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The perfectly sound building we live in has been marked for demolition as the present owners wish to go vertical and we have till the end of this month to wrap up and pack memories of 22 years. Memories of my children’s childhood, playing games, parties, sleepovers, sibling squabbles, watching art and science programs interspersed with Disney. Memories of the bedroom floor spread with train sets, supermarkets, toy castles, a big barn and even a hotel, though all the pretty toys would pale before the potential of an empty card box that could be a tent in the wilderness, a farmhouse, a ship sailing in the high seas, a speeding race car or anything their imagination wished. Memories of books spilling over everywhere. Memories of their turning into teens, then adults, always fun, always warm and loving and ready for hugs, always intelligent, questioning, wise, understanding, hardworking.

Memories of my youth, of being a wife, a mother, of shared love and warmth and millions of hugs. Memories of sharing, listening and speaking. Memories of growing,  becoming a fair cook, entertaining friends, hosting friends and relatives, becoming a writer, a poet, a photographer, a traveller. Memories of happy days and sad ones. One by one I pack them, there isn’t much time to look at each one, I have to put everything away, we leave on Friday, the demolition will begin on Saturday. Even when the girls and I had moved to India in 2006 for 4 years my husband had held on to this apartment. He would welcome us each time with a huge bouquet of flowers saying “Welcome home Girls’ there would be single roses on our pillows and chocolates.

We will miss this apartment, it is more spacious than our new one but that is not the only reason we were loved here. We loved it and it loved us back.

So here we are; its the last day but one before we leave. For me it is a poignant moment and I wish to record it so I will remember it. The windows are open, the cool late March breeze is blowing, there are sounds of traffic outside to which I am mostly oblivious, everyone is in a frenzy packing, moving, making sure all we owned and treasure reaches its next destination safely. So far only my heart has broken. Why am I so sad? Our new house is smaller than this no doubt but it can be made into a good home. My children’s room has been cleared, I am sitting here on a plastic chair on the freshly vacuumed carpet, my most profound memories are of them sitting on the ground, by the bed and playing. My heart constricts and chokes me. I forget that these are just walls of a building, the real memory is held by the walls of my heart. I take time to write this, take time to breathe in, to fill my heart with the aura of my children that these walls have absorbed over the years. I remember sitting on the bed and reading the Ancient Mariner or Tagore’s Gitanjali to my little one, who though she couldn’t understand much, enjoyed listening to their sounds. I remember reading Macbeth out to her though just the abridged version.

How many friends we have entertained here, these walls still too young and sturdy to be knocked down, have seen love and warmth, laughter and song, listened to long and passionate discussions on many topics. The fun, the laughter, the pain the tears, the knowledge, the wisdom, the long flights of imagination, all came from us, from who we are  not from these walls,  but these walls held not only our bodies but absorbed within their bricks and cement the very essence of who we were and who we grew to become, perhaps that is why tearing ourselves away is such a wrench. The new apartment has less room compared to this generously proportioned place, our furniture is spilling over and many pieces have no place to fit into. Men started by caging birds and animals but now they wish to cage the whole of humanity in tiny spaces where neither can one breathe freely nor catch a glimpse of the sky. But I must add that my new home, though smaller than this one does have a view of sea and sky and I hope it lasts.

A little known park visited only by locals, in a small town, almost empty as the noonday sun climbs over, only sounds are from some unseen doves cooing. The ducks are my only companions, though reluctant ones as they scurry off as soon as I come near. Soon the hovering clouds cover the sun and the afternoon suddenly grows cooler and pleasant though there is barely a breeze. There is peace here, peace in the trees, the verdure, the cooing doves, the silent pools, the weeping willows, which seem to bow down to the pools to tell their tales of woe. Perhaps the pools are made from their tears. Perhaps I should follow their example, lie down on the cool earth beside the water and let my tears mingle with it. But there is no need as the serenity works its magic over me. I am able to reflect, relax, give in to flights of fancy. I came here carrying my usual burdens of worry and a heavy heart, but this is a time to let go of the pain and worries and to open mind, heart and soul to absorb and soak in this tranquillity. Later the tryst with peace continues as I sit down to lunch on a restaurant once much favoured by me, it has a long wooden balcony overhanging over another garden. Fellow diners talk softly, the music soothes but done not intrude. The trees are all around my right, their canopies close above us, sheltering us from the sun and sky. I could sit here for a long time drinking this in.

