I am looked upon as one who’s rolling- hither and thither, who’s unstoppable, by my family and friends, and am often asked, how do you manage to stay afloat and grounded? Do I need to in a world where there are too many ‘sane folk’ with an opinion? I sought to define my world, my way, and travelling has grounded me more than the ground beneath my feet, that’s the honest truth.
I’m a traveller, intrinsically, within and without, mercury-like, slipping from one place to another, I survived the onslaught of living the human life. My mind, in a whirl, bursting to tell stories- mine, hers, theirs, anyone’s really, is my raison d’être. Travel brings me those stories, on the wind, on wings.
I recall, my baba (father) was called upon to read horoscopes, although he was a lawyer by profession. “Your baba,” mother would say, “he’s good, he’s really good, so people trust him to tell them their futures.” I was fascinated. I so wanted to know mine. He repeatedly refused to divulge anything, saying that one doesn’t look into family’s futures. Bemoaning this fact, I ultimately walked up to my father, whose favourite I was, and said, with a pout, “Well, at least tell me if I will get to travel to distant lands!!” He did. He told me that I had mercury in my feet and I wouldn’t stay still. That was good enough information for me at age 10. Since I would watch him leave and return after days on end, armed with gifts from distant lands. I sensed there were treasures to be dug up, and the only way I would get to them, would be to undertake such journeys myself. So yes, I became a treasure-hunter, one that explores, culls and makes one’s own- and hunts down immeasurable lengths of land, and lives the pleasures of unearthing the spoils.
Discovering new people, with whom I found both commonalities and sweet differences, is a habit I wish to refine and continue to polish.
Where did this journey begin
My mother: yes, she’s the one who wrote the first chapter of my traveller book; she’s the one who’s the true bohemian. Maa would bundle my elder sister and me, and take us with her on her sprees. We’ve travelled in all sorts- and we’ve travelled with zeal, hers transferring to us pretty rapidly. She carried us with her on her projects – to Shillong in Assam, to Calcutta and ChandanNagore, in West Bengal (where we had a home), to the south (Tirupati, and thereabouts, and not for religious purposes), Tamil Nadu, Kerala in the south, and Gujarat and Maharashtra in the west. As little girls, we were immensely proud of our mother, who spoke to people in their language, amiable and fun, and sometimes in stricter tones, were they to overstep boundaries. She was our hero. We were awestruck, as she seemed invincible. She’s an old dame now, but the undaunted spirit is alive, and kicking. She remains a no-nonsense person, and we now want her to stand back, to be tame, and quiet, but she? No way! She’s frail, but oh-so-strong!
We travelled in all classes (in trains back in the day) and unreserved, when deemed necessary. It was all very adventurous and stimulating. Today, I cannot imagine travelling this way at all, not alone, not with my kids, or my partner. The times now, well, what can I say, are not quite the same, and leave it at that.
The seeds to go forth and seek adventure had been sown early on, and the blooms continued to burst forth through my adult life, into marriage and motherhood. I was fortunate enough to find a partner with a similar seeking spirit; one that is ready to up and run when the calling is loud and one that refuses to be ignored. I’ve been very lucky, to be nurtured as a true Bohemian, and accepted and loved for that very spirit that speaks to the world, and receives from the world.
The Travel School
Travelling has been exceedingly educative. It has been an eye-opener for the children as well, and we’ve learnt that people are both the same and different anywhere we go. Kindness, a welcome spirit, a need to be loved, attention, shopping, exploring, admiring and imbibing- it is all there, be it on our Turkish voyage, or the one to Sedona- be it in Odisha, or in Kanya Kumari, and Rameshwaram. Every place has stirred, and inspired. Everyone is beautiful, and kind. Nothing and nowhere leaves one untouched. We’ve carried away something from the experience of having walked on that piece of earth. A part of us has seen, felt and imbibed, lending an afterglow to our innerscape.
What Travelling means
Packing my bag (overzealously and over-packing is my second name), is what sets my pulse racing. Putting clothes together for the journey ahead, the thrill of it, courses through me like an overcharged rubber ball- bouncing within, and am bouncing without. There’s a spring to my step as I run to my wardrobe, and pick and choose.
There’s the camera, and the binoculars, and then there’s jewellery and footwear, to match the voyage- beach, mountains, cities, very touristy, visit to daughter (so lots of walking gear), a writer’s retreat- so better be well-dressed and ensure that the look matches the writer, chargers – all to be packed in last minute. My backpack is the heaviest of all. Which personal bag to carry- which purse should it be? There’s ten days to go, but I am readying myself, having already arrived at my destination in my mind.
The frissons that pervade every inch of me, are here to stay till I board the aircraft, or bus, or undertake a journey by road in a car, or a train. It is something I’ve lived with forever, and it’s not something I would exchange for any other. I simply love it. People think I travel far more often than most, but I know I would travel at least twice a month more, if I could. Yet when I return, I’m happy, and pleased to repossess my home, as it were. I love the stability of home, and the regular meals and all of that which make up my routine. I also am acutely aware that I love it, because I know I have the choice of travelling when an opportunity presents itself, that I can afford to now leave for the unknown destination when it comes calling. I am blessed to have a family that yearns to visit new places, that loves to explore, to stroll, to taste the mysteries that abound in countries and cities and landscapes that meet our vision, and reach our heart.
Yes, I would have loved to have our kids take off a year from school, and travelled the world, or at least tread parts of it, putting together a scrapbook of pictures, essays and conversations we would have had with natives; the education of it!
What can a child sit at a desk and learn- more than sitting in a field of poppies, or daisies, or yellow mustard shoots?
What I would wish to do, and might still, is house-sit- the new traveller can now stay in places and for longer periods. One might ask, what is ‘House-Sitting’? Well, one definition is : House sitting is the practice whereby a person leaving their house for a period of time entrusts it to one or more “house sitters”, who by a mutual agreement are permitted to live or stay in the property temporarily, in exchange for assuming any combination of responsibilities.
House sitting allows one to live as a native, immersing oneself in the culture of the place.
So as an itinerant traveller, I would say, more than school or college, travelling far and wide has been a true university education for me, and I continue to thrive in this Uni with no name, where education continues, and boundaries thrive and swell. There’s none other to match its expanse, is there! The new-age traveller who’s ageless but reading to travel at any given moment in time.