This month in my magazine Atelier, we asked 10 personalities about the most fascinating destination they’ve visited. When I asked myself the same question, I could not come up with one response – I came up with several.
There’s my favourite city in the world, New York, which blows me away every time I go there. I can never forget my first impression of the mega-city as a 21-year-old, on my first trip to the US, stepping out of a subway into Times Square, with a stopped heart and a sensory overload.
There’s London, with its congenial nature that embraces both the historical and the avant-garde; a lasting impression involves chatting with an Indian-origin cashier at an Ann Summers adult store, who had simply told her folks she worked at a ‘toy’ shop.
That reminds me of Vegas – the city of sin left me boggled, burnt out and broke. There’s Egypt, where the Valley of Kings captivated me. The Pharoahs’ treasures did ensure them privileged treatment in the afterlife, after all – premium-chargeable placement in Cairo Museum, no less.
There’s Kovalam, with its laid-back beaches and happy faces, where my companions – mostly Mumbai fashionistas – only wanted to discuss Alberta Ferretti flip-flops and Costume National shifts. There’s Berlin, with its arty air and really serious shoppers, where I was so stumped for choice at the generously stocked Gallerie Lafayette food section that I bought nothing. There’s Miami with its obsession with Hollywood stars, where I actually went on a cruise to see celeb homes along Star Island and felt rather silly later.
There’s Paris, oh Paris, where sophistication and romance is so thick in the air that you’re sure it can’t be for real – even all those naked bodies on display at the Moulin Rouge seem more like works of art than flesh. There’s Venice with its crowded, narrow streets and the smell of fish, where I learnt a thing or two about Italian men. There’s Bern, which is so quaint and postcard-picturesque that I wondered why it was the capital of Switzerland when they had the more cosmopolitan, chic Geneva – but then, that’s just my Delhi mentality.
There’s Bangkok where I eventually tired of asking storekeepers what the ‘original’ bag brands of Thailand were. There’s Cologne, where it rained so heavily that I can only ever remember it as a grey city – that also seemed the only colour the locals wore. There’s that hammock under a palm tree in the Bahamas where I felt, for the first time in my life, utterly free.
I travel to learn. But also because I find an undiscovered part of me that resonates with every place I’ve visited. We traverse the world to eventually find ourselves.