The last of the guests have left after breakfast, I sit alone, happy and replete after a delicious and most satisfying meal, enjoying the solitude of the wooden deck, barely disturbed by the waiter quietly going about his work of laying the tables for lunch. There is a peace here that helps me relax and for once I put away the million worries which I constantly carry around in my mind and I begin to observe my surroundings in detail. There are a number of flower pots scattered all around, surrounding me with a blaze of colour. Bees buzz over the flowers, sometimes sitting over the remnants of our breakfast. Some tiny insects too are attracted by the vivid hues and crawl all over the flowers A fine newly formed spider’s web glints in the sunshine. Before me the water gushes as it cascades over a weir and the Berounka river flows onwards on its course. Ducks stand on top of the weir picking their meal as the water flows over it. Some ducks swim along in twos and threes making a V in the water as they go. The only other sound is of birds somewhere close. Across the weir there stands just one house, a narrow little red house with a long sloping red roof. These long sloping roofs seem to be an architectural feature here as I have seen some others too but this house attracts my attention as it is narrower than any I have seen and stands alone, bright and red, framed by the greens of the forest behind it, It arouses my curiosity and many questions arise in my mind, questions which will never be answered or at least not in this trip. I noticed this house last night from our window as the lights from its two windows and their reflections were the only ones visible on that side. Perhaps some reclusive fisherman lives there alone, or perhaps a crotchety old man, or perhaps a writer or artist or perhaps it is the weir keeper’s house. For some reason the idea of a woman or even a family living there does not appeal to the romantic in me. I dwell on its mystery for a while but cannot think of any suitable answers and so turn my attention elsewhere, Behind the low lying forested hillsides, smoke rises from an unseen house. A lone fisherman prepares to cast his line into the river from the opposite bank. The sun has risen higher and gently warms me into a comfortable state out of which I am reluctant to climb out of. I will have to move at some point, but not just now, now is the time to allow my soul to just absorb all this.

