Travelling is life’s most celebrated Guru! Travelling gives us many lessons, teaches us many things about life; it gives us new experiences, allows us to see new people and places, new cultures, historical places. What you get from travel is what you absorb during the journey. We travel for various reasons like a holiday, pilgrimage, work, visits to relatives; each person’s reason for travel is different.
We have travelled extensively in India and abroad. I am talking mainly about travel for the holidays. While on holiday, you go with a group of friends, or you travel with family. During honeymoon travel, only the newly married couple moves together, and they are in their world.
I am sharing some of my experiences and my observations made during travel. Years back, in the year 1984, we had travelled to Mussoorie, the hill station in Northern India. We went there just before the peak season started and enjoyed Mussoorie as it was not crowded. We did the usual things like walks to different locations, enjoyed the Himalayan fresh air. Our hotel was almost empty; hence, the owner told us to order whatever food we preferred; the only condition was, we had to inform them a couple of hours before our food time. We enjoyed superb North Indian hilly area cuisine. We enjoyed the street food too. We travelled back to Delhi by bus. On the bus stop, we met a family from Maharashtra. We chatted a bit, and I asked them, “How was your stay here?”. He said, “Everything was perfect, but we could not get Maharashtrian food anywhere!” Unfortunately, this family was not open to enjoy the local cuisine. Enjoy the local food when you travel, is my first dictum.
In this experience, I will not share the involved people’s state. I leave it to you to guess. Surprisingly we heard similar comments about this community at three different places. We were taking Delhi-Agra-Bharatpur-Jaipur holiday. When we reached Agra, we went to our hotel. We had booked through a travel agency, the hotel was ok, but we were somehow not happy with it. We decided to forego the reservation. We told our guide to take us to Hilton, which was nearby. As we sat in the car, the guide asked me a question. “Sir, you are from Maharashtra, is it not?” I asked him, “Why are you asking me this question?” He said, “ In the previous hotel people from xxx state live!” I asked him about the meaning of his statement. He said, “You don’t look their type!” I left it at that. It looked like these people don’t travel well.
The second experience was in the Bharatpur bird sanctuary. No vehicles are allowed inside. We hired two cycle rickshaws for three people, as I had a fever. Jaya and Priya were in one rickshaw, and I was in the second. We crossed a group of people from the same xxx state, we could guess from the language. I know a couple of sentences from that language, so does Priya. I called Priya and asked her in the xxx language, “How are you?” When we stopped at a lake to watch some birds, the rickshaw driver asked me the same question. “Are you from the xxx state?” I said, “No, I just know a sentence or two from that language.” He said, “Groups from the xxx state are complicated to handle. Ladies from these groups keep on talking loudly. Birds around fly away when they hear their cacophony.” He said, “I tried to explain to them that they may not be able to see the rare birds if voice level is not reduced. The ladies shouted at me to mind my own business.” You may draw your conclusions.
The third experience I heard during the same journey was while visiting Amer Mahal in Jaipur. The Mahal is exquisite, and its architecture is superb. We had hired a guide here too. He showed us around. There was a Kali Mata Mandir. I generally pass going inside the Mandir. I was sitting outside, the guide and I were chatting. He said people from the xxx state are tough to deal with as they are unpredictable. I asked him, “Why are you saying so”? He said, “I was a guide to a group of about 15 people, and I was explaining to them, historical aspects of the Mahal complex. Suddenly one lady came forward.” She asked him, “Are you our guide? Are we not paying you for services?” With folded hands, the guide said, “Yes, Madam!” She asked him, “Why are you walking in front of us? You go to the backside; we will walk in the front. Then explain whatever you want to say.” He said, “This is the first some group had given me such an instruction. I, of course, followed it.”
Three different locations, three various service providers but all of them had the same opinion about the community. Why is it so? Why people have some peculiar habits? How are such habits formed? Do they behave in the same fashion as all such service providers at home too? Zamindars? Is it a superiority complex?
Taking my Mussoorie experience forward, last year Jaya and I took a holiday in Manali. Now, we are both around seventy years of age. But we continued with our tradition of enjoying the local food, within our medical limitations. Sweet Lassi and Gulab Jamun are now out of bounds for us! But Paranthas, Alu Subji for breakfast was a treat from God’s while enjoying the snow-capped mountains. Foodstuff was followed by piping hot tea!
Low cost, budget travel has its fun. We had travelled during our engineering course days to visiting different manufacturing plants in India. We had hired one full bogie of the train. We moved all over India for twenty-odd days. We would go to various places, visit the cities and come back to sleep in the train bogie! Was it fun? I remember those journeys sitting with the compartment door open and sitting there, chatting with friends!
We had travelled by bus from Dehradun to Mussoorie. We met a person while having tea in a hotel in Dehradun. He offered us a place to live at the princely sum of Rs.5/day per person. There was a single room and had a bath. We grabbed the opportunity as we were on the cost-saving mode all the time. Mussoorie was very cold as we were there at the end of December. We had already planned our battle with the cold, and each one of us had kept a quarter bottle of brandy in our pockets. We would take a swig of the drink when we got bone chilled.
As I look back, we have enjoyed where ever we went for a holiday and whatever we did. Our budgets have been meagre to moderate to good. Our recent journeys to Europe and an Alaska cruise were expensive. But the common thing in all the trips has been to see and meet different people, eat different local foods, have local wine in Italy! Last but not least, we will never know how others live their lives unless we travel!
Sometimes some minor things can wrong during travels, but if we learn to take everything in stride, we can really enjoy the journey, the experiences. We realise how different things are the world over. We have also understood that all humans are the same, where ever we go; their language and customs could be different. But don’t forget a couple of things, don’t shout in the bird sanctuaries and let your guide walk ahead of you! Bon, voyage!