Friday, August 21, 2015

Was I Imprisoned?

I was not certain how my mom would react, No, not one from my family has stepped in to a prison, and I know it well it’s not a thing to boast for being the first. As I sat in the Inspector General’s office, it was dot silent that I could hear my heart beat, a bit faster than the usual pace. I was informed I need to log in and surrender all the electronics and mobile phone at the prison gate locker before I step in, I felt I need to speak to my mom before that, but also had a hesitation for how she’d react, she would have no clue how I happened to land up in a prison and that too when I'm thousands of miles away from her.

The prison walls were built with black basalt rocks and that hints that the prison should be at least 200 years old. The 18th century Nine foot pendulum in a mammoth Dark Oak case with its antique copper hands, placed at the open end of the prison lounge donged 12, it never looked like 12 noon when I gazed through the window that’s barricaded with huge iron bars that are literally  indestructible, It was pouring down heavy and the clouds were dauntingly dark with monstrous thuds of the thunders. The entire set up of the room was very Irish, the Inspector General’s armed chair was meticulously crafted out of African teak. The room had a huge portrait of the former Prison Warden who was killed by the prisoners during an internal mutiny between two parties, he was known for saving half a dozen prison officers as he gave up his life, a note underneath the portrait praised him for that. As my thoughts wandered around, I was called by an old man and was informed I would need to step in, in to the prison gate in next 10 minutes. It alarmed deep within me, I was uncertain about when I would get to breathe the free air again once I step in, In a spur of a moment I took my mobile out and rang my mother…It’s not the usual time I call her, after a few rings she picked up and I heard that caring voice, “Hello” she said…

“Mom, I'm in Ireland, & I'm in Crumlin road Gaol (Jail)….” I uttered with a speculation of what she’d reply…

“Nice, that’s a great place to be, I’ve read about that in a novel and it has been closed officially in 1960’s and made in to a tourist spot right, hope you’re enjoying Belfast..Do take some pics and send it across in watsapp” she replied, & I was awestruck with my mom’s international exposure ;-) I thought of giving her a thrill ride and she made me feel blunt. I replied “Sure mom, I’ll do” and as I disconnected the call, My friends who were in the cafĂ© at the prison lounge returned and we gathered for the prison tour.

We had a old gentleman who should be in mid 70’s as the prison tour guide who's loaded with laughing gas which he never forgets to pump out often. One another soul that reminded me that age is just a number.
You can stay young at heart if you wish to, yes, if YOU wish to.

He gave a brief history of the gaol (or Jail), and we were walked through the chambers, the warden rooms, the security patrol towers, the medical centre and the only open space, the vast ground that was bound by a 15 feet black basalt rock wall with barbed fence above that, the wall was intimidating and gave no hope to surpass, not for the bravest too. My mind was playing back and relating it to Shawshank redemption (A movie to watch, if you haven’t), no easy deal it is….It was just a tour till then…He mixed with a lot of humour as we passed these place and there came the twist.

“The Gallow” – It never had a neuron attached to my brain till that very moment. It meant nothing to me till then. We were walked in to a chamber where the life sentenced prisoners were kept separated, along with two guards who stay with them round the clock, so the room had a decent enough space for 3 to strive living. It was dark except for the boring halogen light that passes through the bar gate, no exhaust window, no sun light and doses of depression.

Just imagine, staying for months together in a single room, where you do not get to meet people other than the two designated guards who stay with you, whether you like it or not. You don’t get to see the outer world, your food served in place. Could the world get more smaller for a person, I could feel myself trembling as I envisaged the life there. I know it had been only the people who deserved, may be, only the atrocious landed up there, but still that hurts deep to live than to die to be in such an environment. Just think what if an innocent is judged guilt, how would it feel…After spending months there, the prisoner on the final day, the Judgement day is moved to the very next room through a door that is riddled  in his very room where he spent so much time, he would have never knew his death doors were so close to him. That door lands him in to the Gallow Chamber, he is not given enough time to take things in, he is blindfolded, his hands tied, and in a moment he has a rope around his neck positioned right between his jawbone and throat to ensure the pain lasts minimal time and then the THUD, the lever released, the person is hanged to death, his soul leaves his body and that’s the end. 

As the old man narrated, we had 15 odd people in the group with nationals from US, Europe & Africa. Culture, Race,  education, maturity, the bullish looking and puny looking, and all possible differences were there, but one thing in common, tears brimming every eye. It was indeed an intense emotion, and we walk down the chamber, a narrow tunnel that leads to the exit door, I hardly found people talking to each other. Everybody was occupied in their own thought and so was I.

