotel Kaiserhof – the hotel I had put up at was a lovely place. But then I guess all four stars are. I was bemused by the impeccable hospitality of the staff. The food fit my appetite perfectly and I patted myself for giving my palate the right kind of exposure by embarking on my food expeditions.
In the evenings, the streets echoed of life. There were musicians at every nook, kids on skateboards, people riding bikes- it was so fresh,I took extra helpings of the air I breathed. I didn’t have to touch the inhaler even once during my stay. The beauty of the place stoked the latent desire of exploring places within me,so much so that I set on foot and covered almost 10 kms in three days!
For the first time, in a lot of time,I was happy to be amongst people. Gracious, always smiling, willingly helping – they were so different than the morbidity I was getting used to. Lakes and parks,ducks and wild rabbits, colored houses and cobbled streets- it was something I read in novels and the ones in which I wanted to live. Hanover was growing on me.
The conference venue took my breath away! It was a palace literally in the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. And if that wasn’t enough, the talks left me spellbound! It was a conglomeration of the best minds in the field but who could tell? They were such an accessible bunch of people! My presentation went well and both my work and presentation skill was praised. It boosted my confidence as I was the youngest person presenting (with the rest being post docs) and the sole representative of Indian science.
Finally the day of my departure dawned in. I was looking forward to be with my parents, but sad to leave the surrealism behind. I was scared that my perfect world would come apart once again when I would step in the world I badly wanted to escape. But the wind whispered back to me saying, I am in your heart wherever you go and something in me realized I have attained salvation. The trees nodded in agreement. I came back home after a tedious journey of delayed flights and horrible air pocket attacks to a bunch of smiling faces, glowing with pride and relief that their daughter had come home to them after a solo journey from a country infiltrated with refugees. Germany, you were a great teacher. Thank you. Auf Weidersehen.