Melbourne: The Inception of a Dream
‘….just then a one-rupee coin starts rolling down the aisle floor. It rolls and rolls – ever so slowly – then hits my right foot with a loud ‘thump’. What the f*@k!?’
I rub my eyes open and yawn hard; the Qantas airlines’ hostess has just flashed a brilliant smile at my neighbour, ‘Only fourteen hours to Melbourne, sir.’ Much later, as the pretty woman repeats her performance, ‘Only one hour now, sir.’ I look out my window and sigh with anticipation: Not bad for a small-time salesman!
I shuffle through the on-air videos. To avoid chit-chats, I put on ‘Inception’ and close my eyes again. Suddenly, I flip back in time – it’s 4:00 p.m. on a sleepy Friday afternoon, I am at my office. The computer screen ahead flashes ‘It’s your time to visit Melbourne NOW!’. I take out my pen and paper, but then remember – I have to meet a client today before my evening flight…………
‘Eh….’ My neighbour pokes me minutes later. ‘Dreaming again, huh?’
I look out the window and see that the plane’s landed. Exactly thirty-five minutes later, I board a Skybus from terminal T1 and head for my hotel ‘Hilton on the Park’ in central-east Melbourne.
‘Hi…I-I a-am…’ I offer my hand to the hotel’s manager.
‘Mr. Datta, right? (he pronounces it ‘Data’)
‘A call for you, sir!’
I wonder who it could be. The Australian Prime Minister herself! Welcoming me to her country?
‘H-Hello…’ I hesitate.
‘Only one day, remember.’ my boss bellows from the other end and then, slams down his receiver.
B-But one day for what? For sightseeing Melbourne??
Now, the problem with less time is: by the time you’re done reacting with the timid ‘huh’ the stopwatch has already started! It reminded me of my extempore on ‘why save our tigers’ from class nine –
‘Only one minute to think!’ my geography teacher had barked. And when the moment came, all I could come up in the poor bugger’s defence was that he had a small hole in his ass with which he farted big time! (E-rr….a potent weapon to stamp out those forest fires, miss)
I drop my bag at the hotel and venture out onto the paved street; a cheery stranger by the name of Peter takes out his guitar and strums it like a sitar. It’s near dusk now, and I hail a cab to 12 Apostles (A collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park). As the road forks about through the scenic landscape, I slide down the cab-window and hear the ocean roar. The car turns and twists. And almost every turn has a view and every view has its turn.
‘Ahoy!’ cheers my cab-driver.
I walk by the coastal stretch of Gibson Steps, Loch Ard Gorge, and Bay of Islands (nearby coastal attractions). I listen to the rock stacks jutting out of the azure waters and hear their silence. Far ahead, I also hear swaying waves crash against tall limestone cliffs. But slowly, the shadow of night creeps from behind those rock-faces and dampen my mood: I wanted to stay much longer!
There’s also a Great Ocean Walk (operated by Park Trek Walking Holidays), especially for tourists with time in hand. But I glance at my watch and get back into the cab.
‘Ahoy!’ cheers my cab-driver.
The City: An architect-turned-poet’s muse
An artist’s impression: This will the place for a village.
All things start small!
In May 1835, an Australian grazier cum businessman cum visionary signed an agreement buying 240,000 hectares of land from the Aborigines of the Kulin Nation, the traditional owners. And thus, Melbourne was born.
The Next Morning…..
My boss had pre-booked ‘The Melbourne Greeter Service’ for me (a free two- to four-hour walking orientation of the city by local volunteers) but I skipped this – I need to do this on my own. Soon, the morning smiles; and a handsome Melburnian – from the land of kangaroos – points to where cricket met tennis and later, strolled to smell the latte at Café Brother Baba Budan (named after a Sufi saint who brought coffee to India). Or maybe some other café – for the city is littered with quality coffee haunts. I trot through the historic Fitzroy Gardens nearby, and in the direction of Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). On my way, I drop by the National Gallery of Victoria (Arts) and witness some of Picasso’s finest drawings. I want to stay more, but I remember my boss’s words and hurry to the Melbourne Park (home of Australian Open) and then, Rod Laver Arena. I enter MCG through Gate No.1 via the Rod Lever Arena footbridge and see an expanse of green-manicured grass beyond; and I imagine Sir Bradman has just ambled down the pavilion to greet me. Under the early morning glare, I look on and know that ‘the grass is greener on this side of my life’.
|MCG and its neighborhood. Courtesy: Wikimedia.org|
Next, I hop onto a green-and-yellow tram* (Melbourne’s tram system is the fourth largest in world) for Federation square. It is a short distance and takes under ten minutes.
|A City-Circle Tram, in front of Flinder's Station |
It is a cultural and civic hub, adjacent to Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s busiest railway station. Filled with restaurants, art galleries and cinemas, Fed square is the place to meet up friends, try a chocolate Buddha or have a drink by the Yarra River.
