>Of late, I have become besotted by the idea of discovering new places, new journeys. I love the idea of being a traveller – of tasting new foods, of revelling in new cultures, of sites that must be seen and sights that one sees enroute, of soaking in a place for what it is and not for what it wants to be seen. And I’m in love with the idea of discovering my own country, not through television shows or travel books but through my own experiences.
In the last year or so, I’ve explored the valleys of Kashmir and the beaches of Goa, the ghats of Benaras and the Marine Drive in Bombay. And I loved the snow-capped mountains of Gulmarg in Kashmir as much as I loved the sand and sea of Goa. But if given a choice, I’d choose those mountains any day to those beaches. And yet, I think I’m a beach person – I love the humid warm air that hangs heavily on sea-side cities and the cool breezes that replaces it in the evening.
And I like them better than the hills because they’re easier to pack for – the weather is predictable and you know that no matter how cool it gets, it will never be cold enough for woollens. On the contrary, the mountains require a lot of packing for all kinds of weathers – hot afternoons, cool evenings and cold nights in case there’s a sudden downpour! But I can’t resist the charm of walking in the clouds in the hills, of breathing in the fresh air at high altitudes, of being fascinated by a flora and fauna that my part of the world cannot grow.
I have learnt also to enjoy my journey as much as the destination. In the meandering lanes of Benaras where I found my very own silk route (did I tell you I’m a shopaholic of a kind and couldn’t get enough of the hand woven silks when in Benaras?), I saw what made this city so unique: the havan kunds in the middle of the roads, the jalebis and kachauris being deep fried in the huge blackened woks and the cows – so many of them everywhere.
Some cities know what visitors want of them, others need more prying. The same is true of travellers too. Some travellers know what they want from a holiday – they know exactly what pleasures they seek; others will not open up so easily to the experience of travelling. But once you do, you will not know a trip that’s dull. I’ve learnt to do that.
I come home from my travels now enriched by experiences that I couldn’t have gained by staying where I was. I look for stories and I look for story-tellers. The Kashmiri shikara wala who will tell his love story, the immigrant child who sells trinkets on Goan beaches and speaks of her family back home, the cab guy who makes the distance shorter than it is with his tales… And I like to bring home a little feel of the place – a Chinese trinket from Hong Kong, a boomerang from Australia, a little batik from Malaysia, lots of photographs!
But every traveller is different. Some people look for luxury on their vacations, some for adventure. Some seek solitude, others company. Some want to discover off-beat locations, others want to stick with the tried and tested.
What kind of a traveller are you?