Too much of travelling – if there is ever such a thing – over decades seems to have taken a toll on my memory. When I travelled in the late nineties and early naughts, it was a time when we didn’t have digital cameras as easily available as now. Mobile phones were just becoming affordable for the common man and travelling was done without the number of gadgets we have nowadays. Not to mention no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to instantly update the progress of these journeys. While being “disconnected” had a charm of its own, because I never made notes or kept a diary – something that I do now – I realized that I have forgotten a lot about the places and people from these trips. Here I am trying to remember a little…
This time I remember my three week trip to Melbourne in 2001, which was also my first time entering the southern hemisphere.
I remember my sister winning a return ticket to Sydney.
I remember the name on the unchangeable ticket being that of my father, R.K. Modi and me travelling on it as our initials are the same. Air travel was simpler and more relaxed back then, but things, as we know, were about to change, sadly.
I remember the rather long route I took; Delhi – Mumbai – Colombo – Sydney with a few hours at each airport. The trepidation of being told to turn back because of the name on the ticket is something I also remember.
I remember the flight from Colombo to Sydney being half empty which meant travelling in style occupying 4 seats.
I remember being heavily jet-lagged on arrival in Sydney and taking a taxi to a nice little Bed & Breakfast away from the city centre. Not great if you want to explore the city, but excellent if you want to rest and recuperate.
I remember not being able to sleep and renting films at the B&B for the night and watching TV until the early hours.
I remember the excitement as I visited the nearby Fox Studios picking up a M*A*S*H Tee from there. In all honesty, I decided upon my residence based on its proximity to Fox Studios.
I remember the approximately 10-hour train ride to Melbourne and splurging a little by booking a sleeper compartment. I remember my train companion who was a trained dancer and on his way to perform in Cats in Melbourne.
I remember my cousin – of course, I remember him even now – who was supposed to pick me up at Melbourne station not turning up because he overslept… Family! what can you do?
I remember stepping into Monash University, where my cousin was staying and what would be my home for the next three weeks, and reminiscing about my college life that ended a year ago.
I remember blending into the students, and walking around as if I was one of them. In fact, by the end of it, I was smiling and greeting people I would see on a regular basis.
I also remember meeting a school friend at the University unexpectedly.
I remember the long route to the city I had to take which consisted of taking the bus and then the train, but one that was quite easily achieved. That’s living in the suburbs for you.
I remember taking in the charm of Melbourne, starting with the Central Business District reminding me of Canary Warf, London with its tall buildings. But the beauty of Melbourne is that, just like the people, even the architecture is a mixture of new and old, comprising of both local and international designs.
I remember discovering that Melbourne is a great place to walk around. It’s a city best explored on foot with a tram ride thrown in for good measure.
I remember the people, who besides being laid back – not a cliche once you meet Australians in their natural habitat – were very friendly and helpful.
I remember meeting my college friend in Melbourne and staying at his host families house. All of whom have stayed dear friends ever since.
I remember how all the malls and shopping centres are connected so that if it rains you can actually travel from one to another without getting wet.
I remember actually having Australian wine in Australia.
I remember my friend taking me to China Town and just being overwhelmed with the colours and sights and especially the smells. And I somewhat remember a wonderful lunch in a small eatery for which we had to climb a couple of floors. I wish I was a “foodie” back then or writing about food. Melbourne is THE place to experience and live food. Maybe, just maybe, these travels are the reason why I enjoy food so much now.
I remember the lights at night that brighten up the city and make it all the more beautiful glittering and shimmering as people walk the streets merrily.
I remember the cultural diversity that is so abundant in the city. People from all walks of life and from all around the world living and working together adding to the charm of Melbourne.
I remember Melbourne being so welcoming that even today if I had to choose a city to live in, besides my own, it would be Melbourne.
I remember picking up a DVD of my favourite film Almost Famous even though at the time I did not have a DVD player at home that would play that region.
I don’t remember seeing a Kangaroo, simply because I never came across one. Yes! I went to Australia and did not see a Kangaroo. Beat THAT!
I remember checking if Lady Luck was with me at the Crown Casino, which she was momentarily. Then I used the winnings to have a nice dinner at Planet Hollywood.
I remember the tram rides which were always fun and a great way to travel short distances when I felt oh-so-lazy.
I remember being amazed by the story behind Flinders Street Station and how it might have been “switched” with Mumbai’s Victoria Terminal (Now Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal).
I remember going souvenir shopping picking up some Aboriginal art, which still hangs in my home office, and a boomerang which still, after more than a decade, is displayed in my home-theatre – never got around to using it though.
I remember the streets, the cafes, the markets, and the obligatory river cruise.
I remember meeting my friend and watching films in one of the many cinemas, although I can’t remember what film we watched…Hannibal … yeah Hannibal, it was I think?
I remember taking the Great Ocean Road bus tour and experiencing Australia’s natural beauty first hand. I remember witnessing the 12 Apostles as they all stood tall and brave while the waves came crashing into them.
I also remember managing to view a Koala in its natural habitat on The Great Ocean Road bus tour, so all hope was not lost.
I remember my friend Michael took me to a place where we had the “world’s best fish and chips“. Was is St. Kilda maybe?
I remember visiting the Coop’s Shot Tower in the middle of the Melbourne Business District in between Melbourne Central Mall where once, in the 1880s, lead shot was made by dropping down molten lead from a height so that it took the right “drop” shape on its way down.
I remember stumbling upon the Melbourne Comedy Festival and experiencing Ozzie humour first hand as I attended a couple of shows.
I remember making the mistake of not taking the sleeper car on the train back from Melbourne to Sydney. It’s a comfortable journey, but sitting down for close to 10 hours can be torture.
I remember the 3 days spent in Sydney being hectic as I tried to cram as much of the city as I could in those three days. I remember taking the Hop On Hop Off Red bus on day one to visit the sites this metropolitan city had to offer. The next day it was the Hop On Hop Off Blue bus to take me to a few of the beaches including the world famous Bondi beach.
I remember the journey back, same as the one I took to Sydney via Colombo and Mumbai, only this time I decided to stay overnight in Mumbai before I reached Delhi.
Now, more than a decade after my trip Down Under I wonder what has become of the places I visited. I wonder about everything that I missed out on for one reason or another. I remember not being able to go see the penguins at Phillip Island. I remember not going to Melbourne Cricket Ground which in this day and age, for someone coming from the cricket loving nation of India, can be considered blasphemy. I remember how three weeks spent in Melbourne just whizzed past really fast. I remember the variety of food available, and my food cravings often make me want to return to Melbourne. I remember how culturally active the city of Melbourne is and I feel like experiencing that aspect once again.
For now, I sit and dream about my past travels and I often find myself thinking… when do I go back again?
And as I do that, I wonder how much Melbourne has changed over the years. Has it lost its innocence or does it still retain its charm?
And then I wonder about things to do in Melbourne with kids because unlike before I now have two kids that travel along with me.
I’m pretty sure it remains as fascinating as before and I hope that it impresses my children as much as it impressed me.