Attractions: Melbourne Visitor Centre, Guided Tours, Rentabike, Yarra River Cruises, Sight-seeing tours, etc.
|Kayaking on Yarra River (Courtesy: Lonely Planet)|
|Balloon-ride over Yarra valley|
(Courtesy: news. com.au)
It’s afternoon now, and I am chomping at a gourmet sausage with caramelized onions, at Riverland bar, by the edge of Federation square. Nearby, a shy child from beyond the Yarra valley vineyards, tugs at his father’s sleeve, ‘Dad…I’ve seen that guy somewhere!’
Who? Me!? But his father strolls forward, uninterested…….
I peer through the bar’s glass façade and see the bridge over Yarra river undulate, as the afternoon heat rises after an untimely drizzle (the city is famous for its changeable weather conditions). Afternoon again, and the clouds have cleared; a hot-air balloon lifts me over the lush hillsides of Yarra valley. A gentle breeze ushers me over grape vineyards and the Yarra river, as the silent mountains rush by. The balloon-ride lasts for an hour or so, followed by a sumptuous brunch at Rochford Wines (included in the balloon-trip package).
The Famed Docklands
I look at my watch. There’s still time left.
So I rush to Dockland’s waterfront. Docklands is a part of Melbourne’s Capital City Trail (a 30km loop of sealed car free paths around inner Melbourne). Particular sights, smells and sounds there remind me that a journey is a place inside my mind I must return to every few months. I look out from the Yarra’s edge and see the river reflect Melbourne’s soul; I breathe in the late afternoon air and know the evening is coming alive; and I hear a city shuttle-bus shuttling down the wide road and feel the city’s welcoming heart……
And then, a walking tour…….
|A busy street by afternoon light|
It ‘s a delight to saunter through the city’s maze of narrow alleyways and steeped arcades - to take a wrong turn, yet arrive at the right place – full of Al fresco eateries, one-off shops and off-beat bars. Melbourne is a potpourri of diverse cultures, and what better way to witness this than through the leafy passageways, branching out to everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The eclectic range available here springs many surprises – iconic bookshops beside cobbled pathways (Melbourne was adjusted ‘city of literature’ by UNESCO in 2008); quaint souvenir shops, and muraled underpasses. But I am hard-pressed for time: I scamper towards St. Kilda beach.
ST. KILDA BEACH: As I walk through the palm-lined promenade and into a sea of white sand & water, I sense a certain all-weather charm, and a hint of character. A lonely sandpiper cutting across the face of the dimming sun, and beneath puffy cloudscapes, whispers Peter Pan’s ‘Never land’ might not be far away.
Attractions: A historic pier and penguins, summer sporting and music events, kite boarding, cafes and restaurants, nightlife and multi use promenade.
I trot towards the clear-blue water, and remember my boss’s warning, ‘Don’t go too near the waters. They are filled with pretty ladies!’
And they are. But strangely, the terse waves remind me of Orhan Pamuk’s (Turkish author) centre instead. He once talked about the world’s centre (by which he meant ‘West’) and how, its existence gave him strength and hope – “At the centre of the world, there was a life that was richer and more exciting than our own, and, like all of Istanbul, all of Turkey, I was outside it.” Sitting by the pier that evening, I try to understand its lure: for my Indian friends who’d migrated here, as opposed to just dropping by for a vacation. What is Melbourne, really? And where does it start, then end? What is that ‘here’ and ‘now’ which a bag-packing tourist like me would never see?
I close my eyes and ponder these questions over, but then someone pokes at me…..
I open my eyes.
‘Eh.’ My colleague grins at me. ‘Dreaming again, huh?’
I am back at my office! I look at my wristwatch: 5:00 pm, Friday afternoon. I had been dreaming!
The computer-screen ahead flashes a link - http://www.visitmelbourne.com/in. I take out my pen and paper, but then remember – I have to meet a client today before my evening flight to my hometown…………
‘Only one day, remember!’ my boss is still bellowing in the background. ‘…to meet our sales target.’
Just then a one-rupee coin starts rolling down the office floor……
(Disclaimer: Themed on Christopher Nolan’s Inception, this fictional piece is the fruit of ‘googled’ research and ‘troubled’ imagination. The vision is derived. However, the language is mine. More importantly, I want to give a heartfelt thanks to IndiBlogger for giving me this opportunity.)