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We board the Zapadni Express at Prague’s main station and are soon on our way to a small town in Bavaria, Germany. We pass the bridge near Smichov and do not know where to look, for on one side of the Vlatava is the imposing site of Prague Castle while on the other side, much closer is the Cathedral of Peter and Paul at Výšehrad. A short time out of Prague we crane our necks to see the Berounka, which flows besides us but on the other side. We are passing the Czech countryside, undulating landscape in all shades of green. We pass some plantations of new trees standing uniformly slender and tall without any variety. We pass thick forests of a rich variety of old ancient trees, trees which have been there for ever so long, trees which say 1we belong here, this is our home, if only man respected the homes of others’ and left their habitats alone, but each year these are dwindling and disappearing right before our eyes. We are passing small villages of red roofed houses clustered round a church, a typical and beautiful sight of rural Europe. The houses, unlike the ugly structures in many countries today, merge with the landscape and enhance it. We passed busy bustling Pilsen, as we moved out we passed rows of graceful old buildings which are the beautiful embellishment of urban Europe, unfortunately later we rolled by a couple of abandoned factories which lay like massive scars on the land. Why were they not dismantled and scrapped and the land used for something environmentally friendly and aesthetic instead of being left here to rot and be eyesores for the all who pass by? Later we passed some tall plain rectangular structures forced upon a beauty loving, peaceful people by an unimaginative, oppressive and repressive regime, during a time which has fortunately long gone. Perhaps the rotting factories were remnants of those days. Domažlice the border station passed unnoticed while I was chatting with a fellow Indian passenger. I got a feeling of place only when I heard the announcement that we were nearing Furth im Wald the first German station across the border, on this line. I love this border free travel in Europe where sometimes one is only aware of having crossed a border when the network changes. As I type this I see the German police, we offer them our passports but they say “it’s Ok’ and go on their way, maybe they are just passengers as well as they are not checking anyone’s papers. The beautiful landscape continues on this side. The clouds are more scattered now and the sun brightens the greens of this beautiful landscape. We pass another town, Cham this time, once more we pass thickly clustered house and a couple of church spires and unfortunately some ugly factory and office buildings, sadly a necessary evil for the prosperity of the region. Once more we pass the countryside, there is an hour left to our destination, Regensburg. Three hours since Prague have just flown. Once more we enter an emerald world. A world of grassy plains, small pools which mirror the surrounding verdure or shine bright as the sunlight scatters diamonds on them, or calmly stay blue and white reflecting the sky and a passing cloud or two. We pass some thick forests, with beckoning paths twisting through them. Some more rows of tall trees appear, the landscape is now and then dotted with scattered clusters of red roofed houses surrounded by fields bordered with windbreaks of trees, behind in the distance forested blue green hills appear and disappear. Sometimes the landscape undulates, grassy hills, hillocks, knolls pass by, some with trees, some with a house or two. Suddenly newer tall plantations cover both sides of the tracks obscuring everything else from view. The trees are planted too close for them to develop thick trunks and grow. The thought saddens me. I see a pile of neatly cut logs on one side, which saddens me further for in them I see the future of these trees, planted not to grow thick and big for the coming generations to enjoy, but for short term goals, to be cut down and burnt on someone’s hearth. Clusters of yellow and pink wildflowers grow besides the tracks adding splashes of colour and beauty taking my mind off the sad facts of our times. We are nearing Regensburg, I reflect back on the beauty of this journey and realise I could not capture it nor even do it an iota of justice.

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It was our Anniversary, it was more special because there was a full moon and there had been a full moon on our wedding night. The celebration had to be different, special, something we had never done before. I must say we were rather unimaginative people, did the same things every year, bouquet of red roses, present (only from hubby to me, so one present), dinner at the best place in town… Not this night though.
 
 There was a place a 100 kms away from Kuwait City in the desert, called Wafra. There, with artificial efforts, the desert had been turned green. There were farms growing vegetables like cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, capsicums, tomatoes, even fruits like strawberries. There were farms breeding ostriches, equestrian farms which bred Arabian horses and trained them, apiaries which sold pure honey. Dairy farms with freshly made milk products, like the popular Lebanese laban, yoghurt and cheese. The produce was sold at the farms as well as at a colourful farmer’s market close by.  Each farm was separated from the other by tall casuarinas or Florida buttonwood trees and narrow winding country lanes. If one was lucky, one could sight an Arabian fox running off into the wild. The glow of the setting sun created an attractive red and black lace pattern through the Florida buttonwood leaves. Any evening, anyone stopping in the lane could hear millions of sparrows and other birds that nested in these trees. Sometimes when the first rain had fallen and the sun peeped out from behind dark clouds, the colours took on a deeper yet brighter shade and everything looked more beautiful.
 
When we turned off the main highway about 50 km away from Wafra, the road was lined with acacia trees and after the autumn rains, a sprinkling of green would appear on the ground. Later, by spring, the desert was carpeted in yellow and green and many empty plots would be covered in wildflowers. A short while after the turn, towards the right, stood a lone acacia, far away in the distance. There was an attraction about it, a stirring of the heart that consistently drew our eyes as we passed it, the kind of restless stirring that some lone or forlorn sights evoke. I named it ‘My tree’.
 
