Like most of the people, traveling had been one of the major contributor towards learnings of my life. Exploring the world via travel enriches experience and and makes one open minded. For me travel is a means to self exploration.
During my childhood, the most eagerly awaited travelling destinations were grandparents homes in New Delhi and Karnal ( both maternal and paternal) in summer vacations. These long hot months of the year had the most cherished memories and used to be the best time of the year. Those days of travelling by state transport buses or trains, using local conveyance to reach the destination( granny’s home) from the bus or railway station and the excitement throughout the journey .. oh those were the magical journeys!
As I got married in 1984, and to my delight, my partner was equally bitten by travel-bug . That made life fun. We planned for two outings every year and do maintain the number unless there is some unavoidable reason. Being married to a CA, who was working for an oil sector PSU, we took care to plan our vacations when he could manage leaves from his work easily, avoiding the time of half yearly financial closing and annual financial closings months.
My First #BlindDate :
My first trip with my husband was to Jammu and Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar. That was actually a “blind date” for me in real sense as I was not involved in planning. Though learnt about the beauty of Srinagar, but being born and brought up in Haryana, the small northern dry state in India, I have never been exposed to natural beauty. Before marriage, my trips have been to few towns in Haryana , Panjab and New Delhi as almost all my relatives live in these places. I was introduced to natural beauty only through movies, books and travel magazines. Those were not the time of google and internet. resources were limited unlike today’s times.
We traveled to Jammu from New Delhi by train. From Jammu, we were to fly to Srinagar, my first flight. It was exciting but I do not remember, whether the excitement was of the first flight or honeymoon or being able to visit the “heaven” on the earth. Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed each others company in the beautiful surroundings of lakes, Mughal gardens, Pehalgam, tree lined roads, small natural streams, large valleys , snow capped mountains. Everything was so serene and beautiful. That was my first brush with the beauty of nature. Mountains, valleys, gardens, lakes, boats and I fell in love with everything about Kashmir.
We had a small Agfa Isoly box camera. Results are not as good as the cameras of today. I hope, some essence of beauty of Kashmir may come out of these pics.
Our return journey was nothing less than an adventure anyone has bargained on their honeymoon. The “Operation Blue Star” in Panjab had started. Bhinderwala was killed. All trains and flights were cancelled from Jammu. We were in Pehelgam when all this had started. In those days, newspaper reach Pehelgam, one day later. While sitting by the river “Liddar” in Pehelgam, our hotel guy told us about the new developments and advised us to go back to Srinagar. We immediately booked a taxi and started back to Srinagar. In Srinagar, we could see the burning buildings and smoke rising from all around. We got down at tourist center to know the clear picture and advise. They were very helpful and guided us to board a flight to Jammu as no flight to New Delhi was available. All trains were also cancelled from Jammu.
We waited for almost 4 hours for the announcement of our flight in Srinagar airport. It was 1984. Srinagar was a very popular destination for shooting of Hindi films. While waiting at the small Srinagar airport, which was fully packed with worried travelers, many film stars were also seen waiting. Finally, our flight to Jammu had been announced and we landed at Jammu in the evening. A distant relatives, who was a BSF commandant got us picked up under armed protection. Things were pretty serious, I thought. We stayed there for two days, till a train was announced for New Delhi. No flights were in sight, so we decided to board this train. The train has no reservations and one has to fight to have a seat there. Thanks to the BSF jawans, who dropped us at the station , we could manage two seats to sit. The situation is so bad that people who were stranded for few days at the station were lying down even under the seats to reach their homes.
This was the first train to roll out from Jammu after terrorists in Punjab have warned of bombing the railway track. There was a pilot engine which used to cover a distance of 2 km, then our train will cover that distance. The same exercise was repeated for almost 300 km of the route in Punjab. We reached Ambala Cantt at midnight. Next day, we boarded the train to New Delhi, thus ending my first blind-date travel.
Over the years, I have traveled to many of the popular and not so popular places in India and some places in Europe, South east Asia and USA. I matured as a traveler over the years. I found out that I enjoy travelling to historical places along with places which are endowed with natural beauty in abundance. I am in awe of nature, so going to tough places is never on my travel list. I am a safe traveler, who enjoys the smooth journeys and peaceful stays in the lap of nature. Vacation for me now is to rejuvenate myself physically and mentally. I prefer to soak myself in local culture , food and people.
Those were not the days of googling. We collected information from “tourism special” issues of various magazines and routes were planned using the road maps. Slowly we moved to googling to find all the relevant information about the place, to have a well planned trip. Soon we moved to travel agencies with well curated trips, which were about covering the popular places but never about exploring the place. They become boring though after a while.
The moment I read about this #blindlist and #blinddate, I knew it to be a dream opportunity to travel and explore the world on my own. But in these times when Gods are not safe ( remember Buddhas of Bamiyan) , abduction of girls in Zimbabwe by Boko Haram, rapes of girls and women in India, I feel the safe world is shrinking and I am somewhat afraid of going on a blind date.
Though #blindlist and #blinddate have ignited a vision of a dream vacation and as I was thinking about the places which I really want to visit, sleep engulfed me. Time to dream about my vacation 🙂 . I always admire the power of dreams as they make the impossible possible.
My dreams were free from being afraid of the unsafe world. As sleep embraces me in it’s arms, dreams takeover the reality and this is the time to live my dreams. I become “me” instead of wife, mother and daughter as I perform these three roles in life besides being myself. My time is divided into being daughter, wife , mother and me. Dreams is the time, when I am only “me”.
As I look down , Earth looked mesmerizing. I could see the large oceans, snow capped mountain peaks, vast green jungles where faunas are enjoying their free run, chirping birds and lush green trees laden with fruits and numerous colourful flowers spreading their scents along with concrete jungles, where my fellow human beings have created walls and drawn every possible boundaries. The boundaries between men-women, elderly-youngsters, rich-poor, strong-weak, politicians-common people, animals-humans etc. The divide is visible in every possible category and the cracks can be seen here and there. I want to go away from such unsafe place and have my #dream #blinddate at a place, which is blessed with abundant natural beauty , simple happy unknown people, where I can be just me, a world free from connectivity like internet and phone but want my laptop and kindle. I do not know , if it exist but my Mukunda will definitely take me there.
Lo and behold, I have got up from my sleep and am right here on the bed of a beautiful heritage cottage in the middle of a green valley, under the snowy mountain peaks and by the side of clean water river. Sun has just come out and is peeping from the gaps in the mountain range, just behind my window, coating my room in pure gold. The fresh breeze with mesmerizing soft smell of greenery makes getting up so easy and refreshing.
I peeped out and then came out of the cottage. The cool , wet green grassy pastures all around with shining dew, I walked to the river, flowing by the village and what I saw was just the same as I had imagined while reading the novel” Mill on the Floss” by George Eliot in my class 10th. Waking up to the scene I had imagined in class 10th ,after 4 decades brings childlike happiness in me.
This vacation is for me. I will explore myself, the years gone by and years left. What I have done, what I wanted to do now about my remaining life. A dialogue with myself, which I was longing so badly all these years.
I played with the children, shared wisdom with the youngsters and interacted with the elderly of the village. Far from the hustle and bustle of the cities, life here is slow but happy.
As the time to go back to my world has come, I collected the simplicity of the people, smiles of children, empathy towards others, zest for life, enjoyment in simplicity and their concern and care for the nature in a hope to distribute in my world to make it a better place to live.
Yes, it’s time to #say yes to the world !
- Few pics are taken from the internet. All credits to the photographer.