Saturday, August 13, 2011

Voices: Column 5 in City Buzz, Bangalore

A Collector of Experiences
Aramaic was an ancient language that is scantly used now. But dear old Indian Ocean reworked a hymn from that tongue and gave us the cult song Kandisa. I hope you enjoyed it last week. Now that you (hopefully) madly love that song, turn it up on the iPod or car stereo next time on a road trip and see how well that and the band’s other songs relate to what you see over the edge of your rear view mirror. Some time ago, I re-discovered Desh Mera from their 2003 album Jhini, a song made popular by Peepli Live and was fascinated about how well you could place the song with a scene from any street in any town in any part of India and have it look like a video for the song. That has become another of my favourite one-for-the-road songs.
Don’t you sometimes wish real life had a soundtrack as well? Travel and the drudgery of everyday life would have been a wee bit more fun, no?
We were on the subject of travel. Between last week and this when I am writing this, I did a bit of that again. No where exotic, unless the hills and some bit of the Konkan coast during the rains are to be called exotic. Don’t get me started on the roads, or the lack of them. But then, like I said, what is the fun in a trip if everything was still peachy?
Every time there is a mishap during one of my travels (which is of course always), I go through a mental screen reel of all the ones that happened before. Most times, I would have always seen worse. That helps to store the latest trouble in trip-land in stock for the next anecdote at a table of conversations, warm food and loved people.
For instance, there was this long ago college trip to Kerala. Good fun, no major fights, all was going well. Then we drive back to our little district and some union decides they want to have a bundh that day. Fifty hungry, tired young souls stuck in a border non-village with one trickling stream, one dingy hotel, a closed school building and an abandoned forest guard post isn’t a pretty picture. But we fished with dupattas, ate some of the best food at the hotel (there was one overwhelmed cook there), laid back on green grass and passed the day.
Those were the days of no cell phones. After a whole day of a disappeared bus of kids, when we did get back, there wasn’t any fun telling fifty sets of parents about the fish and the stream though.
Then there was another time when hot, humid evenings in the macho heartlands of Punjab was spent walking with friends discussing why Kashmir was why it is the way it is. Or the time an early morning trek into nowhere in Himachal Pradesh led us to the cutest waterfalls and the freshest mooli-paranthas I will ever have. Or the time in West Bengal when we got stuck in a hotel that was creepily similar to Hotel Decent, of the Jab We Met fame. Or avoiding insurgents in one state and landing up in picturesque (there, I made another sentence with that word!) Sikkim. Or the most disgusting restaurant I have ever seen along the borders of Bihar. Or being terribly ill-equipped for the cold in Nagaland. These are the first stories I tell when people ask me why I travel. A few wonder again why I should want to suffer. I tell them it would be a suffering if I did not have these incidents to recount and relive and smile and say that it was another experience (when I think so in retrospect). I suppose I am a collector of experiences. It is a hobby. Like those who hoard bookends or hairclips. They say living through experiences builds character and shapes your world view and teaches you lessons and shows you how far you can push yourself mentally, spiritually, physically. Well, if they say so; that’s a bonus. I like seeing this collection as a hobby; it is the romantic in me.
By the way, I wonder who ‘they’ are. I know we use these unnamed sources all the time but can the words of wisdom we conveniently put in their mouths be actually attributed? I guess it sounds nice and wise when you write it that way. That was, BTW, a rhetorical question.
I try to be zen about it and accept people for the way they are, most times. But when I see those with means showing reluctance to remove their selves from one established place, it irks me. Every human evolution theory establishes man’s nomadic origins. In several cultures, travelling is still used as a means to teach the young responsibility and survival lessons. I shall not pin point the reasons why one should travel. But I believe, if you can, you should. You owe it to yourselves, to humankind’s evolutionary origins (gasp! I run ahead of myself!), and to your one life on earth!
For me, it is for pure cardiac reasons. Travel does the heart much, much good. And it indulges my hobby too.

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