It is said that journeys never end, we just achieve milestones and keep moving on. Milestones can be a measure of success or a measure of failure, in any case, they tend to impart experience and experience is a commodity one purchases by spending time instead of dime.
Little by little, one travels far as said by Tolkien, and it was little by little my steps found their way into the Eastern part of Europe on a cold wintery afternoon. A part of the world much different from the East in its entirety. As soon as one steps foot on these lands, a chill grips the soul as if the cold history of that land casts a spell. It was hard to wonder how many innocents lost their lives some decades ago on these fronts. Once the cold chill passes and the fog seems to clear, one gets mesmerized by how a nation endures hardships and rises from the ashes. The city which stood the test of destruction breathes lives into thousands of its inhabitants, who bear nothing but a smile of their face despite the harshness of winter.
In any journey, I like collecting memories and not things. I started my Journey from the capital of a white and red country. What fascinated me about that was how ordered the city was. It was as if the city and its people were one, taking care of each other like they shared some clandestine bond. There was order wherever my gaze could see. Be it a traffic light, be it a queue outside a shop or inside a shop, be it a bus stop or be it just spending leisure time; there was just a harmony that I could listen even in silence.
Treasures are always found in ruins and though not comparable to ruins, I went on to see the lesser known parts of white and red country. Often the soul of civilization resides far away from the city centers, and this made me take complete unknown roads in complete unknown lands among complete unknown people who spoke complete unknown language. My quest landed me in a small village which meant unicorn in native language (Jednorożec). Legend has it that there was a local beekeeper who saw an unicorn in the area, which was a royal hunting preserve back in that era. Prince Janusz III Mazowiecki ordered the building of a hunting lodge on the spot, which was aptly named Jednorożec. My first impression of the village was how it was not a village. It was very modern with almost all the fundamental infrastructure. Dare I say some of my country’s cities have less facilities than this village. But a place is just wood, stone and concrete without its soul; the people.
I stayed with a family who had hearts made of selflessness and character made of kindness. Like every house in any part of the world, mother forms the foundation of the house on love and care. Mother’s love and care transcends borders, boundaries and cultures. Some things are universal indeed and a mother’s love and care serve as an accolade. I stayed for 2 weeks but what I experienced was a home away from home. I realized family is essentially to humans what flowers are to an orchard; lifeline. Though many of the family members couldn’t communicate with me, I realized language is just a barrier that is traversed by purest of feelings, for feelings were the force that made us cry on my last day in that village. Words fall short when hearts start to speak and that farewell still is as fresh in my heart as a morning dew.
For me this anecdote from my journey depicts the transformation of complete unknown people to people who have made a place in my heart and shall stay there like a flower stays in spring. That journey changed me completely and has made me a better person who still looks towards the land of white and red flag.
(the writer is a master’s student at TU Darmstadt in Germany, who comes from Pakistan. He has done cultural exchange workshops in Poland, Egypt and Azerbaijan)
Ali Abbas Wajid