Monday, July 7, 2014

Sun, Sands and Salsa!


Mexico- It’s not a name that always pops up in the mind of a quintessential Indian traveller. And so it was with some apprehension that I set forth for what would become the most treasured pages in my book of memory. The apprehension was lifted as soon as we arrived at Distrito Federale a.k.a Mexico City- by the ever helpful, gentle folk of this land. Right from our host-buddy who picked us up from the airport, through the ever smiling and helpful staff at IPADE, we were overwhelmed and spoilt. Of the seven students selected for the program at IPADE, 3 of us were staying in Mexico City, while the remaining 4 studied in the campus at Monterrey, which is to the north of Mexico City.

I stayed in an apartment block five minutes from the school, with almost all the other international students- Indian, German, Italian, Polish, and American and French, it was quite a cosmopolitan experience. Friendships were forged easily, as we found out, amongst each other, the pleasure of learning customs and cultures of faraway lands. Of course, as soon as the classes started, it was another learning experience. The subjects were quite different, and so were the approaches. Here, the case method was the backbone around which the entire course curriculum, time-table and the academic culture was built. But then came the weekends with the promise of Mexico City’s famed nightlife- the never ending nights in Mama Rumba, the salsa club where even yours truly was made to shake a leg to the rhythm of Latino music, and the many varied pubs and clubs of the city with the beautiful Mexican people. Mexicans take their weekends very seriously indeed, I found out to my delight.

Mexico City had many more to offer, the ruins of the Aztec past and the Castle of Chapultepec amongst them. The castle was on top of a hill in the centre of city, and served as the palace of the ruler. One could enjoy quite a view of the entire city, while perched on top of the Castle. It was a city bustling with life and passion, every minute. The Zocalo, historical centre of the city and a witness to many battles during the revolution was the living, beating heart of the city. Once, we were strolling through a mysterious and beautiful neighbourhood called Coyoacan, where we came to stumble upon a rare sight- a group of Mexicans, performing an ancient ritual of connecting with their past, chanting songs in the near extinct Aztec tongue, asking nature  to bless us and punish the ones that hurt us. It was as time had stood still, with the smell of camphor and burning tropical leaves in tandem with the brisk, strong and graceful warrior-like dance steps of these people.

Every long weekend we managed to travel to places far away, in the company of our friends from the dozen odd countries. The colourful buildings preserved to date from the 18th century and the narrow cobbled streets make the city of San Miguel De Allende beautiful in a sense one has to see to comprehend. The city of Guanajuato was another traditional Mexican town I had the good fortune to visit, with the unique Callejon De Beso, i.e.  the alley of the kisses and delightful Mexican food. Puebla, a magical town separated from Mexico City by only a volcano (!) offered unique gastronomical choices. The Mexican food deserves an article by itself. For a person flexible with their eating habits, this country can provide some very tasty and spicy meals. Another trip to remember was Acapulco- the famed resort town of the pacific coast. Tropical beaches with extremely jovial citizens made the short stay in Acapulco very remarkable. In Acapulco, even the local transport buses have a party going on within all the time.

In IPADE, matters were getting interesting- presentations of companies such as Microsoft, BCG and Deloitte, followed by cocktail parties with the absolute top brass of these institutions. The college kept everyone busy with competitions, and finally exams. After the classes were done and dusted, we finally had the time to travel to the south of Mexico, the Yucatán peninsula which was home to the ancient Mayans. We set out on a road-trip across the Yucatan, armed with the little Spanish we had picked up. We ran into quite a lot of adventures en route, the car breaking down in the middle of nowhere amongst them. The azure beaches of Caribbean were a sight to behold, sparkling with the shade of blue I had previously seen only in paintings and wallpapers. Tulum, with its majestic Mayan ruins atop a cliff, which leads into a stunning beach down below and Cancun’s Kukulcan Boulevard remain etched into my heart and soul. Diving into a Cenote of crystal clear water to see the labyrinthine caves beneath, beholding the mighty Chichen Itza, a marvel of Mayan architecture, and the serene ruins of Ukmaal, nestled inside the jungle- There are many vignettes that refuse to fade away from the mind’s eye.

Eventually, it was time to bid adieu, to all the amazing friends we made, to have one long  last embrace to remind  ourselves of what a precious time we had. As I was arriving at Delhi, a signboard at the airport captured my emotions in their truest sense- it said:

 “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

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