It has been a wet weekend here. But a perfectly wet one, to be honest. Perfect as the sky has remained depressed the entire day, melancholic with clouds. But not sad enough that it would rain and squander the clouds to bring forth the sun. In the artist’s words, it is the perfect amount of depression – tantalizing enough to eke out the emotions, and yet not enough to sob and waste away the rawness of the thoughts.
Anyway, thinking of rains brought forth memories of Wellington – wet, wintry and cold. Yet beautiful. As I sit back and start withdrawing its memories from the pensieve of my mind, I beam with nostalgic joy of the beauty it was. For, aren’t good memories just like wine? The more time passes by, the taste just seems to get better and better. The bottle is emptied long back, yet the wine ages more and more.
So what was it that created this intoxication in a little city at the far end of the world, you may ask? Was it just another city? No, not to the artiste or to the drunkard. What started the magic was actually the beauty of un-expectation. My Wikipedic friends already labeled the city as windy, cold, depressing and dead. No wonder then, I had resigned to my exile even before I stepped on the city. But when I did, its dreamy, old-worldly, wet charm took my breath away. (Literally as well, for Wellington is strong gusty on a normal day). Yes, great adjectives to define Wellington – dreamy, old worldly and wet
Dreamy because the city was sleepy, but even in that stupor, it was brimming with life. Not the wild-and-Friday-evening-kind-of-party live, but more alive as in a sentient way. Why do I say so? Well, when after a hard day’s work, I would walk the quiet and dim lit streets and lanes of the hilly city, I would feel a different kind of vibe to the place. The cityscapes in the background would be busy, but just a bit farther away, Wellington seemed to welcome you in a different avatar – dark silhouettes of the hills border the skyline, a long dim lit wall is painted with vibrant murals, an old cathedral steeped with age, streets lined with trees murmuring in the winds, and zigzagging down the hills with white fences….while far away in the background, lights reflect on the harbor waters, a red lamp flip flopps atop Mount Victoria, a funicular train heaves on the hills as a resplendent tunnel comes to life with artistically colored lamps. These were the sketches – simple but profound, that made the book turn alive. Sleepy with its soft pastel tones, but alive, brimming with life.
And old worldly it was, enough for the nostalgic lover in me to wake up refreshed. Winter meant few people on the streets. And when I would walk these near empty streets lined with old buildings, gleaming under the halogen lamps, I would see a different Wellington. Here, the boatshed building standing since the 1900s, there the old library creaking with age, there a derelict mansion that was once a manor, an old bookshop inviting you to smell the yellow musty pages, long winding stairs with trees planted by the city’s founder a century back and those artistic stores selling rugs, canvas and old paintings – all seemed too good to be true. No wonder it seemed like a bit of a relic handed down from older times. In solitude, perhaps, man begins to love things that are underappreciated and unadorned, just to emphasize on the value of his own existence. Maybe, that was why I fell in love with the city. And in exploring Wellington, I realized once again, that beauty has no universal definition. You can find beauty even in defiance with the rest of the world.
And yes, Wellington was wet. People hated the cold rains, and the winds that rendered umbrellas useless. Maybe, once in a while, it helps to drench in the rains instead of fighting against nature all the while. Just to keep one hair dry. And I happily chose the former. I have walked on the harbor and chose to let the rains blur my glasses while the lights all around dissolve and turn to spangles. I have spread my arms and felt the winds pound my soul. And I have trudged on the wet streets hugging on to my wet coat. For in the rains, the city does not pretend to be sparkling and all decked up. It brings forth a picture of truthfulness, bedraggled and in tears. And if you can love this melancholy, be proud, as you have fallen in love with a beauty that is cold but pure, tiring but humble, wintry but honest….In that single moment, a simple acceptance becomes a moment of magic.
Do you now see why I loved the city? Maybe, maybe not…one day when you walk on the shores of nostalgia, evocative memories of a somewhere from yesterday will perhaps give you an answer that your heart knows, but your mind cannot define. At least for now. On this rainy day faraway, when I think back of Wellington, I can’t help but get reminded of lines from O Henry’s Gift of the Magi …simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone, and not by meretricious ornamentation, as all good things should do…so much for an intoxication, a wine that was once held in a bottle called Wellington…