The Secret to Eternal Youth

My life has been particularly stressful lately, and as hard as I try I just can’t seem to be anywhere on time. Today I was running extremely late for an important appointment, despite thinking I had left with have plenty of time.

Wrong. Metro was a bastard and forty minutes later I found myself outside Richmond Station on the verge of an explosive mental breakdown, praying for a taxi.

Countless went by and I had just about thrown my phone at the cement after hearing the 13cabs hold tune for nearly ten minutes before one finally stopped.

I got in the passenger seat next to the driver -an Italian man with wrinkled eyes, a fantastic moustache and not much hair on his head, I’m guessing in his mid to late 60s- and asked him to take me to Brighton.

He told me that he was married in Brighton 31 years ago, and I asked him if he was still married. He laughed and said, “Yes, I married for love-but I still don’t know why she married me.”

He then asked me to open the glove box. Inside was a wallet, and inside that were pictures of the taxi drivers’ family. There were three wrinkled and faded school pictures of three blonde and beaming boys (one is getting engaged next week), and two pictures of his wife. One was over 30 years old, from before they were married, the other was a few years back. She looked nearly identical in both photos, besides the hair. In the first she had a stunning late 70s perm and in the second a more modern Hilary Clinton-esque style do.

He asked me to guess how old she was, I said early 40s (clearly forgetting that they’d been married for 31 years) and he laughed and told me she would turn 60 very soon.

I told him that she was beautiful and asked what her secret was.

He told me, good food, no stress and family. But mostly good food.

Then he told me to close my eyes and imagine that I was on a gondola in Venice, and he played me romantic Italian music while we drove the rest of the way to Brighton. He sang his favourite lyrics and translated them to me as, “I will always meet you here in May.”

The appointment that I was on my way to was a psych appointment, and by the time we got there I practically felt that didn’t need to go anymore.

At times in your lives you have fleeting experiences with strangers that have had a profound effect on your day and that will reach out to you at the right moment for years to come, possibly for the rest of your life. This was one of those times.

For a $26 cab ride I learned the secret to eternal, youthful beauty and took a gondola ride down a water-filled street in Venice.

Indian Culture in Varanasi














I returned from India less than two weeks ago. It was my second trip to the wonderful country, having decided to spend December there after living there for six months in 2012.

India is a world away from Australia. The sights, smells, tastes, colours and noises are all more intense and everything works in a completely different way, but it has that familiar sense of community that gives a place its substance.

India is an incredibly diverse and interesting country. Thousand of different dialects, a myriad of devout religious communities, extremely varied cuisine, arts and fashion are just some examples of the diversity of the culture. And just to scrape the surface of the landscape there’s the coastal areas such as Kerela, the desert in Rajasthan, the mountainous areas of Ladakh (described to me once as “heaven on earth”), the entrance to the Himalayas and then there’s the Holy City, my home in India, Varanasi.

Varanasi is, in my opinion, the most cultured city in India. Where other cities of Varanasi’s size are becoming increasingly less traditional and more westernized, Varanasi is doing it old school. This is because the Holy City is situated on India’s holiest river, the Ganjes. Every year millions of pilgrims come to Varanasi for religious festivals and cleansing. It is an extremely holy place. As a result there is no alcohol, women choose to mostly wear traditional Indian sarees or Punjab suits, cows roam the streets (literally strolling down extremely busy roads, without a care) and most religious traditions are still thriving.

Living in Varanasi for six months, I became very close to several families. One woman who I was particularly close to, Mumta Ji (Ji is an Indian mark of respect) was very interested in Australian culture and we would swap stories about our cultures, she would laugh at my choice of clothing and the fact that I get so excited about elephants, and I would show her photos from home and marvel at how different our cultures in fact are.

As a woman, Mumta Ji lacks many of the freedoms that I am privileged to enjoy in Australia: dating, wearing what ever I like, talking to whom ever I please, deciding where I want to live and who I will marry, drinking alcohol and eating meat to name a few.

Mumta Ji isn’t all that bothered by this, for the most part, she finds my lifestyle a novelty. She is most shocked that I don’t intend to have children until I’m in my late 20s-if at all; this she cannot comprehend.

However, as many differences there are between Mumta’s culture and mine, there are so many similarities. The most important thing that I learned while in India is that people are the same, despite their differences, where ever you go.

Sorry for the paradox, but it’s the simplest way to put it and it must be simply put. Where ever you go, you will find the same office politics, kids who are loud and giggly and shy kids who hide behind their parent’s legs, community gossip, affectionate teasing, the same willingness to help out a stranger, the same laughter, the same terrifying and passionate mothers, the same friendships and the same conflicts and the same

While our cultures differ, our emotions and our connections are the same.

That’s the brilliant thing about India. It’s a whole other world, the sights, smells, tastes and sights are all more intense, everything works in a completely different way, but there’s that same sense of community and it still feels like home.