Don’t Blame Me, Blame My Gene For Travelling

Featured

Recently I was watching a sketch by one of the renowned Indian Youtube channels, The Viral Fever and there quiet aptly they showed that how the bhoot (Ghost) of travelling is the easiest one to get you. And it tickled all the funny bones at the right places. But when my friends or the people that I know, ask me that how I got the bhoot (ghost) of travelling, my answer is simple, “Don’t blame me, blame my genes”.

Apparently the answer pisses them off, as that apparently has no meaning to it. But deep down, that’s the only truth. Around 28 years back two nutcases decided to make a trip to Gomukh (The origin of the river Ganges, safely sitting on the Gangotri glacier in present day Uttarakhand) They traveled separately, the guy with his bunch of friends, and the girl with her parents. And as the probability factor had it in store, they met, they fell in love and decided to get hitched. Now you see, it’s not like their first trip. They individually covered different parts of India, even before meeting. And how do I know their story? Come on! Don’t tell me that you haven’t figured it out yet. Yes, they are my parents. They tagged me along when I was 6 months old. And post that it was the annual ritual to dig up a new place, go there, and explore it.

So, you can see, I was the unwitting companion of my parents initially (just like they never asked me before having me, they never asked before taking me out on a trip), and travelling taught me a few great deals about life and skills. The first rule of our trips was never say no to any food unless you have medical complications. Second rule was never to belittle anyone, carry your own luggage. And many other rules that I think all of us should learn. Also, my father taught me how to take photos on a trip. We learnt how to ditch a famous tourist spot, and go to the obscure places, how to sit down and eat with the locals. So when I say it’s the gene one should blame for my travelling habits, its not a bit exaggeration.

001

By the time I was in college, I would go on a short trips with my friends, and by the time I was in my Masters I started travelling alone. But initially it was all following the bucketlists made by some one else. But I slowly learnt to ditch it all and make a list of my own, and that started a new phase of a different kind of trips. And all these trips gave me most of my fondest memories, some people who became friends, some life altering experiences, a backpack full of stories from all of these trips that I fondly cherish.

It would be a lie if I say that all the stories I collected from the people are the happy ones. It’s a mixbag of all the sort of stories. Some are really happy, some stems from their frustration with people in authority, some stories of losing a loved one, and some are stories of finding hope again. So though you should blame my gene for the urge to travel, I equally deserve the blame for falling in love with all these stories, these people, and the road. Its the people who made the journey worthwhile, the smiles, the laughter, the foods, the songs, the dances, the knowledge we shared, made me go back to the road time and again. Because on a trip if you can’t connect with people out there, then nothing can make you go back to the road.

002

I will stop it here with a line borrowed from a friend of mine, as we were recently discussing the possibility of losing the direction on the road, and we agreed on one mantra,

“Rasta hi hai, kahin toh leke jaega”
(It’s road and it will lead you somewhere or the other)

– Tintin

Advertisements

The Infinity

During the years I spent listening to sufi and baul, and reading sufi poetry – one word I often came across is “FANAA”. The apparent meaning of the word means ‘death of the self’ in sufi-ism. In spite of having a natural knack for philosophy, I never could have understood the meaning in its complete sense. Though I can’t say I have understood it totally now, but it made sense and it made sense through a journey.

It was tiring two months of my internship and I was desperately looking for a place to go. I mean you know you’re kinda screwed in your daily life when for every single internet tab that you open, you open two more to check good places to visit. Around that time I came across the name GOKARNA, an Indian small village by the Arab sea; located in north Karnataka. Not much of a footfall (if you are lucky, and there is no local festival is going on), and its one of those places where you see hills meeting the sea. Three hills separating four beaches where you have to trek through the hills to reach one beach from the other and as a cherry topping on this two tier cake there is limited to no network coverage. After going through the calendar I picked up a date which is right before the full moon ( if you’re wondering why, then you should be in an empty beach on a full moon night).