I was entangled in a different thought thou, The person punished faces the isolation for months, and pain of death for minutes, I would call that much better. Yes much better compared to the life of the guards who stay with him, take care of him, spend time with him, dine with him and at times, play cards and laugh with him… How would it be to watch a person who was there with you, whom you guarded for months, who almost became a friend in spite of his cruel acts of the past, whose softer side you know, and finally you watch him die, and then comes the next and the next…Don’t you think this is worse than execution as such? It is…no matter how cold hearted the guard may be..!

So, now, close your eyes and think about your biggest problem or  your biggest worry, and tell me if we are anyway close to this, definitely not, we have a life, we have a “Tomorrow” that’s full of possibilities, we have family n friends though at times it might have its own imperfections, which is way better than not having one. I don’t intent to say be happy about your problem, I intend to say be happy in spite of having a problem…

Life is short,  do not wear your problems on your sleeves.
 Happiness is a way of life and not a destination.
 Keep smiling & Stay Loving!! 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The heaven beneath the Sky, the isle of Skye!!

“It leaves you speechless and then it turns you in to a story teller”

I never knew I would have a moment in my life to make me feel  so unanimous with this quote until I knew Isle of Skye . What’s the best thing 3 guys can do on a long weekend when they are thousands of miles away from their lovable families, hit on the road, and that becomes more obvious when they live in a land that’s the analogy of serenity, the Scotland. Yes, we planned to visit the heaven beneath the sky, the isle of Skye.

The Planning was done perfect, rental car booked, a country house blocked and ensured the weather forecast says it’s going to be sunny [Unfortunately, I still trust the Scotland weather forecast]
It was a fresh and vibrant Saturday morning as we packed up the tucks and headed to the Car renter. And the Car Renter was generous enough to offer us a brand new hatch back, happy-go-lucky, we 3 boarded and as I put my hands in the steering, I felt the nervousness, we are from a land where juggling, hide ‘n seek, salsa and sledging is all a part and parcel of driving, and this auto-bot mode of driving is absolutely unfamiliar to me, and I have to get used to it.

If you call him the Savior who’ll direct you when you have no clue of where you are, for us, HERE maps app was the Savior for the trip we worshiped. One of the 2  was the navigator for me, or better called the messenger who communicated me what the Savior directed. We were given options with 2 routes, a motor way and a country side drive, and all 3 of us concurred in choosing the country side route, for we are not here to save time, but to save memories!

As I started driving along the beautiful roads, My initial misconception dissolved, it not an Auto-bot driving, rather it’s more of a meditation, with the landscapes that’s in similitude with the MS Windows wallpapers, and a road that reminded me of the NFS2 track with beautiful pine trees lined up on either side of the road, how better driving could get... After driving for 2 hours, the Savior as always, wanted to test us, it shows battery drained and car charger wasn’t fast enough to feed its hunger with GPS turned on, we were left out with no option but to use the road signs and the instincts.
The landscape turned more beautiful and that made us stop by and click some memories, soon after we realized if we are going to stop for the beautiful landscapes we would go no further for every single sight was eye-popping.

3 hours of drive took us to a place called Fort William, where we found a Roundabout but had no clear signs saying which exit will take us to the Skye!
Robert Frost lines came up in front of me “Two Roads diverge in an yellow wood” OMG, two roads was much better than a roundabout with 6 exits, I spoke within.
And a voice from our car , one of our mate, with total assertiveness commanded us in to a particular exit, and more often we rely anything that’s commanded with assertiveness, we did take that exit.
Driving few miles, we happened to see a spot that was so beautiful, with a beautiful Oak Garden table on plush green meadow on the bank of a loch(lake) whose name we didn’t know and the lock rimmed with a valley, it looked absolutely romantic, unfortunately we were 3 guys travelling together. And that seemed to be a perfect place to have the lunch as we were already hungry driving for hours. Parked the car and opened up the box of Spicy Aromatic Biryani made by our in-house Chef, and that was done and dusted in a jiffy. Again clicked some memories and resumed the drive. Another 30 miles and landscape started changing dramatically and looked more like we’re in middle of Grand Canyons. Is that Common sense or instincts, that we stopped by to check in a fuel station to ask how far is the Skye. He asked, where are you heading from, and as we said Edinburgh and via Fort William, we could see him control his laughter, and uttering “You should have taken exactly the opposite exit from Fort William roundabout, you need to drive back 30 odd miles to get en-route. As we said thanks and walked backed to the car, the 3 faced was exhausted and tired.