Besides the road, herdsmen grazed camels and sheep in the open desert, which came alive after the winter rains. In the evenings, the warm hued, undulating desert, covered in verdure, speckled with flocks of grazing camels, some standing in a closed circle to feed, was an unforgettable sight. We often drove around a bit in this desert, sometimes stopping to exchange a few words with the shepherds and camels herders. One especially was a favourite, he was from Rajasthan, India, a poor young man maybe in his twenties, called Zakir Hussain. He lived alone in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, with the camels that belonged to a Kuwaiti, who came by now and then. Perhaps because he was from a desert state, living in the middle of the desert was not as hard for him as it would be for some others, but at home he would have been surrounded by family, and here the loneliness must accentuate their abscence. One more victim of poverty, one more story of untold sacrifices.

There was a small rise near his trailer, and we stopped there to watch the sun and the empty landscape that yet had its attractions.
 
One place we always visited was a strange lane with overgrown casuarinas trees that met in the centre and formed a deep, dark tree tunnel. Sometimes we watched the sunset from there, when the sun set at a particular spot and its dying red rays were visible from the entrance of the tunnel.
 
One of our dearest places was beyond the farms, where the desert once more stretched till the horizon. Here a path meandered away till it disappeared into the distance, making us feel that it went on till it reached heaven.

It was a special place, a spiritual place where earth and sky met and one felt closer to God.  At night we had a 180 degree view of the sky and could watch the constellations rise, especially Orion which I feel is the most beautiful of all constellations. Orion poised on top of the eastern horizon, is an unforgettable sight, often impossible to see in the midst of the city buildings. The stars appeared huge and near and the darkness, all engulfing. It was so dark that one could not see an approaching man till he was almost upon you. If he was smoking all that could be seen was the red tip of the cigarette till he came quite close.


There was a farm nearby, from where we could hear the cackling of the geese though all else was silent.
The farms too were dark after sunset with one or two lights twinkling invitingly in the gloaming. In some areas the feeling of total solitude took over.
 
The moonrises too were very spectacular here. We often went to Wafra during the full moon and watched it rise over the tall trees as the shades of the sky deepened to embrace the dusk and then the night. Many were the romantic evenings when we walked together in deserted lanes, under the trees, admiring the moon.
 
That is how it came about that I decided I wanted to have a quiet dinner, on a half deserted farm, out in the open, on that December eve, under the full moon, for our anniversary. A dinner we would pick up not from some fancy restaurant but from a small place near the farm, that served hot and fresh Indian meals. So we drove down when it was quite dark through the quiet and deserted lanes and after picking up a dinner proceeded to the farm. I cannot say that the silence was exquisite for I have never really experienced silence; there are always some sound11s everywhere that become louder and more pronounced in the absence of others. We sat there in the moonlight, which yet did little to dispel the dark, just drinking in the beauty of that chill December evening. Kuwait can get quite cold in December and the desert more than the city. Once in a while a dog barked somewhere or we could hear a restless goat bleat. My Pashmina did not do much to dispel the chill but I was reluctant to move inside. So we sat there, eating lazily, afraid to violate that sacrosanct peace by unnecessary words, united in the sensations we were imbibing, of the moonlight, the rustling breezes, the strange night sounds.  Suddenly a rooster with a broken alarm crowed. It was so unexpected and funny that we could not help laughing. That crazy rooster, probably with failing eyesight, kept crowing at regular intervals, probably mistaking the moonlight for dawn.
 
As the night grew and the moon traveled overhead we knew we should be returning to the city, but we were loth to move. We pulled our chairs even closer and sat their holding hands, communicating with eyes in the growing moonlight instead of spoken words and just being. I could have stayed there all night listening to the breezes whispering their secrets to the trees and the other occasional sounds and that half crazed rooster, who occasionally broke that half hush that hung over it all.  Sometime in the middle of the night we reluctantly got up, put away everything and drove out of the farm. I sat sighing with peace and pleasure as we drove once more through the now totally deserted streets. Nothing discernible moved but the slowly waltzing branches and our car. Till we passed the open desert once more, before reaching the well lit highway. There we witnessed what was to be grand finale of our evening, for caught in the infinitesimal misty drops, the moonlight descended over the desert like sheets of glowing chiffon. An unforgettable sight!

