Californication

28th January: Walking uphill-downhill in San Francisco, crossing tiny boutiques and cafes, soaking the sun I started walking from Fisherman's wharf onto Jefferson street. People were cycling alongside the beach. I got one too. It was a perfect scene, like from a children's illustrated ladybird storybook with families enjoying a picnic, some couples getting an ice cream, a lady running a dog, coloured houses with painted doors.I reached Peet's coffee where I dropped my cycle saving myself from the running dogs. I got myself a third coffee. I stopped to smell some flowers, took pictures of pretty houses. Every house seemed like I had dreamt of it before. I was fascinated by the low height balconies and small gardens each house had. As I walked up the Russian hill I saw some school kids walking from the Coit tower side. It seemed like the city had the same music every afternoon. Sucking on the last ice in the coffee I crossed the road towards Broadway. I saw a board of Mr Grey. I was excited about the release of 50 shades of grey later in the week. I picked up a leather-bound copy of three musketeers, I wanted to read in the Golden gate park. I sat in another cafe.This time I got green juice from seed and salt. I opened a map as I wanted to do a lot on the same day. The gentleman sitting in front of me was curious. It was so easy to talk to a stranger. I could be who I wanted to be. Later that evening I went for belly dancing. I moved like the sweat on the curves of my body. I was telling my imaginary friends how happy I was today. So complete and fulfilled. Liberated in some ways.I enjoyed the freedom of small things. I enjoyed a chocolate frozen yoghurt with chocolate toppings. Beauty and joy were in small things. San Francisco is known for its hidden staircases. I took a really long one. I was panting by the time I got up. I sat to just see the view of the beautiful city. I could hear my self-breathe. I was breathing San Francisco air. I walked down Chinatown to Powell street and could hear the tram on mission street. From the quiet residential area, I had entered the financial district. I looked at my health app, I had walked 12 km. I ended the day with a perfect picture of the Bay Bridge. I took the 6:20 Cal train and listened to Bombay Dub. I returned browner.Satya had planned a dinner in Santana Row. 

31st January:  Shoto woke up before 10 am.We drove to Napa in his car. Gauti, M and I took turns to navigate. The google lady confused Shoto and we took the wrong route. We needed gas, I needed to pee so we stopped at a subway. Now I was hungry too. Evan and the wife were in another car. By now we had settled on a winery and I looked forward to all the wine I was going to have. I was in awe of the yellow fields. Boys discussed how much money the owners must make. I imagined rolling down from Heidi hills. Shoto and I shared a menu. He complained I should have chosen more sweet wines. I was a bit tipsy. After I took my Instagram shot of the wine, Evan suggested stopping at another winery. We stopped at the Yellow fields like Shoto had promised. I plucked a flower from my diary which he later threw. I checked my phone. It was 11:11. Laughter still echoing in my ears. Shoto and I met after years.We rolled on the sofa laughing about Shilps and Nishu. Shoto's laugh reminded me of a friend I had in London. Last night we played beer pong. Smoked some Californian pot on his balcony. I was now floating in my sleep.

8th February: On the way back from LA, we took route 101 and M had planned to take Pacific -1 at some point.It was dark by the time we got on it. By now I had run the weekend in my head several times. It was misty and difficult to drive on the curvy road. I was like a child watching a video game.I wasn't scared, obviously, the boys drove and we're going to get me home safe. None of us had phone signals. We played atlas for the lack of any other ideas on what to do. M kept getting the letter 'A'. From 80 mph we were now driving at 9mph. I checked my phone to look at some of the pictures I took of the inspiring art at LACMA, boutiques in Silver Lake. Last night at Jumbo clown was an adventurous one I thought. How those women danced with the arrogance of their beauty and lust. M obviously enjoyed more than both of us. How only two days ago we were like three college kids drunk on the streets of LA, unaware of the adventure to come. High in life and Jack-coke, like there was no job to go back to, no expectations to fulfil.

14th February: It was the 59th day. My last evening.Virat Kohli had scored a century. S- Woah Woah son. We took breaks in between the India-Pakistan match and went to the park to sit on the bench.He lit the second mint going through how quickly the two weeks went.I learned to put my head on him and took in the Brut he was wearing, noticing the veins running down from his arms to his hands.

S- don't be sad

Me-hmm.

S- What hmm

Me- I shed a tear

S- noooo

We came back up. I had milk and cereal. I thought of the hike to Muir Woods. The feeling I had when I saw the sunset at Muir beach overlook. The smell of the redwood trees. Drive along the bay listening to 'chatt pe pyaar'. I met so many new people on this trip. Maybe some added something to my life. Maybe I added something to theirs. Maybe we will meet again. After many years. I looked through the many sunset pictures on my phone. I was taking the Californian sky back with me. 

27th January: I woke up in the big room with big windows and smiled to myself. Sunlight was on my face. I was up from the dark night sleep and all that had happened in the past five weeks was now a dream. I got out without the thick jacket, just in my loafers. Took a dip in the pool and napped. Bliss

6th February: I drank a lot that night. Blue motherfucker did fuck me up. It was a kind of euphoria I haven't felt in a while. It was like a fantasy. I was in it now. I have never danced like this before. I was so young in that moment. I wanted to let loose. I knew even if its a lie, its a beautiful one. It will save me from losing my sanity.

26th January: There is a dark pit I keep falling into. I stood in the white with him. This goodbye was different from the last one. This was the last one. I drove away, unable to cry. How do you mourn a death of something that didn't exist? There was silence, not the comforting one, the one that is so cold and piercing. Tenderness had left his eyes. 

8th February: Pacific was wild and icy. It danced like a woman in love. There was a passion that we both shared. It was as deep and vast. I burnt the mint. Enjoyed the noise outside and the calm inside me.

5th February: We started the journey post lunch. M had already been waiting. Shoto played the top 15 on Saavn. Half an hour into driving on 1-5 ,I knew why I came here.I was lost in Heidi Hills, the yellow fields and lavender valleys. We knew we were friends from the lost past. There was a background music of Shoto's chuckle. I was a child again. So carefree. I was home. We did miss Gauti and pum-pum. We stopped at the Los Banos Creek Reservoir. We parked on the side and climbed up to get a better view. It was windy, almost so wild that it was going through my body. I had to hold onto Shoto to go up. The Valley held the water so gracefully. The water was calm and serene. The sun watched them hug. In that moment I had everything. All my hopes and my spirit. I didn't want this journey to end. I didn't want to lose me again. I wanted to keep the sky, the hills, the ocean and the laughter forever. I could be on the road till it all ends. For so many years I kept finding a home. In people. There was an unsettling feeling of not having a home to return to. A feeling that I am only here for a while. Finally, I can go back home. There was a reassurance, I hadn't died. The coldness had left my body and the warmth my body ached for was back. Every time I come back from a travel I bring back a lost part of me, and I also leave a part of me behind. We were like lovers who hadn't met. Take me to you California. Keep me with you. Never let me go. We reached LA late in the evening. After Shoto had spotted many Starbucks and chipotle. I asked him, could we do this again. Shoto- why not ? 

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I knew why I came here.I was lost in Heidi Hills, the yellow fields and lavender valleys. We knew we were friends from the lost past. I was a child again. So carefree. I was home.