We picked ourselves up and started driving towards the Skye and now took the right exit in the roundabout, the route got better and much better, and that indeed bought smiles back in the faces. Another few miles of driving gave us the sight of the majestic Skye bridge and there we got all excited. The Skye bridge was a phenomenal peace of architecture and as we drove in to the bridge, the arc shape of it gave a feel as we drive in to the sky, as if we get dissolved with the beauty of the blue skies; it was just more than fascinating.

After a bit over dose of wandering, to our wonder, the first thing we saw as we crossed the bridge was the sign board of the country house we had booked, and that took us in to a 100 plus year old Scottish bungalow converted in to a B & B, we parked, picked up the baggage and as we walked in admiring the elegance of the Grande house which had the plush of modest luxury with the heritage retained in place, it was everything more than what we anticipated it to be.

As a rule of life, happiness and disappointments hit us back to back, we heard that the Kitchen is closed for dinner. We checked in the room, refreshed and started hunting for a restaurant, as the place having a very few of them, and we were lucky enough to find one by the bed of the loch, that had an amazing window view of the Skye Bridge and indeed serving us with a perfect Scottish food, not forgetting the haggis! As we reached back to the room, after a day with hours of driving, a sumptuous dinner, a cozy bed, we went in to sleep like an infant in the hands of his mother’s arm only to wake up fresh and vibrant in the morning.

The morning greeted us with a perfect English breakfast on a room that had that beautiful view of the window side vibrant shades of flowers and a scenic valley behind. With the Whisky patriot on board, the first destination in Skye was Talisker Distillery and as we reached the place, it was hilarious to see his reaction seeing the board “we are closed for the day” for Sunday. Next on list, the Neist point light house which is in the other end of the Skye, we drove dozens miles as instructed by our Savior, who’s all loaded today. Few hours later, we were directed in to a road, which had the road Sign Neist Point with Right Arrow;. The road should be 7 foot wide and it’s a two way road! It was thrilling , but exhausting too to drive a manual transmission car, to give way for every vehicle that come in the opposite. We kept driving and after driving for more than a 20 miles, we realized the fuel bar stood at the last point, we were skeptic, (or in panic?) we neither saw a fuel station, nor a petit shop  in the last 20 miles. We halted the car in side turf and debated whether to risk and go forward or to drive back, and the vote was up for drive back as we were in middle of no man’s land. We drove back, and this time a bit lucky to find a short path that took us to a fuel station in 12 miles. As we refilled the fuel, one of our mate was all excited, and latter we understood it is because the restaurant adjoining has the Indian Spicy Chicken curry with Rice in its menu stuck in the door. Nothing could stop us getting  in to the restaurant and we did. An hour later, Car & us were both fueled enough to run further, we decided not to give up and we drove back to the Neist Point. The same short route and crossed the place where we parked to debate, and as we reached, we found we were just 2 miles away from Neist point from where we debated and  returned back the previous time, and that sparked a philosophy in my crazy mind:

“We’d never give up if we only knew how close we were to Success (destination?)”

And finally we reached the Neist point, bright green turf, Clear blue Sky, Mammoth Black rock that looks like the fossil remains of Volcanic eruptions , the view was Worth the hours we spent behind it.
Retired back to the room, after a worthwhile day and tired enough to sleep in graveyard mode. Next morning, the final day of trip, the only item pending, The Talisker Distillery and we drove towards it, this time, lucky enough to find it opened. A one hour walk through on the Whisky making process reminded me of the 7th grade chemistry classes with the huge furnaces around, hearing about fermentation, distillation so on and so forth. And the icing on the cake, Whisky tasting at its own house, the first time I tasted, a 10 ml shot, and that too from where its made,  and a Talisker badge they gave us to carry along made it one of a kind experience. Not forgetting to mention, our mate ensured to buy a 20 year old special edition bottle packed in a shiny velvet box, and yes, he treated that as a prized possession.

And there came the end of the episode, as we drove back home, Edinburgh was waiting for us with the roaring traffic at the city gates. Time to get back to reality from the dream world. We were tired enough to hit the bed much earlier than our schedules, and that night we knew we’ve earned a heap of memories that we’ll bestow for the rest of our lives, we felt a sense of accomplishment, and a wave of gratitude towards the Savior, now the real Savior, who was gracious enough to create a little heaven of tranquility for us under the Sky called the Isle of Skye!!