Travelling in a Czech train to visit Konopište, the castle home of Franz Ferdinand, close to Prague. It is a beautiful place on a lake, surrounded by forest, near the town of Benešov U Prahy, about 40 mins by train from Prague. The sun is in my eyes and I am unable to enjoy the beautiful landscape and so I turn my attention from the window to my fellow passengers. We are in a compartment with 4 other people. The train is full and outside our compartment a young boy, probably in his teens is sitting on the ground with his backpack, staring out of the window. I doubt he can see anything much other than the tops of trees from that level, but he is probably looking, not seeing as he seems preoccupied with other thoughts. The slim, middle aged lady diagonally opposite me, in a green and white striped sweater,  hair tied neatly in a ponytail, has been busy reading her hard cover book, since we boarded. Next to me is a plumpish lady in a grey sweater, with short, dark hair and dangling earrings, who fell asleep after leaving Prague and has been sleeping in the same position, with chin down on her chest, ever since. A young father has been struggling with his little daughter since we boarded. The little one looks about 3 she is a cute child with a blonde ponytail but her red and puffy eyes and occassional sneezes and coughs tell the story of an infection and she moves restlessly, sometimes standing, sometimes lying down, sometimes sitting, she is not crying but is fractious, calming only when he calls her mother and she talks to her. I feel for the father he is at a loss, not knowing how to comforf his child. The poor wee mite too looks like she is very uncomfortable.
Soon we reach our destination and everyone gets up to leave and in the rush and confusion there is no time for any good byes. We came together as strangers and we parted as strangers, without exchanging names or any contacts, yet we will carry bits of each other in our memories.

I am neither a spiritualist nor a philosopher. What I think or say has been observed and learnt painfully, usually from life’s everyday experiences. The following is the result of much soul searching and introspection after an extremely trying and hurtful time. 

Energy is not only in us but all around us, not just the energy in the sun but in the breezes, the trees and plants, the animals even in the flowing water. It links us humans with the atmosphere and all of Creation. Each day begins with a flow of positive energy that lightens and gladdens the heart. The cool morning breeze at dawn, the brightness of the morning star, the soft filtered rays of the rising sun, the sweet bird song from the trees, all are designed by nature to lighten the spirit and bestow a feeling of well being in the human soul. Nature is a store house from which emanates a continuous flow of positive energy. If we concentrate solely on it, we can grow healthy in body, mind and soul. We can develop it by our thoughts, which in turn give rise to emotions leading to words and deeds that spread this energy. 

It is when the energy is turned negative that it gives rise to many ills. Negative energy springs from destructive thoughts, emotions, words and deeds. These are the result of ills like anger, hatred, spite, envy, greed, suspicion, etc. It is sad but true that it is easier and more tempting to give in to these feelings and nurture them, till they not only take deep root but grow so strong that they take over the entire personality, till a person, who has one or more of these characteristics, becomes an extremely unhappy person, unable to see good in anything; frustrated and wallowing in his self created misery. 

Negative feelings make the body sick and take over the mind totally, so that a person is unable to think straight, which affects all his decisions and actions. As a final blow they totally darken and destroy the soul. A continuous flow of negative energy from a person creates an aura around them that repels others and makes it hard for the person to succeed in the workplace, in relationships, or even develop meaningful friendships. In today’s times most of us give out at least some amount of negative energy. 

Most commonly of course is the instance when someone says something insulting, abusive or hurtful; the natural and immediate reaction to it, is retaliation in equal or increased measure. Thus begins a cycle that may never end as the negative energy continues flowing from victim to perpetrator and back again, many times over, till hearts are hardened and hatred develops. Later, the circle could grow if others are dragged into the hostilities. 

