Before departing for my long cherished tour to Vienna, Manish, a dear friend in Delhi, wrote mischievously, 'Vivien is your kind of woman; you will instantly fall in love with her.'
Although I didn’t meet Vivian, a Viennese, in JNU (she attended a summer school there), I saw her pictures and heard about her creative quest and photographic skills from Manish.
At the Vienna railway station I went to buy a bouquet for Vivien.
It is good to be romantic in Delhi than in Vienna! Seeing the Euro tag on flowers, I thought words are enough here. But then how vulnerable you are, when you do not know the language…
A smile came on Vivian’s face. 'Hope these flowers last when I am back home.' She said. Vivien looked more mature than her age, when she smiled.
It was a cloudy evening, streets were sparsely crowded. In the fresco of lights night fell down silently.
The scenes of ‘Habermasian Public Sphere’, in the late 19th Century Europe, were before me. Newspapers and magazines were lying on a big desk near front door. People were chatting, smoking and sitting leisurely after day’s work. I can see coffee houses around every nook and corner of the city.
I was thrilled and clicked some photos. I asked Vivien to take some more.
'Camera looks more artistic in your hand.'
'I love this sound- ‘Tak’, when flash goes up…It is irresistible.' Vivien said.
I was as curious as 'Alice was in the wonderland.' Vivien was trying to answer my queries patiently. I joked, there is 'Google God', do not stress yourself too much, please.
In Vienna, you can bump into an actress at a street, meet a musician in a tube or metro, and chat with a painter near Zebra crossing. I can feel why legendary musicians Mozart and Beethoven and great painter like Klimt loved this city and nurtured their ideas and dreams here.
I thanked my father, for he never thrust his desire on us, and I could study arts and literature and search my own dreams. How happy he would be seeing the great architectures here…
'It is not the same what was till 40 years ago. Now, if you opt for a music or acting course you have to weigh what options, job opportunities are before you. Time is changing here too.' Vivien said.
A lot has changed in between these 40 years but relics of past still haunt this city. There is a 'nameless library' in Judenplatz, built in the memory of Austrian Jews killed by Nazis between 1938 to 1945, which was inaugurated in 2000.
I discussed with Vivien, a prominent Hindi writer, Nirmal Verma and his travelogues.
In mid 90s, while in college, I read his travelogues and dreamed about visiting Vienna some day. He must have been of my age only, when he visited Vienna in early 60s, I thought.
'For us researchers life starts at 30.', Zakia, a Bangladeshi-American friend’s casual remark, which she made five years ago in Delhi, was echoing in my mind.
You always have company of books, movies and memories, even when you are traveling alone.
I saw Vivien’s cup was empty, while I still had to drink it. I poured some coffee in her cup, she smiled sheepishly.
(In the pics: Nameless Library, a cafe and national library in Vienna)