All Things Must Pass

The first installment of a new series on a European adventure

By Apurba Jahangir

Now playing Bonzo goes to Britburg by The Ramones.

A mid 40’s police officer a few minutes ago just stamped my passport, amused by the fact that he had correctly guessed from my long hair and tattoos on my arms, that I was a musician. He mentioned his favorite singer was Ayub Bacchu and rather than asking me what the purpose of my trip was he asked if I knew how to play “Ghum Bhanga Shohore”. I obviously replied in the affirmative, as tickets were bought, rooms were booked, so did not want to tick him off under any circumstances.

But as I was giggly about his lack of questions, I started to ask myself, what was the purpose of this trip? I am an introverted honest to God writer in love with distorted and fuzzed guitar sounds and do advertising work to afford the finer things in life. This trip was obviously sponsored by the later. For the last one year, I had just re-opened my company which was doing kind of alright after the pandemic, I lost around 100 pounds, joined a rock n roll supergroup, and was about to get married to my best friend in 4 and a half months. This trip was my Bon Voyage.

My itinerary included France, Greece with a brief pit stop in Rome at first. Though it wasn’t my first trip to Europe, it was my first time doing it alone, first time doing it without work, first time with no agendas other than to take some deep breaths. The initial middle-class excitement of going through immigration and check-ins was gone. I was now technically out of the Bangladesh borders. I finally felt somewhat at peace and it wasn’t because of the smoke going up my nostrils or the basic jazz music that Balaka lounge was playing. I was okay with life, and the cards that I was holding. I was okay with whatever the future held.

As the Smashing Pumpkins started performing the intro riff of “Mayonnaise” to my ear, my flight took off. I saw my city roll past the window, I felt that Orhan Pamuk melancholia that everyone keeps talking about. But I also was looking forward to enjoying my first cigarette in about 5 hours, during the layover. To seeing people from all over the world going through bottles of wine and perfume and chocolates and cigarette boxes. To scrolling through the headphone aisle and count my pocket to see if I have the budget. To buying an unnecessary universal adapter. To having my first ‘Five Guys’ burger in two years. To get to sit on an A380 and to hope by some miracle I get an upgrade. And Rome, to finally see her again.

Can I speak for a moment, about what can be described as one of the greatest feelings in the world? I mean the feeling I am talking about is up there with bending the perfect note at the perfect time on the guitar, or finishing the song at the exact same time the last cymbal hits on the drums, the feeling of satisfaction. So imagine this, you just got off an eight hour long flight. You land on foreign soil; you go through whatever you have to go through at the airport and finally you step outside. It’s morning, say around 10 or 9. There’s a breeze in the air. You’re still a bit groggy from all those airplane wines. So now you need to wake up. You reach down your pockets and you bring out your third last smoke. You light it up and you inhale, your pupils dilate, you wake up. The sensation, the high, it’s like the beginning of “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin. It’s just right! But also, smoking is injurious to health so don’t do it. But if you do, this will remind you why you do it.

Another nice feeling for us not-so-well-traveled folks is finding the first person you interact on foreign soil to be a Bangali. Especially if he came to pick you up in a convertible Alpha Romeo. I saw Jamil and he pointed out his car, and I felt like I was Gregory Peck! Sent by the hotel, Jamil was a bearded man with back brush hair wearing a John Travolta leather jacket in the midst of a summer morning. The first thing he asked me was if I had desi cigarettes on me. While driving at the tip of the speed limit, Jamil talked about religion, politics, ethics, Italian food and Italian women in the span of 30 minutes, and we had another hour to go. Jamil made sense to the post pandemic world. Jamil was cool!

The place I was staying in, calling it a hotel would be a big overstatement. It was around the honks and shouts of Termini Station, a place known for its fake Rolexes, cheap food, and interesting inhabitants. It was a weekend morning, so the streets were quite empty. But judging by the bottles, the cigarette butts and a torn stiletto that laid silently in front of my hotel gates, you could make up all kinds of stories. And as I entered my what I thought could not be bigger than 100 by 100 square feet room, I realized I was late. I forgot I had an appointment that day.

Italy is its history, it’s culture, it’s] Raphael and Michel Angelo, it’s the Medici’s, the art, the religion, the culture, the loud dialects, the accents. But most importantly to me, Italy is Mario Puzo, it’s Vittorio De Sica, it’s Sophia Loren. Obviously. Italy has left behind its glory days. It is now a beautiful old ruin, that offers stories every few steps. As I navigated through the alleyways of the Trevi Fountain, passing by classic vespas, and cars, I realized I was close to the Piazza di Spagna. In moments I would just cross the location that made for one of the most infamous movie posters of all time. There, I was here! I could see it, the steps, but no sight of Sophia Loren. I had brought a package for someone I knew very briefly. Nothing shady, just something personal. It was supposed to be a brief encounter, a drop off you may say. I was 5 minutes early. I had to wait. Wait for…let’s call her “M”.

(To be continued)

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