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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Drive into the night

For sometime I had been hearing quite some about Jhankaar Beats. When in India I had purchased the audio CD for Manu. The soundtrack didn't impress me much. Manu convinced me that when I see the movie I would change my mind about the music. So finally, on Tuesday night I got the cassette and watched the movie. And Manu was right in a way. After the song sequences I was impressed, but not much. After quite sometime I had seen a fairly entertaining Hindi movie. When the movie was finally over, I was not sleepy anymore and decided to drive to work to update the blog (some sense of priorities that!). Half way there, I decided I was being overly connected (mails, chats, phone...) and decided against going to the office. At the next possible exit, i turned around and headed North to San Francisco. My previous visits to the mountains off the Golden Gate have always been fun. Not too many people out on the streets. Not too many cops! And the splendour of the city all open for me to relish in.

As I usually do when I head towards the bridge, I took a detour to the Palace of Fine Arts. In its grounds we are instantaneously transported in time to the ruins of Greece/Rome. A spectacular main structure with imposing walls around that are built to look like it was part of the "Acropolis of Athens". It reminds me very much of the Propylaea. A calm lake with numerous ducks and a few swans adorn it on one side and a theatre and exploratorium are present on the other side.

In the evenings, the palace grounds are beautifully lit up. The palace can be seen from miles away and presents a soothing feeling to the beholder. When I got there that night it was about 2AM. It was eerily silent and life seemingly had come to a standstill within its grounds. The place left me transfixed - the huge main structure, the high walls, the still lake, tall trees, soft wet grass on the grounds, the moon beautifully shinining down and enveloping the whole area in a soft shade of white and its reflection in the lake. Can't help but envy the residents of the houses surrounding the Palace - all within a stone's throw away. :)

From there I headed towards the Golden Gate. As I turned onto the stretch from where the bridge becomes visible, all I saw was a huge wall of white stretching from the ground to the skies above. There was no sign of the bridge. I was soon enveloped by the thick fog, visibility down to about 5 feet in front of my car. Having been on the bridge numerous times, I knew I was on it, but could see nothing of it. Not the sides nor its huge supporting structures. I had whiteness all around with only the road blinkers leading me on. When I reached the other end, I looped around to drive into the Marin Headlands hoping the fog wouldn't be much up there - a case of extreme optimism! I was curving along the steep mountain roads with 3 feet of visible road in front of me. I pulled into the small fort-like structure near the base of the mountains from where the Golden Gate usually appears to be a couple feet away. And all I could ever see, no matter how much I strained, was the white fog wall. I could hear the ocean waves lashing against the rocks on the other side of the fort.

The darkness, the noise the wind made as it swirled through the trees on the surrounding hills and the white wall scared me no end. Everytime someone has asked me if I believe in the existence of ghosts and supernatural events, I have always shrugged my shoulders and said I have not thought about it. And those mountains were the last place I wanted to be solitarily analysing those thoughts. Half carried by my scared legs and half blown along by the wind, I quickly reached the relative safety of my car (my car has a good security system built in and I strongly believe it can keep out even ghosts - if they exist that is! - or so I would like to believe. Anyone who doesn't think so, save those thoughts - I am not listening!!). I was surprised at how fast my car could move even through the dense fog with just 3-feet visibility. I headed down the mountains to the other side of the bridge and into the historic town of Sausalito (I think Sausalito is about a century old - and they already call it a historic town! Wonder why!!).

Sausalito is a beautiful town to spend a night in. At 3 in the morning, I had the entire stretch of the coastline to myself. And the parking lot too - that is a remarkable achievement in itself given the length of time I have had to wait in the past when I arrived in the town in more earthly hours and struggled to find 1 parking spot. Pleased with myself on my latest accomplishment, I hopped towards the pier and spent a good half hour staring into the night. Surprisingly there was not much of a fog here. Numerous private yatchs lined the pier to my left, a nice wooden restaurant was perched alongside. In front of me was the bay, occassional waves lashing the rocks a few feet below from where I stood. And again, the moon was out in all its splendour, lighing up the ocean for me.

With a long day ahead of me, I decided to catch on some sleep and locked myself in the car and dozed off for a couple hours; not before calling Manu to give him my spill on Jhankaar Beats.:) When i woke up at 5:30, dawn had already arrived. As i stepped out of the car, a nice cool breeze swept in from the ocean. Since I was anyway planning to jog on getting back home, I decided to instead jog through Sausalito and explore the place some more. I tried to stay as close to the pier as i could so I could look out into the ocean as I ran. Within a mile, the houses and shops blocked out my view and I was soon running through a very sleepy town. A few folks out walking their dogs looked on strangely as they saw me run by them in my jeans, sweatshirt and windcheater! :) Soon realising I was running late, but still not wanting to take the same route back, I circled into the hills and came across some very quaint houses built below ground level with simple but beautiful porticos. Most every house had a small garden. When I reached the top of one of the hills I stopped to take in the view from the hilltop. Around me were houses nestled in the hills, a thin mist screen covering them. In the distance was the vast sea, with a couple ships and a few boats. The Sun was peeking out from behind a few clouds. A few vehicles were plying the roads below. For a moment I felt like I was in dreamland.

By the time I reached my car, I was already running late. It was almost 7:30 and I had to get to work by 9. Enough time to just make it in I thought. By the time I reached the Marin Headlands, it was too tempting not to stop again to boo the ghosts, err spirits, errr... whatever they were that had scared me away the previous night. My belief that fogs clear away in the day was proven wrong. The fog was thicker than it was the night before. From where I should have been seeing the bridge, all I could hear was the cars plying on it. Not a tinge of the famous International Orange! With nothing much to see, I quickly got back to the car and headed homeward.

From that point in time onwards I seemed to have stepped into the real world. I was faced with a toll booth at the start of the bridge with about 20 cars in front of me and hardly budging. Past the booth, I found myself in fender-to-fender traffic. A ocean of difference seeping in within a couple of miles of each other: a blissful town on one end and a bustling metropolis on the other! And I smiled on as I drove home humming to the music of Rahman's latest masterpiece "Boys".

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