Throbbing feet, heavy shoulders, a rumbling in the tummy and a satisfied grin on my face, I shivered in delight, enjoying the mildly chilly wind of the late September evening. Having managed to locate St Valentine’s relics in a cathedral tucked away in a not-so-touristy part of Glasgow, I plonked myself on a bench along the upmarket Buchanan Street after a long walk, feeling rather good about the progress of #2017travelgoals. Coffee in one hand and a muffin in the other, I was watching the world go by in their designer wears and classy bags when he walked up to me.
“Mind if I sit here?” he asked.
“Not at all,” I mumbled, my mouth stuffed with the muffin and my soul mortified at having been caught in that state by Mr. Hot Stuff (my nickname for the man with dark brown hair and blue eyes).
While he lit his cigarette and I sipped my coffee, we started a conversation, the kind you have with a stranger who feels familiar enough to speak to but leaves you secure in the knowledge that you will never meet again and he (or she) will be the one to hear all your secrets.
As the conversation moved on to the reason for my presence on the bench, Mr. Hot Stuff confessed he was itching to travel again. “Been a while,” he rued, adding, “I want to travel to get away from the daily grind, see new places, reconnect with myself as I relax with a bottle of beer in a bar filled with locals, eat food with them and find some good company.”
“What about you? What makes you travel,” he asked me, his eyes looking into mine, seeking an answer.
But the moment (yes, the moment!) was ruined by loud music which turned out to be his phone. A rather rushed call later, he stood up to leave. Coffee cup crumpled, cigarette stubbed out, we parted ways, basking in the warmth of stolen moments and a good conversation with a stranger.
His question, however, lingered. As I contemplated this while grabbing dinner and trudging to the train station to head back to Edinburgh, my mind threw up words like ‘reconnect’, ‘happiness’, experience’, ‘freedom’, eventually taking me to my first memories of travel.
Seated in a wifi-enabled train, surrounded by people busy with their books and music, my thoughts raced back in time to when my head would be glued to windows of a train chugging through changing landscapes as we made our way from Gujarat in the west of India to West Bengal in the east of India. The train compartment filled with the soft laughter of the mothers, snores of the fathers and giggles of children. It was a home on wheels, taking us to our grandparents’ home, a 36-hour journey made so much more enticing and exciting (for the kids at least!) with promises of local delicacies at every station and ‘train ka khaana’*.
Fast forward and my thoughts lingered on that vacation when 4 adults, 1 teenager and 2 kids squeezed themselves into a Padmini Fiat for a road trip through Gujarat.
And around a decade ago when a terrified but supremely excited me accompanied Didi** to Bangkok, she to study and me to party! And yes, I learned to ‘party’ in Bangkok.
Each time, be it as a 4-year-old or a 30-year-old, I have returned enriched in knowledge and experience, much more accepting of people and situations, filled with stories I have been keen to share. And it is these memories and experiences, the thrill of the known and unknown that continue to inspire the traveller in me.
Every time I book my ticket and pack my bags, I gear up for an adventure that will be one for the books.
But in a life where everyone is too caught up in their work, with no time to stop and listen, who has the time to read that book of my dreams? Which is when I turned to these digital pages. Hoping that someone will click on one of these pages, join me as I relive a moment (or two) from my adventures and share his/her experiences, revive the memory of their first travel or revisit their earliest memory of travel.
* khaana – food (in Hindi)
* train ka khaana – food provided by railway catering
** Didi – term for older sister in several Indian languages
Photos: Vaibhav Tanna & Rapti Bhaumick