A wave of unrest started in the Arab world in mid-March 2011. What started as a small protest in an equally small Tunisian city, rippled across the Middle East. The story of protest ensuing from the torture of students caught putting up anti-government graffiti. The government responded with heavy force, and demonstrations quickly spread across the region.
While President Bashar al-Assad gave hints of reform in Syria, coming out of a tell-tale dictatorship from his father Hafez al-Assad, an Indian sat at his desk at night, scratching his eyes and wishing for a little rain. Wasn’t Bangalore supposed to have equable temperatures year-round?
While all that happened, I did not find myself looking beyond the occasional headlines from which I knew something was the matter with Egypt. Now it is not that bad! I did know about Damascus and that the city had arguably the best dressed boot-polishes in the world. Although, I do admit, I had no idea about the tear bombs out on the streets. This place is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Surely, something is sacred?
My philosophies, at this time was going straight out of the window. I always took pride in what seemed like a very fashionable tag – “world citizen”. I knew that the smallest part of the title meant knowing about what’s going on in the world. Now, note that I am not saying ‘understanding’. Understanding is a heavier term than knowledge. Guess I still have some hope left.
Old Men, Wayne Rooney and Burma
All right, so I did not know about the cataclysmic events unfolding. Well, I had writing articles about Spring Breaks and old men worshiping Wayne Rooney in a Burmese village to think about.
But the world tonight was in the mood of playing ‘catch-me’. At three in the morning, there was a breeze filtering through, and it was a chilly one. But I was not having a good time trying to figure out a plausible route for a mother-of-all roadtrip from Bangalore to Niederelvenich in Germany.
A Roadtrip from India to Germany
The first part was easy – safe and sound India (kind of puts things is perspective, does not it?), starting from Bangalore, onto Goa, then Mumbai and Ahmedabad. I had considered taking the route straight north, and cross-over a thin stretch of Afghanistan, onto Tajikistan. However, this route would be madness. There are numerous permits to take care of, there are negligible reports on the roads along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-India border, and lets not even get started on the LOC issues.
Pakistan it was – no sweat! Pass into Iran (yes, I do know about the US section and the possible Iraq repetition – I thought nuclear deterrence might have kicked in by now), and onto the port town of Bandar-e-Abbas. Catch a ferry, cart your car along to Dubai, and we are in the Gulf!
But as Reuben puts it “you are still in the middle of the fucking desert”! Google Maps crash after I try to put in the 23rd pit-stop, there are no plotted roads connecting Saudi Arabia to anywhere in Jordan, Lebanon or Syria and I am drawing a blank wherever I look. Now I have to keep off dangerous areas. So I figured I cannot route through Afghanistan or Iraq. Reason why we took that 73,81530.49 Iranian Rial ferry in the first place.
The TV had BBC on and a British bloke was questioning an American newspaper columnist who just had a round of exchange with Barack Obama on US’ stand on Iran. And I heard ‘Syria’. Now I was writing about Syria. I was at last successful in charting out a route through Damascus to the Turkish border.
And I thought the difficult part was over by successfully meandering through the endless Saudi desert. Syria was boiling over and bleeding and in all its misery, it was giving a new nightmare to an Indian, sitting in Bangalore and that too, without an Israeli stamp on his passport. I can’t cart through the country. Perspectives Perspectives.