Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Some Thoughts on – Travel

Travel, they say, broadens the mind. Yes,it is one of the best ways to learn about things – geography for one. I remember the terrible times I had while studying the subject at school, trying to remember the names of various places, and what was found at some place with an unpronounceable name. Today, when I go somewhere and see the fields and factories, I am consumed with curiosity about what grows there and why, and how is it used. I find it much easier to remember these things since there is now a personal interest. My son is probably lucky in that respect, as we keep visiting new places, and he learns a lot about the places we visit. He is at the stage where he asks questions and doesn't rest till he has an answer. It should be of use to him later in life.

In these days of comforts and luxuries making us more materialistic, travel is one thing which teaches us to make do without things. A few days stay in a cottage in the middle of a jungle, and we learn that life does go on without electricity! No fan, no tube light, just a simple lantern, yet we sleep through the night without disturbance from mosquitoes. Of course, one might lose some sleep at the thought of the creatures around which could decide to share our accommodation!

Food – one of the most basic necessities of life – how much we take it for granted! Meals on time at home or in the office (available on time, even though we might not have the time to actually eat it!!!), four or five course meals a matter of routine, not a thought of the effort it actually takes to making it – starting from growing it to putting it on the table. I remember a visit to a village near Jodhpur in Rajasthan, a part of the desert, where there was hardly any kind of greenery. Vegetables were scarce and expensive, and the main delicacy of the region was the stem of the only plant which grew in the area! Yet, the family served us the most delicious food made of just a couple of veggies which we had never tasted before. My son first stared at the food, and then, realizing he was hungry and had no choice, started eating it. In minutes, his plate was clean, and he was asking for a second helping!

I am an inveterate collector, and hoard all sorts of things – books, magazines, stones, shells – name it and I may have it! Travel gives me scope for so much! With my son, I collected shells in Goa, and with the duplicates, made greeting cards for the family. They loved it, and treasure it till today. We collected stones from every river we bathed in, and today, we notice that different riverbanks have different kinds of stones.In a few years, as my son grows older, we shall begin finding out more about them.

Awareness about nature and the environment is increasing day by day, and travel only makes the feeling of protecting our ecosystem come straight from the heart. However, this is something that has to be be developed consciously, for most people in India still seem to be indifferent to such issues. On a recent trip to Ooty, while walking along the lake, we saw the huge number of plastic bags discarded by tourists, and it was a really sorry sight, all the more so, since this area has been declared a ‘plastic – free zone’.   Seeing beautiful places, and how they have been violated by people carelessly littering the area makes some of us a lot more responsible, by stopping ourselves from doing the same thing. At least, that is what I try to teach my son, when I see such acts of carelessness.

My husband, however, has a complaint – he says that my son and I bring back such a lot of stuff back with us, there is hardly any place in the house! Yes, I must plead guilty, for we both are great hoarders and collect anything from stones and shells to leaves and flowers. On a recent visit to “The Hermitage” near Belgaum, Karnataka, we brought back the moult of a spider, which looked rather ghastly to begin with, and (thankfully) crumbled soon after we retuned.

These days, the advent of technology has made travel much, much easier, travel times becoming remarkably short. However, we believe that the vacation starts when we begin our journey, and we have had some wonderful journeys – most of them by the cheaper and old-fashioned modes of transport – trains and buses. While it is Samhith who likes to fly(mostly because of his friends who fly to all their vacation destinations), even he has come to realize that he has much more fun on trains, especially in the good old second class coaches. We enjoy the feel of the train rushing along the open fields, the wind in our hair and the smells of the countryside…….The local buses are another interesting mode of transport, especially because of the ‘aam janta’ (locals). We had a memorable journey from Kumbakonam to Tirupur, when the bus was full, but the conductor insisted we get in, and assured us he would get us a seat soon. We had to sit on the lid of the radiator (right next to the driver) for a while, till he managed to get some places for us. It was the first time Samhith was travelling this way, and I was rather worried, but to our surprise, he seemed more fascinated than anything! He still remembers the journey, and on a recent foray in the local  BEST bus, he asked if we could sit at the same place again!

Well, I can go on and on about travel. After all, with my son and my home and the hectic daily routines, the only thing I really look forward to these days is where we are going next!! Since I am writing travelogues most of the time, it seemed appropriate to begin my writing-improving process with something related to it. Well, I promise this is the last time you will hear about my travels on this blog. Shall have to look for more topics to write on……………………………