Friday, August 05, 2011

Voices: Column 4 in City Buzz, Bangalore

On the after effects of a travel bug sting
I like the word picturesque for the way it sounds. Quite like the way I love Spanish names when they roll off the tongue. Antonio Banderas, Javier…see what I mean? Here is how I use picturesque in a sentence. When I was growing up in the picturesque little town of Madikeri, there wasn’t much to entertain ourselves with. We lived (still do) in the middle of town but in a little estate, so when you constantly see cows grazing, birds singing, butterflies flittering, fireflies glowing, yadda-yadda-yadda, that isn’t much of an entertainment. On the torrential rain days when it was freezing cold and there was no electricity to read and I was left to amuse myself in a house of adults, there, that time was where a dangerous habit began to grow. I like to think it is because of a mole on the sole of my left foot, that idea sounds more exciting.
We used to have one of those big blue Oxford atlases, with colourful countries and multiple lines running all over. I used to stare at the maps for hours and design routes to travel on. Then one fine day, at about ten years of age, I vividly remember this, I took out an old diary and jotted down a list of things I would take with me on a world tour. I don’t remember what I put in the list but the money I figured I would need was a cool two crore rupees! Don’t ask me how I arrived at that particular amount or where I thought I would get it from. But I hoped my dad would help!
Somewhere in the dark nooks of an old house, those notes were lost. Maybe I will find them one day in the attic. But the seeds of restlessness were sown back then and the travel bug hasn’t reduced its sting yet.
Some time ago, I read an article about how once you are back from your travels, the best anecdotes you might be sharing are usually the ones where you got into trouble or where things went wrong. I couldn’t agree more. If I didn’t fear embarrassment on these pages, I would tell you some of those myself. What is the fun in saying how beautiful the room was or how courteous the concierges were? If the places you go to have people who are called concierges in the first place instead of a Man Friday sorts for all jobs intended, you probably don’t have many disasters meeting you head on either.
I often get asked why I travel, why anybody travels. That stumps me, honestly. I ask them why you would need a reason. If you can afford it, monetarily and otherwise, I say you must travel, like some vengeance against the drudgery of having to live a greater part of your life rooted in one or a few places. Affordability these days isn’t an excuse, many would tell you that money isn’t important to go from point A to point B and have experiences along the way. But let us not get into that bit right now.
Before you read on to get to the point here, I must tell you how I classify travelers. You must have read similar lists elsewhere, so I promise I won’t meander on for more than a few lines on that. Okay? Okay.
So there are the hoity-doity sorts who will not imagine not staying at a 7-star hotel and fine dining in an LBD and diamonds each night and wearing high heels on a chauffeur driven sight seeing tour. Let’s not forget their private jets. Yes, I don’t care much for these kinds. Then there are the kinds who go to tremendous lengths to plan their itinerary, right down to 9:02 AM when a breakfast of toast and fruit with OJ will be dispensed with. They usually have expensive cameras hung around their necks and sport T-shirts of Go Goa or Thailand with grey elephants. These are the sorts that make package tour organizers very, very happy.
Then there are encounters with the third kind who are the sorts that make the planners and the diamond sets gasp with indignation. The budget backpackers whose only plan is that they will leave home on this date and come back on that date. The rest is slightly hazy.
No free air miles for guessing where I stand. To be fair though, there are other categories too, those that push the lines demarcating the classification a little in and out. We will not get into that either.
Do me a favour please. Switch on Indian Ocean’s ethereally gorgeous song Khandisa. That is by far my favourite song for the road. I shall tell you why next week. Give that song a listen in the meantime.


Chandra Shekhar Balachandran said...

How geographic, Deepa! I loved reading this post. Not just for its geographic sensibilities and sensitivities, but also for your crisp writing style.

Loved it.

As for why people travel ... ultimately, I think it is some combination of

1. Pursuit of novelty, a break from the routineness of the lived life
2. Curiosity (this is a huge factor)
3. Ability (financial, physical, etc.)
4. Opportunity (given or created!)
5. Because the *heart* says, "Do it!"

I endorse and love all these factors... perhaps the most satisfying, though, is the cardiac reason. :-)

Keep writing!

Deepa Bhasthi said...

Thanks Chandra :) I think I should incorporate these reasons in the 2nd half of the column.

Biju Jacob John said...

Guess which category i fall under! No prizes for guessing no.3:)