My heart wanted to write about the immense beauty of the greens, but my hands were trembling with anxiety at the sight of the equally daunting woods. The jeep was covered from the top, but open in the back. We were comfortable with our luggage under the seat. A smile was noticeable on Sahib’s face. He was signalling something to Keshav, with the his squinting eyes. I had never seen him give such a smile since the fifth grade. I was clueless as to what would be coming my way. I turned towards Akshay who appeared very restless. It appeared as if he was framing sentences, probably to disclose something to me. Presumably he would soon make the announcement.
“Hola amigo”, She said over the phone.
“Muy bien”, I replied stuttering halfway trying to recognize the voice.
She definitely knew the fact that I am learning (well actually), was learning Spanish once. She enquired about something else and I was dumbstruck by her accent which was essentially native Mexican.Finally I gave up and asked her name. I even apologized for not saving her number.
Lady: So you never went to the class after that week.
Me: I actually got busy with my work.
Lady: I see, but you looked so determined back then.
I was about to think of another excuse and had even come up with an interesting list of priorities but instead I figured it was more important for me to know who she was and how she knew all about me.
Me: Aap kaun hai? (Who are you?)
Lady: Mein Aria hun, Cervantes se. (in almost perfect Hindi)
Me: Oh my God! Aria, how long has it been?
Lady: Four years.
In 2009, I attended an elementary Spanish language course at the Institute de Cervantes, New Delhi. Aria worked there. She was a substitute teacher, who taught us for a week. I guess she must have been in her early 50s back then and had recently moved to India. Within the first week itself we had developed a very good student-teacher bond. I shared with her my dream to backpack across Latin America with an arsenal of certified Spanish lexicon. She wanted to learn Hindi and at least one other Indian language. Her travel plans included the whole of India and some South Asian countries. We had promised to check on each other’s progress over the years.
Aria: I have been good! I travelled to all those areas which were not marked as “Unsafe” by the embassy.
Me: Wonderful, you might have noticed I did not pursue Spanish after a few weeks. I guess once student life comes to halt, it is very difficult to resume learning. Maybe I am a bit too old to pursue my dreams.
Aria: Well my dad had his first driving lesson yesterday. He is 80.
Me: I see.
Aria: There is an elementary course in Spanish starting from the 18th and I do not get any incentives from Cervantes to sell their course.
I registered for the course and have been going there regularly.
– Written by Mahaveer Bisht
Pictures by Arpan Ganguli
Edited by ‘bhilash