So, did you feel the budding thorns of winters on your face, in your hair and all around your neck above the blue jersey you are wearing in Shimla today evening? Well, I am feeling the same sitting thousands kilometers away from you, on this wooden bench outside the Spanish learning school in Santiago, Chile. Few days ago, when I reached Santiago from Sao Paulo, the first thing came across my mind was, ‘Wow! Its’ almost like Himachal. You can easily compare the big green mountains covering the snow-covered Andeans with Himalayan range in any part of Himachal. It started watching the andeans from the plane itself.
The difference is the infrastructure akin to any American or European country, better roads, and of course I can’t have a Chilean playing Spanish music right just for me, while I am writing in Himachal. I have been to a few countries in Latin America but believe me, Chile is special and Santiago is for sure special. Santiago is one the most spotless cities of Latin America. I am not comparing Santiago with Sao Paulo, Rio, or Buenos Aires, neither can I, but it has serenity, contentment in the air it breathes. Chileans are quite unlike Brazilians and Mexicans. They are not loud but still they enjoy their lives, and of course not to mention, they know how to win the hearts.
I don’t know what it is? May be less population, embraced & blessed with nature, or the weather or the famous road to Santiago by Paulo Choleho, but Santiago has a place and heart for accepting and loving anyone and everyone. You can find an old woman advising you on how to cover yourself in rain, while you don’t have an umbrella with you. At the same time, an unknown passer-by Chilean greets you in the morning with a beautiful smile on his face. I can walk all alone to the meetings having GPS in my hand on walking mode. I know it’s funny but Santiago is a place where you would love walking miles and miles alone and that’s what I am doing these days. I have learnt a new language ‘sign language’ since I am traveling to Latin America. No matter if they don’t understand English and I have a broken Spanish, still Chileans make sure to walk with me to my destination or at least make me understand the way in their broken English or the special sign language.
Santiago has two things flowing in its blood; one is the Andeans Mountains range which I hope to see this weekend and of course the great Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean poet. My love for Pablo Neruda started from the two hours spent in the lobby of Chilean embassy in Vasant Bihar, New Delhi, while waiting for collection of my Visa. I pick a book from the library of embassy and it had to be a small collection of his poems and I didn’t want to leave that lobby for the whole day. And when I was on the poem, ‘A Song Of Despair’, I couldn’t control the tears flowing down my cheeks. The pain and love, Pablo could have felt while writing this poem is beyond details. I was wondering if the translated version has this effect then how would be the original one. And I got a chance to listen to the Spanish and original version of this poem recited by a Chilean which was an extra-ordinary experience. I just met, Paula, a Bolivian student living in Santiago since last four years for her studies in Public relations and the way she recited A song of despair to me, I fell in love with the poem all over again.
This is Santiago, and its heart still beats for and through the poems of Pablo Neruda. It has romance and pain in its air but still smiling for no reason. That’s first few steps on the road of Santiago, I hope a lot more coming.. chau chau..