Rosalyn D'Mello: A road trip to remember

Apr 27, 2018, 06:15 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

A longstanding dream and the perfect travel partner culminated in a stunning indulgence of the senses from Italy to Berlin

When my friend invited me on the road trip she had planned from Northern Italy to Berlin, I couldn’t resist saying yes. A road trip through Europe has been a longstanding dream. Pic courtesy/Rosalyn D'Mello
When my friend invited me on the road trip she had planned from Northern Italy to Berlin, I couldn’t resist saying yes. A road trip through Europe has been a longstanding dream. Pic courtesy/Rosalyn D'Mello

Rosalyn D'MelloIt is only when the road finally stretches endlessly before you that you begin to grasp the nuances of distance and the arbitrariness of borders. Google maps will inform you of the scope of the journey from point A to point B, offering simultaneously a calculation of how much time the trajectory will consume. You catch a cartographic glimpse of the landscape through which you will traverse, but until you are in the front seat of a locomotive machine, you cannot quite imagine it. When Elif, one of the artists at the residency I'd been invited to in Bolzano/Bozen, invited me on the road trip she had planned from Northern Italy to Berlin, I couldn't resist saying yes. A road trip through Europe has been a longstanding dream. And so, on Monday morning at 11.30am, we picked up the rental car we'd reserved and began our journey to Berlin.

We could have taken a cheap flight from Verona, I'm sure. But, Elif needed to bring back art supplies like canvas stretchers and paint from Berlin. The car was a perfect storage and transport mechanism. We knew we would arrive in Berlin late at night and were scheduled to spend all of Tuesday there and return on Wednesday. There was something immensely liberating about having this mobility, and we couldn't have been a better match, considering Elif loves to drive and I simply don't know how to, which means I boast neither an Indian nor an international driving licence. Because we had already bonded the week before we discovered we shared so many similar fascinations for music, literature and art. It was fitting to begin our trip with a whole album by Nina Simone. We listened to her contralto voice as we winded our way through the Alps, driving at first in the direction of Brenner, situated on the border between Italy and Austria. Our first pit stop was at the stunning Plessi Museum, both a rest house and an institution meant to commemorate the historic significance of this border crossing, with an installation by Fabrizio Plessi that reflects the biodiversity of the regions of Bolzano, Innsbruck and Trento. As we steadily began our descent, the alpine mountains no longer occupied the horizon, giving way instead to smaller hills, and by the time we were in Bavaria, the landscape had transformed. From the vineyard-studded mountainous view that I had been ensconced in for a week, we were now in grassy pastures, the roadside gleaming bright yellow from blossoming canola. We crossed Innsbruck and then made our way in the direction of Munich. It was 11 pm by the time we drove into Berlin, having finally completed the almost 900 km distance. It would have been wonderful to have had the luxury of stopping in Salzburg, or, on our way back making the detour via Prague. These cities seemed so within reach, but we were pressed for time. The Open Studio at the residency is slated for May 3, and both Elif and Masatoshi have to accelerate their processes to finish making what they had begun.

For the first time in months, I feel no such pressure. My contribution has already been delivered in the form of an essay for the catalogue. I am free to do as I will. For the first time in some years, I think, I have exonerated myself from the pressure of deadlines. I don't have any editors to apologise to for my inevitable delays. I am not stressed by the compulsion to divide my time between the writing I am compelled to do and that which I am called upon to do by the dictations of my own desires.

On Saturday afternoon, I will meet Mona in Florence. It is such a romantic proposition, considering that despite knowing each other for almost 16 years, we have never managed to travel abroad together (who says the word romance must be reserved for lovers). This time the planets have aligned. We both happen to be in Europe at the same time. We have conspired to meet in Firenze and spend a day each in Arezzo and Venezia. I am excited to then bring her back with me to Eppan for the Open Studio. We'll then travel to Naples and Rome before parting ways again. Since she is the subject and muse for my next book, I am beyond thrilled at this opportunity for togetherness. It's our joint female subversion of the 'grand tour' of Italy that upper class European men did in the 17th and 18th century as a cultural rite of passage. Unlike them, we are not entitled people of unlimited means and disposable resources. That will not stop us from soaking in everything we are able to through the immense fecundity of our collective imaginations.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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