But suppose you want to stop this before it even begins to develop. Suppose instead of losing your temper you breathe deeply a few times and think rationally. Either the words the other person has uttered are justified or unjustified. If unjustified then how to they really affect you?  When you retaliate you are reacting to someone else’s conscious or unconscious desire to pull your strings. You have become first of all a puppet and when you become that, you have lost control. Secondly, you have now begun a cycle that might take its toll of your health, your wits and your spirit. Every altercation, no matter how small leaves its marks on our mind and heart. It leaves a bad feeling behind, even if it is just some rude words you may have with someone on the road. After the words are said you realize that you lost control, and just that leaves behind a feeling of smallness and shame. 

 So, the only thing to do is take control. You decide how much you will react, and how you will react. Breathe deeply till the first feelings of anger subside, think rationally about what was said to you. Rid yourself of your rancour and instead answer politely.  One might think it is impossible to do. Perhaps it is in the beginning, but not if one thinks continuously on those lines. Remember past incidents and think of how you could have reacted in a cool way that stopped them getting out of hand. Slowly you will get used to thinking in a manner that will change your attitude and one day being cool and calm will become second nature. Your composed way of handling things will be like a shield around you that will stop negative energy from penetrating or affecting you in any way. 

 Moreover become a source of positive energy. Take in as much of it as is possible, through the day, from all around you. Use all your senses to absorb the beauties of nature. Lift your face to feel the cool air, touch the softness of a petal. Breathe in deeply the boquet of flowers and the invigorating smell of the morning breeze. Let your mind and heart be gladdened by the sweet strains of birdsong. Wonder at the strength of a single blade of grass that has pushed its way through the hard earth. Dwell on the persistence and patience of birds that make their nests twig by twig, leaf by leaf. Open your senses; observe, note and remember. Through the day, try to turn your mind many times to some happy thought or the other; an innocent observation by  a child, a word of encouragement or appreciation, a gesture of love, a smile from a stranger, till they outnumber the moments of stress and frustration. Most of all count your blessings and be grateful for each and every one. This will not only strengthen your spirit but also keep any damaging feelings of greed and envy which lead to spite and hatred, from developing. All these are like termites that eat away the very foundations of the soul.

Finally, become the active provider of positive energy. A word of appreciation, a ready listening ear, a helping hand, or even just a smile, spread positive energy rapidly, affecting all who are touched by them in more ways than one.  You will be surprised at the happiness they give, not just to others but also to you, till you finally radiate with positive energy, attracting all around by its aura.   

Life is given by God, all lives, not just human lives. All lives should be respected, nurtured and protected. Human beings do not have the right to choose who lives and who dies, who will eat and who will starve, who is safe and who is endangered, who has a roof over their heads and who is left homeless on the street, without safety or shelter, who gets cured and who is left to suffer and die, who is educated and who is left ignorant, who is privileged and who is stripped of all dignity. It is the duty of the human race to do its best for each other irrespective of race, nationality, colour, religion, education, status, or any other factor which differentiates us. We have differences so we can learn from them, so we can each bring something unique to this table of humanity. We cannot put ourselves and others in neatly labelled boxes and decide what is acceptable and not acceptable.The only things which are not acceptable are discrimination, prejudice, arrogance, ignorance, abuse, brutality and every thought, word and action that causes harm to another. It is time for the world to come together and decide on zero tolerance for anything and everything that hurts or harms another human being or any creature we share this planet with.

