There are large trees lining the lane outside my little home. Their leaves keep moving relentlessly all day, catching even the slightest wind. They seem to be soaking in every bit of sunshine they can – and delighting in it. In a month or two, sunny days will be rare, the skies grey and heavy. That said, I feel none of this heaviness inside me. Not just yet. I am lapping up the sunshine too and slinking inside my blue Jaipuri quilt at night. I carry a jacket with me while going out but sometimes don’t get a chance to wear it at all. The weather is playing with me and I don’t know the game. It is, after all, my first week in Vienna.
This is partly why I have been away all this while. Both R and I have been going through multiple changes in life. R is here on a work delegation and I am here with him. I get startled every time I get out of the house. Inside our cozy little studio it’s quiet, warm and familiar. Outside, it’s chilly, bubbling and vastly new. I do not speak the tongue, indeed I find it difficult to even pronounce the name of our building. German words seem immensely intriguing – long, set together strangely, almost like a code. Everyone speaks German – from the vegetable sellers at a market that is very like Pune’s Sunday mandi, to the people you meet by the river Danube. I wondered briefly what language the swans speak. Pieces of fruit-bread seemed to work well enough there, thankfully.
A brief walk across the streets feels like you have entered a live-in museum. The buildings all look like intricate pieces of art – a cross between the historic and the modern. Every piece of construction looks beautiful – from the fountains at the crossroads to the ancient churches, from the large plazas to the palaces that have seen several empires. Every now and then, I am struck with something familiar – a takeaway-shop by the U-Bahn (or the Metro) and I find they sell kebabs. A red bus that reminds me of Delhi’s Connaught Place and then I realise it’s actually a tram.
R is excitedly making plans to travel. He has picked up the language considerably and charms me all over again by buying vegetables like a local. He knows the stores that remain open (most retail outlets here shut by 7 PM every evening) and remembers names of Metro stations. He grins as I struggle to store German phrases in my memory and reproduce them later, all contorted. “Stop laughing. Or I will force you to eat sushi and salad for dinner.” That shuts him up; he despises both.
This city is the closest I have been yet to the wintry world that so fascinated me when I was younger. All through my childhood (and even now, let me admit) I would pore over books that described the snowy landscape – how the kids snuggled by the fire during Christmas holidays, their breakfasts featuring steaming hot coffee and macaroons. Tucked in my warm bed in Delhi, a hot-water bottle by my side, I would imagine the world in those books come alive. “But your toes surely hate the cold.” Mom would say, rubbing them hard. “They always turn so red and itchy.” We often planned to, but never did, visit Mussoorie in December. The only snow I have seen is on television. Honestly, I have no idea how the European winter is going to treat me. But the very prospect is thrilling.
Vienna is awe-inspiring. As I sit by the window, typing away, the late evening sun persists. It doesn’t get dark until very late – something I know is soon going to start changing. For a while longer therefore, I am going to sit here and watch the street below bustling. Auf Wiedersehen!