It was my second night there, (the eventful first day will come at some later part) the little gala time I was enjoying at the shack (shack owner was my supplier of food and drinks) with some newly made friends was over, as they all went back to their rooms. And old man Patrick (the owner) also decided to take a skinny dip and hit the bed. It was a night of full moon, the whole beach was lit up and thanks to low pollution the sky was somewhat clear to see many stars. There I was sticking my head outta my little camp like tortoise doing the same outta his shell. And I was thinking of the day, the people I met, experiences of the day before. and suddenly it stuck me.

We, as a human being, all the time are so full of me me and me. We think that we can control each and everything, we can control the nature, we don’t want to admit to our defeats. But what if we did it differently, we admit our defeats, all the falls and go through the humiliation, will not that kill the ego ? the adam’s apple of all discord ? that in turn will result in FANAA; fanaa is not like killing the literal self, but ego and that can die through humiliation, accepting the fact that there are things stronger than us, there are things we can’t control, will that not lessen all the trouble we go through to keep up with our individual ego ?

tumblr_me06zzoknp1qc6wuio1_r1_500We try to control so many things and what we start as a innocent curiosity, is soon overcome by greed of controlling it, using it for our benefit. And we forget that our position in this universe is same as that of an amoeba in the ocean, or may be much lesser. But what if we surrender to the nature, and let it show us miracles (Yes, I’m pro-science by choice, but at the same time I believe in magic and miracles, that takes place in our nature.) and once we do that, we will know that even if we die at this given moment, some parts of us stay behind, granting us the infinity. and this is somewhat true from scientific point of view. At the quantum level we all are made up similar things. Same things as all the planets, stars, nebula, plants, your pet dog, pet cat (and the list will go on) are made up of. And all it takes is a phase of humiliation/Fanaa when you kill your ego (for PG-13, take out your blindfold which has the ego written on it) and accept that you are nothing. And that will connect you to your surroundings.

The Rainman On The Road

I always prefer public transport when I have to travel, one reason being I can observe people, because I’m not much of a communicative being (main reason though I’m poor, rest is bullshit). So coming back to the point, my preferred choice of berth has always been the upper one, because it’s the only berth with independence, there you can do whatever fuck you want. People who has traveled on Howrah-Yeshvantpur Superfast they know the trouble for sure, it’s fucking 34-35 hours between two end points. So only thing to do is read, as laptops and cell phones start running out of charge pretty soon. And regular passengers will also know that this train is sort of an ambulance running on railway track, major number of passengers being patients getting treatments in Vellore.
So I was returning to Bangalore from Kolkata, and as usual it was my upper berth, me and my books. Just as the train was about to leave, two elderly passengers hurriedly boarded the train. And made their way to the coupe where I was allotted the berth. And with just a short glimpse the younger one of the two was behaving erratically, and it was not long before it was clear that he was differently abled, being a patient of autism. Since it was a night train everybody quickly had their dinner and went off to sleep. I could still see those two men. The elder one taking care of the younger one as much as possible. And my deduction was they are friends may be, one accompanying the other.
Next afternoon I was returning from the “TOILET” after a post lunch smoke, and just when I was about to climb to the berth, my eyes met the older one from last night’s passenger. He looked at me with a smile and said, “Hey young man, come down here. It’s a long journey, you will have enough time to finish your book”. His friend was in deep sleep, so I planned to talk with him a little and then climb back to sleep. As I went near, he motioned me to sit next to him. And we started talking, what I do, his work, retirement, and all the trivial questionnaire of two strangers. Then he said that he will be getting down around midnight, as he is too going to Vellore. So I asked, “It is for you or your friend?” and he laughed, I have seen very few laugh like that, he said “Oh. You mean him?” pointing at his friend, “that is my brother. Only half though.”, I guess I was visibly surprised, who the hell take care of their half siblings like that !! So he continued, “I didn’t know about him until our father was dead.”
“I haven’t seen people taking care of their own siblings, leave alone their half siblings!!”
“Is it so? But tell me is it the other person’s fault that our parents gave in to temptation? Or the choices they made? For all I know is he is my brother. And we got each other’s back.” Amazeballs!! Who the fuck is he? There are very few people whose feet I will touch as I see them as persons who make me feel little. And that day I wanted to touch his feet, though I refrained from the idea. We talked for a while and I went back to my little nest to read the book. But I could no longer concentrate.
c__data_users_defapps_appdata_internetexplorer_temp_saved-images_rain-px_1-195-195That night I had a dream, I dreamed those two men getting down in an unnamed station, their hands holding each other tight and the elder brother whispering to the younger one, “I like having you for my younger brother”. By the time I woke up next day, they were gone.“I like having you for my younger brother” I could only smile, Rainman (1988)How often do you see a 1988 movie’s partial real life inspiration?

