by Pushpa Raghuram
Traveling was not my past time as a youngster. It was not considered in our annual family budget. Others chalked out my travel destination and duration.
As a teenager any journey undertaken by me was to participate in a family function. So the question of getting to know the travel destination well did not arise. Its historical background, the strategic geographical location, the culture and cuisine of the places I ever visited did not become an integral part of my knowledge bank. In retrospect I can only sigh and say "How sad!"
In my Mid-twenties I got an opportunity to travel. It took me to the heart of Europe. My family members wished me Bon Voyage in Bangalore, Bombay and Delhi. I felt like a V.I.P. going abroad.
Going back in Memory Lane, I wonder how everything fell in place. Was it the Lingua Franca of the Vater land, which I learnt passionately for five years that gave me the opportunity? Was that my sheer luck that got me a Job even in recession times? Or was it Planet Mars, as my Astrologer Teacher used to say, which if favorable, sends one overseas?
Anyways I travelled and I was away from home for 15 months.
My stint abroad gave me a paradigm shift in the matter of traveling. I learnt there that travel for Europeans was not an impulsive decision, but a planned project. They travelled to get to know place and people, observe alien tradition and culture, and improve a specific skill, which they have learnt. etc. Reading voraciously about all these was mandatory for them.
During my stay in Germany, encouraged by my colleagues, I travelled in my free time as much as possible, to visit as many European Metro cities, as I could.
A visit to Paris to see Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum was the first one planned. It was then followed by a visit to London. A city tour there covered Madam Tussauds Museum, a Boat ride on Thames and a walk along Hyde Park.
The Tulips during spring season beckoned me to Amsterdam. I stood mesmerized looking at the Tulip fields. The visit to a Diamond jewellery shop/factory there was only to oblige other co-travelers.
Soon I was traveling back home with Nutella spread, cheese, color slides and picture post cards. All the Kitsch I had bought during the travel found place in the drawing room. In the Domain of Travel, my Self Evaluation score was "Excellent"
Another decade went by without my realizing the passage of time. Family, Profession, maternal commitments & aspirations left me with no time for anything else. But the desire to travel, which was lurking in my heart, pushed me out again. I travelled at intervals to show my Better half and off springs the places I had seen and admired and to see the places not yet seen. That meant separate schedules to accommodate their time specifications and activities. All these three turned out to be Herculean Tasks, which I survived by God's grace.
Let us see how they found the places they saw the very first time.
Were they awesome? Were they breathtaking? Did they wonder at what they saw? Did they stand anywhere spell bound for a second? Forget it. I won't let you ask them. I wanted to brief them about Goethe and Schiller, the doyens of German Literature, they were eager to know more about Michael Schumacher and Boris Becker. Instead of ride on the Autobahn, they desired the Roller Coaster rides. My better half thought that the trip to Munich could have been during Oktoberfest. My thespian daughter, being a fan of Christopher Plummer visited the shooting spot of Sound of Music in Salzburg, instead of joining me in the city tour. My knowledge about these places did not help them a wee bit and my enthusiasm to show them those, waned trip after trip.
Well, Time is a best healer. A couple of years later, to be precise, the turn of the millennium brought me the opportunity to get to know the piece of planet Columbus had discovered. It was a Family get-together in a far off home. After landing in Reston, close to Washington D.C. we had the first family meeting to discuss the travel plan. After an hour long meeting, we decided whom to visit in which city, which invite need be taken seriously and where to go only for sight seeing purpose etc. East Coast was easier to cover from the vicinity point of view.
I suggested during the meeting, that we better consult a travel agent, who can plan for us everything. But my daughter, a product of Syracuse University and a professional Web Designer opined that Web Sites could help us better. To prove my point, I added that help of the agents might still be required for booking the tickets. My daughter just shook her head and went "online" to block the dates and book the hotels, after reviewing the rooms on her Laptop. I think I sounded quite week, when I asked her for a couple of city maps to be procured and packed in the hand luggage for our guidance in the strange cities. She smiled and said that they would be superfluous, since her Chrysler was provided with a GPS System. Everything she said and did with the Laptop astonished me, beyond words. I chided myself for not being "Computer Savvy", before entering the Cyber obsessed country.
When I was back home, I never tried to go through the ordeal of "Self Evaluation", for the fear of falling under the group of " Below Average".
Time does not wait for laid back people to get better informed. During the last decade, my westbound travels stopped and east waved at me. I turned east word to spend a couple of weeks with my children. Their Bharatha Natyam classes had taken back seat. Tai Chi and Feng Shui attracted them more. Art in Australasia was taken seriously. Baroque and Renaissance Art were may be considered for comparing purposes. The contemporary Art and photos taken on Instagram invaded the drawing room. Traveling had taken on a different dimension for them. Their Horizons had broadened beyond my comprehension. Mine was getting narrower.
The other day, when I was busy with something or the other the Telephone rang. It was my daughter on line from Singapore. She excitedly informed me about her forthcoming Trip to China with her eight-year-old daughter. "Oh, how come China? " Trying to impress her I added" Is it to show your daughter the Great Wall of China?" But my grand daughter had grabbed the receiver to continue the conversation. She very casually said that she is mainly going to Xian and Shao lin to visit the largest Kung-Fu school in China. She added that she would give me a PPT when she sees me or else I can look up at the photos, her mother clicks there, on her Face book.
I thought, Rudyard Kipling must have been turning in his grave seeing this cross culture creativity. The concluded call left me dumbfounded and I sat like a child, wishing to become a youngster again and travel afresh to become a globetrotter with a better vision.