winter is coming

ujjwal kanishka utkarsh

12/21/20186 min read

winter is coming



winter is coming...

On the last day of my Vienna in this stint, or rather this semester, I went with a dear friend to an apartment just opposite a park. The park had a small urban garden project happening too, and there were basil plants in it. It was not as cold as it had been but there was quite a wind blowing through, and that was really chilly. We were planning to pick out the Basil leaves, letting other people’s labour bear us fruit, or rather bear us some spice.

We were exact on time for our appointment, and over the next few minutes the plot thickened, our plans were going to be quashed it seemed. It had been quite something - these past few months and the last year overall for me. Same for my friend, in very different ways. We aren’t the closest of friends, and I won’t say too much for the fear of jinxing it, but having met her a couple of weeks back, we did hit it off. And I don’t think either of us were clear about how we both were there and cooking up plans like that. What we knew for certain in this moment was that it was sinking.

And sinking it had been. Transitions are difficult, and however much of a nomadic person I might or might not be, with age it does become more and more difficult. No wonder this blog is now named with the number to a place which was home. It’s been a bit since I left that place, and have been yearning for for home since. It’s not yet been. But it has been quite a ride.

House hunting, I met a person, who was working on a drone project at UN. We discussed the fucked up politics of United Nations, and despite his own UN project which revolved around drones in a country in Africa (that I hadn’t even heard about, and don’t even remember now) being an interesting one, how in the larger scheme of things, even that was fucked up.

There was a flat I applied for which had 150 applicants (the chances were more difficult than the PhD program I am enrolled for!!! :O ). In another appointment, I met a couple of smokers, who were doing multiple rounds of interview for their flatshare, and the second round of interview (which I was shortlisted for... yayyyy!!) was basically having a joint with them (and was then rejected... blah!! well, the joint was so good, so i guess that counts for something.

At a few places, I was told directly that I couldn’t have the place because I wasn’t a european, in some other ways, more subtler hints of racism were used - at least they were taking the effort. I met a person who was into japanese thingies, and had a rice cooker which had options of settings for the kind of rice that one wants to cook - sticky, balmy, i don't even remember the rest of the options. But she served me a lovely tea.

One had gone through a miscarriage, and her mother was detected with cancer, and wasn’t sure about living with her current flatmate, also because maybe if things went well with her new boyfriend, they might have been moving in together.

I met another one who drew me a bath the first day of my moving in, because there was a family emergency and after keeping my stuff there, I was just flying to India. And, then later after I was back I had come back, we went to a small intimate concert, we went to the christmas market, so on...

My cousin who lives in Lille (in France), asked me what it meant when I said Austria is richer, and how does it translate and so on. We were also talking about how white Austria is and the society could be quite insular, and with the language barrier, it becomes more. I was telling her that the public transport system is great, they don't even bother having ticket checking machines on entries to metro or the tram or the bus or whatever. They just don’t bother.

But did I tell her that the public transport system in Vienna is completely accessible? Did I tell her that the cars stopped for people waiting on the crossing? And generally how life on the street becomes softer. I wonder if we discussed what it meant not to having ticket checking machines like in Paris. Did it mean that not regulating people flow like that, not disciplining the crowd like that, had some implication in the larger scheme of things? I don’t know if we discussed all this. But I was discussing with someone how is it good to be poorer in a richer country. And Vienna has a lot of that. It’s of course not easy for the poorest of poor, but when you are doing work like I do, and earn like I do, all the public services you can get is welcome and great.

Being in such a weather is also something. I used to feel colder than it was, because I was also constantly told, that this wasn’t cold enough now, and that it will get colder. In anticipation, I would shiver. And had started talking like yeah, it ain’t that cold - it’s 1.5 degrees. hahahhahaha... Cold Vienna can get-in weather and otherwise. But the beggar near my academy U Bahn station always smiled and greeted me. I had just once given him something, and that day was something else itself - otherwise I really don’t break the rule.

Another evening, a frustrated lonely one I was on the U Bahn by myself, and this old person came sat right opposite me and just smiled and me. He very obviously didn’t know english, but we did share that smile. When I got off, incidentally he also did, and then he turned to me and in the broken english said - have a good day and left. Made my day :)

Last evening I went to the Kebab shop close to the academy. I had only once been there before but today went I asked for a falafel box, the place had become a chinese place!!! That guy said he kept switching between the two cuisines. And I don’t know why but he gave me a free extra beer, and a fortune cookie. My fortune cookie read ‘tonight destiny has something special planned for you’. Having gutted down two beers, and a noodle with crispy duck and teriyaki sauce, when my friend called in I was like let’s go for a drink.

We went to a place called cafe benno. She apparently had a history at that place. And it was interesting how in a twisted way that cafe had had intersections with her life. Sometimes in ways in which she hadn't even gone there. And sometimes not reaching there was what was the cause of things. It was also very interesting that these happenings and non happenings were seen by my friend as ‘new beginnings’.

This evening we did reach, and there we met a couple at the bar, who were very intrigued by this indian man, who had long hair, beard, and ate beef!!! The one drink turned out to be a long one, and we reached back only by four! And here we were the next day, at this flat getting our plans shattered. I had earlier in the day gone to the library, where the librarian didn’t take a minute to process my request for having books for two extra straight months because I was traveling for research, instead of the scheduled month long issuals. That day things were supposed to go well, and fine, and not the crisis that we were caught in this moment.

The street where the park was, the urban garden was called max winter plaza. The door of the apartment had a notice saying ‘winter is coming’ - a signage basically for the door NOT to be left open. It really felt like the winter was now coming. But maybe winter is not such a bad thing after all. Look at this landscape I am flying over - all snowed in.

Now, I can’t wait to come back in March, and see the story unfold.

The Winter is surely coming, and it is NOT a bad thing at all.

Maybe the summer will come soon too.

Here’s to winters, summers, and cafe bennos... :)