Dolma and I met already 15 years ago when I was an Erasmus student in France.
Dolma was the first Indian person I had ever befriended.
When my Erasmus semester was coming to an end, we exchanged contact-details hoping that sometime, someday we might meet again. Back then, visiting India was a very remote thought, but I would sometimes imagine myself in the far away continent, drinking chai in Chandigarh while the monsoon was pouring down…
When traveling far away became possible and interesting for me, India was not yet on my top-list of places to visit.
Quite unexpectedly in the summer of 2011 Dolma visited me in Brussels while she was in France for a summer-course. After more than 13 years later, I saw her standing on the Thalys platform, a bit leaner but otherwise quite unchanged. We went for long walks and updated each-other on our respective lives. I talked to her about my plan of taking a sabbatical and visiting India.
Not so many months later, I am in Chandigarh with Dolma, drinking diluted South Indian coffee in ‘The Indian Coffee House’ of sector 17. The romantic effect of the monsoon is not there, neither is the chai, but the cafe is beautifully retro and outside skies are heavy with clouds and it is raining, despite the hot season.
Chandigarh, the sandbox of Le Corbusier, is a city neatly divided in sectors. It is full of parks and greenery. Roads are wide and traffic almost looks organised. This Union Territory city is surprisingly predictable, linear and square. So much unlike life…