On our way back from Germany our train stopped at the border station of Domažlice in Czech and we had to get off and take a bus as there was an accident down the tracks. We were not happy at leaving our comfortable,  warm train and waiting out in the cold for a bus which took its time in coming. Each time a bus appeared the impatient queue of people, us included rushed with bag and baggage only to return disheartened as it was not ours.
Finally our bus came, we stored our bags and got in and settled down and the bus began its slow journey. To our delight it did not go on a highway but on narrow twisting country roads, through little towns and old villages some with houses not more than a few decades old, painted and well kept, with bright red roofs, firewood neatly stacked in front, already ready for the cold of autumn and winter. Others with ancient looking houses, plaster peeling from walls, revealing the brick and stone beneath and blackened earthen tiles on the roofs, villages which looked so much a part of the landscape as to make a person think they had grown out of the earth itself like the trees. We passed castles, churches, forests, fields some lying fallow, some bright green, some on rolling hills, some with ripening corn, some were being plowed by farmers in tractors. Apple trees lined the road in many places, tbeir boughs untiringly carryying their ripening fruit, green and red and getting ready for picking. We passed yellow  fields dotted with rolls of hay. We passed woods and copses thick with trees still green in September. A single impatient tree in a group of green had already embraced its mantle of yellow and red, and stood as an example of the glory to come. The land around was full of signs of the season and heralding the cold months to come. Both the Earth and man were preparing themselves for it. I wondered at the difference between those living in the city and those living in the country. While city dwellers went from glorying in the days of summer to grumbling when the weather was windy, rainy or cold, huddling into their protective clothing and hurrying along on their way, the country dwellers were so much in tune with their environment, making the best of it in all seasons.
We were blessing our stars at this unexpected adventure in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the leisurely meandering drive when suddenly the bus stopped at a station and we had to get off and with bag and baggage, the young helping the old and infirm, make our way in a narrow line to the waiting train which stood beside a forested valley. We had no time to take in the name of the station and it may well stay a mystery. The mystery might be solved as the next station, was Holýšov. I might be able to find out the name of the preceding station but I would like to leave it as a mystery.

The white line on the Eastern horizon is very distinct from the black and growing. It is time for fajr and sleep heavy eyes are now wide awake and refreshed after an early morning dinner of kofte and coffee. A fitful sleep took over almost on take off. The darkness hangs heavy in the sky and over the earth, though slowly the light is growing but stars are still distinct over the horizon. I stare at my screen, it is not the wide range of the latest movies which are available that fascinate me or even the music or the games. It is the route which is fascinating. I steal glances outside. My window is facing east and I am eagerly awaiting the sunrise but at the same time the screen attracts me with its magical names. I am  fascinated by the thought that below me lies the world. A world of mystic and legend, of history and stories, so many cultures, traditions, languages. A beautiful, colourful world now reposing tucked in comfortably in the bedclothes of the dark that still enfolds the earth. The screen offers a geography lesson. I look at place names rarely heard and wonder about them. Ashgabat, Buxoro, Astrakhan. I want to say the names aloud. Feel the taste of them on my tongue. But perhaps the Romanian gentleman to my left might have doubts about my sanity. I keep silent but in my mind I am savouring them. They are far away yet near enough to be on this route map. Air travel has made the world so small. The places one thought one would never see in life are just a short flight away. We have been flying over Iran. Tabriz lies somewhere to our South East. It is a sobering thought because the routes for all flights have changed due to the conflicts on the ground. Earlier all flight to Turkey or Europe entered Turkey from Mosul in Iraq. The conflicts, the killing,  the danger, the fear, the deprivation of those on the ground not very far away fills me sadness. I want to shout stop stop stop I want to shout it out so loud that it reaches every corner of the globe. STOP! When I allow myself to think of what man is capable of doing to man the thought fills me with agony. There on the route before me are names no longer the stuff of legends but names which seem to take on a new life and are writhing before me in agony. Basra, Baghdad, Mosul, Damascus, Aleppo. Once the cities of dreams, centres of ancient civilisations, cities which are carrying the ruins and histories of so much within them only to be destroyed and ruined once more. Barbarically destroyed in a world that stresses upon being civilised. A claim which it can never make good while there is a single drop of innocent blood being shed.