Quest for the Lost Starfish Pt. 2

The best part of Gokarna trip was meeting new people. But grouping up with others was mostly not my forte. So there I was having my breakfast and beer, on the third day, in the shack and checking out pretty girls (Oh! that I do a lot) and suddenly I heard someone asking “are you traveling alone?”, So I turned my head. It was a guy of around my age sitting at the next table. So after a brief introduction period, all I knew was, he’s a techie from Pune, who is switching his job and utilizing the time in between by travelling from North-East India (Yes! that little part of India that comes after Assam and goes all the way down wrapping Bangladesh around) to Gokarna and is yet to fix his next destination. Now that sounds like people I would easily gel with. And to top of that he never asked me the dreaded question, “What is your name?, what is your religion?” so in another half an hour or so two random strangers were sitting in the same table planning another trip around the town and the beaches, who does not even bothered about each others identity except for the common goal of exploration.

IMG_6595

So we set sails, umm no! not literally because that would be outrageous stupid but yeah! our first to-visit spot was again the paradise beach, but this time we made it to our destination without any hiccups; thanks to my previous experience. And along the trails, we met some new bunch of people and some more pretty ladies, but wherever this unfortunate set his eyes, all are taken (Must have skipped some chain messages). In another three-four hours, we were able to hit all the spots and come back healthy.

So it was time for the lunch and some new kids were sitting in the shack when a grumpy drunk fellow walked in. And started abusing the kids in hushed tone because for him, they are wasting their parent’s money and they should have been taught how to behave. While I was thinking whether to engage in an argument with him, I saw Patrick already started defending the kids and their right to enjoy. After his successful attempt to throw the fellow out, Patrick was again back in his usual mood, “drink and be happy”.

Let’s not count the number of beer I gulped down from lunch to evening, but I was decently tipsy, and the Sun was about to set, So I decided to sit on some rock and track the sun until it completely sets. There was a lot of people doing that, just sit there and enjoy the sun setting over the ocean. But I could hear the low strumming of a guitar and someone humming, after a bit of looking here and there, it was some hippie guy meditating, sitting on a big stone and singing English translation of Krishna Bhajan. And it all came together perfectly, the sun setting in the background, the constant sounds of waves crashing on the rocks and his mellow tune. I just sat there like 10-12 other people, listening to everything but not trying to record a thing. Because I’m selfish and I keep some of the memories with me without sharing.

That night I shared my camp space with the new friend, yes by that time he was a friend thanks to similar tastes in music and travel ideas. And we sat by a makeshift campfire with beers (Yes! Again) listening to whatever our phones had to offer (which mostly are Coldplay and Pink Floyd). And then we spotted Patrick, walking at the beach and then after a little finding he sat close the sea so that waves can go past him. All the while we were observing him, and “what is this guy up to?” and with no suitable answer in our head, we got hold of another guy from the shack. It was Patrick’s time of the day when he talks to his long-deceased wife, shares his daily titbits and then goes off to sleep. After all the craziness and all the pranks there he was, a loving husband who lost his wife.

