Friday, December 18, 2015

Why Travel?

I had planned to stay with a friend in Kolkata. I met him in Jaipur. I was in the city for the literature festival. Between one of the sessions, I decide to go to the festival bookstore. I see another boy, about my size, round spectacles, short hair, standing in front of the poetry bookshelf at the store. He was looking at a collection of poems I had recently read. I commented,

'That is a great book'

'Yeah, it sure looks like one.'

Your first time at the festival?


Mine too. Where are you from?

Guwahati. You?
I’m from Mumbai.

That is awesome.  Mumbai is a nice city. You should read this one too. I read it a few months ago. I really enjoyed reading it.

I think I will buy this one. Any other books you recommend.

You know what, do you have any important sessions to attend now? If not, I was heading to the green lawns, you could come along.


That was how we first met. For the next four to five days of the festival, we went for a few book readings and panel discussions together. We also had a few meals together at a rajasthani restaurant nearby. Their combo lunch thalis were delicious. We had a common friend in Mumbai. He was from Guwahati too. It was all such a coincidence. We would exchange the book we bought at the festival and have hour long conversation about some of our favorite books. We promised to keep in touch, when the festival got over.

We met at the festival the next year again. By this time, we became good friends. I told him about my wish to, travel around the country. He was on a gap year himself and was quite open to the idea. He told me about his father, who was quite the globe trotter himself. He also told me about some of his own travels around the country. I asked him why he thought, people, traveled anywhere? Why did people leave the comfort of their homes and go off, to far unknown places?

We pondered over this question for a while. There seemed to be no one perfect answer. I decide to look for answers in the book of secrets I carried in my pocket. The Internet on my smartphone

I started looking for quotes on google, about travel and why people undertake these journeys? I thought, I would find some answers there. These were the few quotes, that I made a note of that day,

'We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.' - Anonymous

Anonymous was a wise person. This was definitely one of the reasons, I wanted to go away for a while. I was worried. I needed to understand myself better. I needed to understand my place in the world. I was in such a hurry, that I never paused, to ask why I was doing, what I was doing? I was making important life decisions, without putting too much thought into it. If I did not do something about it now, I would get too deep into this problem to choose an alternate path.

'If you are 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel - as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how people LIVE and EAT and COOK. Learn from them wherever you go.' - Anthony Bourdain

I was 21, physically not so fit, hungry for good food and definitely wanted to be better.

'The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time.' - Bill Bryson

What will the food be like in this new place? Ah, a hot shower after 5 days on the road. A clean pair of clothes after a week in dirty undergarments.

'Traveling. It leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.' - Ibn Batutta. Every person has an interesting story. I feel like on the road, you get to be part of so many different life stories. So many different ways of looking at the world. Then you come back and people ask you what happened on the the road. And you share stories.

'The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.' - Marcel Proust. Before reading this quote, I was worried, I was halfway through my journey and did not feel a tinge of transformation occur. I mean transformation in the true sense. The caterpillar - butterfly sort of transformation. But then maybe, transformation does not always have to be of one sort. Maybe you come back, with new eyes. New ways of looking at the same thing. Maybe that was the transformation.

I shared all these thoughts, with my friend in Jaipur that day. He told me his perspective about the same subject. We thought, that one day, we will, travel together, or at least go around some part of India together. He studied Literature at a college in Pune. A few months after the festival, I call him up.He tells me his plans for the summer. Two weeks at his flat in Kolkata and then two weeks back at home with his parents in Guwahati. I don't know why, but I asked him, if I could come along. He said yes. He said yes. I was beyond excited.


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