Study Melbourne partnered with Melbourne Writers Festival 2018 to host a storytelling competition for international students. ‘Just another beautiful day in Melbourne’ by Amrutha Ramesh from India was the winner in the Higher Education category.

Just another beautiful day in Melbourne

I checked the route on Google Maps for the fifth time in an hour to make sure that we were on the right tram. Trams had been added to a long list of perplexing things I’d had to encounter in Melbourne. Coming from India, where the roads were chock full of buses that seemed to follow no strict schedules, the buses and trams that arrived on time felt like blessings, albeit confusing.

The poster on the partition between me and the driver proclaimed this very fact. The trams were never late, it said, and you would be refunded if they were. As I stepped out onto the stop in Flinders Street on a cold and windy morning, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement, wondering what new sights were waiting to be found this time. All the previous trips I had made to the city had been filled with amazing sights, on every corner, every turn, filling up my phone’s gallery. I was sure this visit would be the same.

They say unplanned visits are the best and I say I agree. My best friend was busy zooming into the map on her phone and taking a full circle to ensure we would begin to walk in the right direction. Our first stop, as always, was the Indian restaurant that served wonderful plates of vegetarian food at relatively cheap prices, the winning fact being that it offered unlimited refills. We felt like we had hit the biggest jackpot when we found the restaurant the first time, although later we hit more jackpots serving Chicken Rice and Parotta-Beef combo that were just as delicious (if not more) and comforting. As the food warmed our homesick hearts, we decided that the point of interest this time would be the State Library of Victoria.

We started walking along with our trusted Google Maps. We had fallen into the routine of going around the city on foot since we discovered that that was the best way to find and absorb the hidden treasures scattered all over the place. The cobblestone streets, the old and grand buildings that seemed to fill the city and offer a break from the skyscrapers, the horse drawn carriages, the cathedrals with their incredible intricate architecture, the quaint cafes, the smalls shops offering precious souvenirs, they all seemed to have sprung right out of the books that I loved reading. It made me feel like I was living a vintage dream. The magic that filled the air at dusk seemed to draw me to the city more often than I would have travelled otherwise from my home an hour away.

I had been right when I said that this trip was no different in terms of the new wonders that were awaiting us. The majestic columns of the State Library of Victoria looked down at us atop a wide flight of steps, beckoning us to step into the warmth within. The enormous reading rooms were filled with people working on their laptops or writing with several books open in front of them. The game of chess, the life-sized version of which was being played near the entrance, was also being played on several tables. Here, the silence was comforting. The rustling of pages made us want to explore deeper. Shelves arranged on several floors around the main square lounge contained more priceless and rare books than I could ever imagine seeing. The warmth and comfort seeping into my body made me feel the same way I felt every time I returned home after a long, tiring, rainy day at school. Being a complete bookworm, I felt like I had found a treasure trove, a sanctuary, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and suburbs.

As we walked out of the library after a few good hours of exploration, I knew that I would keep coming here often. The temperature had dropped but the wind had turned into to a pleasant breeze. The sun had already set and the last few rays were starting to fade out. Since I come from a place in India that is considered to be very hot and humid, the winter here had taken me by surprise at the start but had also made me fall in love with everything it brought along. The city had come alive while we had been lost in the world of books. I had always felt that there was a special kind of buzz, a sort of magic, that seemed to permeate the air in every part of the world at dusk, which was the reason for that being my favourite time of the day and that magic could be felt here too. I realised that Melbourne would always have a special place in my heart. It was the first time I’d moved away from my parents and I knew that there would have been no better place than this city to have moved to. Melbourne fills me with a deep sense of comfort and belonging, not because it is like my home country. In fact, the two places have more dissimilarities than similarities but the warmth that this city wraps me in is just as familiar. It fills me with the same kind of comfort that my home does. I realised that Melbourne had become another home for me and that I would be looking for bits of Melbourne in every place I go to in the future. As I took a deep breath in on our way to the tram stop for the hour-long ride back to the place we stayed at, my heart was filled with happiness, hope and gratitude; I felt truly blessed to be living in this city and call it home. It was the end of another beautiful day in Melbourne.