IMG_6616

Next morning started again on a happy note, watching the sun rise through the hills and then a run along the beach line was just a right start to the day. We already planned that we will make a trip to the main city, and get our return tickets booked for the night bus. The main town was mainly full of temples and priests and some cool graffiti around. It was mere 2 hours walk around the city to finish things off. And funnily My shoe got dismembered (Yes that’s the perfect word to express my shoes’ condition), with little cash hand and no ATMs around I decided to dump my shoes and go back Bangalore barefoot. So I did, booked a bus, said goodbye to all the people I met over four days and it was my time to leave. Though I don’t know whether I will be back in Gokarna anytime soon (see, my bucket list is pretty long and my days are numbered), I know this is the one trip I needed, because I have learned one main lesson this time

“Love can’t give answers to all your troubles, But the road? it surely can”

img

Quest for The Lost Starfish Pt. 1

The 2nd visit to the beach town of north Karnataka revived many a memories from my first visit. And by this time you must be wandering why the weird name “Quest for the Lost Starfish” and what it has to do with this boring forewords. Well everything doesn’t have a reason, but it surely does, and come on! it sounds bit like those adventure trips of Indiana Jones or Sinbad or my name sake, Tintin.

So one fine day during my internship I was pretty much bored (which I usually am, if life lacks the essential spices.) and looked up nearest beaches from Bangalore. I’ve already been to pondicherry and I needed a new place to unwind. And there was Gokarna, a small town rather a temple town (mehh) with four beaches and intervening hills (yayy). So what else I booked a ticket and hopped onto a overnight bus.

I got down at Gokarna by next morning and within 10 mins I was in the first of the four beach, Kudle beach. I was carrying almost 17kgs on by back including the rented camp and a fixed destination in my mind, Paradise beach, last of the four. First day was bit rough as the paradise beach is locked down thanks to non-restrained carnal desire of some asshole who raped some foreign lady 2 years back and I was supposed to be back to Om beach, (2nd of the four beaches) before nightbreak. But due to miscalculated timing of high tide, which eventually sunk my whole trekking route and a near impenetrable jungle route, I had spend the night there without food, only to be rescued by a group of french backpackers, who dumped me in a shack run by a old Frenchman Named Patrick. The shack was just at the middle of the Om beach (Imagine the figure of Om, now superimpose that on Land, yeah I was staying at the tummy of Om).

wp_ss_20160323_0001

Day two started with quiet a contradiction compared to day one, a good English breakfast and two bottles of chilled beer,  and all the while I was watching Patrick doing funny things to someone or the other, from pulling legs of his employees and tourists alike to dancing around. I was readily intrigued, because happy souls are hard to come by. Following the breakfast, I went for a little swim in the sea, swimming with the waves. And while swimming a found a dead starfish in my slack’s little pocket, soon enough I lost it too (You see, good things are temporary). So I decided to take a break and search for it again and by that time my rescue group was back and we all decided to go for swimming together. And that’s when they noticed my search for the lost starfish, which eventually was dubbed by Isabelle, one girl from the group, as quest for the lost starfish and man! we had a good laugh. Soon we all became a big group. I was properly introduced to Patrick during lunch as the group already knew him. The man lost his wife few years back, married off his children and flew to India and now runs a shack in India. Soon enough he joined us with a glass of rum and started talking to all of us, making me realize underneath all the funny deeds lies a man of knowledge. He suddenly looked at me and said “So you’re travelling alone ?”, the answer was an obvious yes! So he started again with his words of wisdom, “Son. Love can’t give answers to your troubles, but the Road ? It surely can. You are young, travel as much as you want to. You will find your answers at one place or another”, truth be spoken, I was dumbstruck for a few seconds, ’cause nobody has ever put things like this on the table (Not in literal sense). I looked at him for a while and he smiled and started singing some tune in his own language and after a little more chitchat he went back to his work. But his words were still echoing in my ears, “Love can’t give answers to all your troubles, But the road ? it surely can”. It was like someone showed me the answer that somewhere deep down inside I always knew, specially when traveling played a key role in my existence. I was born because long time back two young fella decided to travel to the same place and fell in love and got hitched soon, and after a brief pause they took me with them two wherever they went. All those tours shaped me in different ways. But I never bothered to notice, and suddenly today a man who has left his home and takes care of travelers staying at his shack pointed out the answer to all question. The road always has the answer or it shows you where to find it, like I met Patrick while on the road, when I was on the run, from my troubles and worries. And there he was right away proving his statement.

IMG_6557Glimpse of the moon from the night I was stuck on the rocks by the sea