On Saturday morning I woke up quite early and decided to spend some time in the sunshine. I made myself a cup of tea and took it out with me in the bamboo cup I normally use for takeaway coffee. Similarly to the day prior, it felt like spring outside – by 10:30 am the sun had already warmed the air and the light breeze that accompanied the quiet morning was fresh, though not chilly.
I set off towards Admiralsbrücke, wanting to loop over the bridge before heading down the canal in the direction of Neukölln. As I strolled slowly, I realised how rarely I get to enjoy this beautiful part of the day – the air is warm yet crisp and the restfully vibrant sense of a new day envelops everything. Filled with breath, I reached the bridge to find a very old lady selling newspapers at its southern tip. Life in Bulgaria has taught me how commonplace it can be for such activity to arise of desperate necessity, and seeing poverty afflict the elderly, particularly elderly women, always spurs a pressing desire to help.
I picked out the latest Die Zeit, which the lady folded for me with utmost care as she wiggled and played with her dentures, revealing a completely bare upper gum. I was happy to relieve the look of despair on her face at the €50 note I initially produced by collecting the necessary €5.50 in coins. I passed the metal money to her as we both took care to not brush each other’s skin. I couldn’t help but smile at the gentle simplicity of this exchange. Not only could I not remember when, if ever, I last bought a newspaper, but the entire interaction on this famous Berlin bridge felt like a surreal glimpse into a time past slowly yet decisively resurrecting into the present. The quiet morning, the lack of people on the street and the unusual vendor all felt like they do not belong to the reality of a 21st century metropolis, and yet are making a stance for the transformed world that might emerge after the pandemic. As I walked away smiling, neatly-folded newspaper under one arm and a bamboo cup full of hot Sideritis tea in the other, I noticed another woman approach the elderly newspaper vendor for her very own read of choice.
All of this filled me with joy. It felt like a sign pointing brightly to the immeasurable beauty of the simplicity that lies so close to each and every one of us. It felt like an affirmation to the idea that infinite detail lies in the most mundane and that we do not need to cross seas or own the world to find happiness in its appreciation. The beauty of a morning, whether in Berlin, Sofia or Mumbai, is gorgeous as it is. It is not its novelty that makes it so, neither the fact it is larger, faster or stronger in any one of these places. Rather, it is its natural state of morningness, in whichever form if may appear, that breathes life into the beholder. It took the slowness and sparseness imposed by a virus, alongside the grin of an elderly lady with no teeth receiving €5.50 from me, to make me feel, in my whole being, that all is complete without needing to strive for it to be so.