I like to travel. Or maybe I don’t. Honestly I’m pretty confused about it, which perhaps is one of the primary reasons I don’t travel much. As I see it, travellers fall in 2 categories- the backpackers who are out to really travel, to not simply see a place but feel its essence and learn from their travels. The other kind is the so called high end traveller, with a Louis Vuitton travel gear, swanky hotels and nothing more than shopping and name throwing on the agenda. And then there is “The Great Indian Traveller” a category unto himself. What do I say about this unique species? In the years gone by it was just domestic travel that attracted him but ever since corporate India blessed the upwardly mobile with fat salary packages, and awareness became more widespread, the Great Indian Traveller has spread his wings beyond domestic shores. Come summers and pretty much everyone worth his or her salt is headed to cooler climes internationally. Which is a good thing as our own hills have suffered enough abuses at the hand of this creature. Go to Rohtang Pass and see the litter all around and you will know what I’m talking about. The Himalyas have had enough. It’s the turn of the pristine Swiss Alps or Lake Districts to bear the brunt.
And this brings me to the first attribute of this creature- he is a litter bug. The whole world is his dumpster, he throws anything he wants anywhere. Be it an empty packet of chips or juice carton out of a moving car or a chocolate wrapper or tissue on the pavement- wherever anything finishes or he just doesn’t want to bother waiting for a garbage can, out goes the waste without any regard to the ecology or the cleanliness of the place.
Secondly he is a show off- in every sense of the word. The travel destination will not be decided by his interest or that of his family/friends but by the most happening place that season- the flavour of the season so to speak. So, if for some reason Phuket was in the limelight, that is where he will most likely be headed. Or if some acquaintance has been to say Switzerland last year, that is the place to go no matter if you rather frolic on a beach side. The travel gear, the itinerary the “places to see” or “things to do” list will be in keeping with this ubiquitous tendency to show off. You just don’t sit back, let go and let the new environs take over. There is a never ending rush to “see” all the important places, “do” all that must be done. And post pictures on Facebook! Obviously then, travelling light is out of the question. You go with oversized bags, come bag with even bigger ones paying extra for excess baggage. Needless to say, you can’t come back from Switzerland without a Swiss watch though you may come back without tasting their wide spread of cheese and chocolates!
Third, for all the uber cool, hep exterior, he is still grounded in his roots and not always in a good way. While it is great not to forget your roots and all that jazz ( how much of roots can you forget in few weeks of travel anyways?), do you have to, really have to carry a stock of desi food stock ( read Khakras, Samosas, Matthis etc )? And do you have to absolutely go looking for Indian food only on a tour of Europe? Yes I know about this thing called “habit” and “taste”. But what about letting go of your roots, just for a while, and seeing a place for what it truly is? For the life of me I fail to see the point of not stuffing yourself to death with all possible varieties of pizza and gnocchi and risotto and tiramisu while in Italy but looking for our own desi cuisine.
Fourth the Great Indian Traveller does not, cannot travel alone. Unless there is the entire brood comprising of chacha, taya, mamma-mammi, mausa- mausi, their countless children and a few friend thrown in, the travel is not complete. So the Great Indian Traveller takes over the entire plane, tourist bus or whatever mode of transport they might be using and converts it into a mini India. No fear whatsoever of forgetting “root” you see! In the same vein it follows that unless you carry tokens for the great Indian family back home, or whoever has not accompanied you from this big bunch, travel is not complete. And you must carry few additional tokens, just in case you have forgotten “Pinky aunty’s niece’s new born daughter”.
And last of all, motels, home stays are concepts unknown to this creature. He has to , absolutely has to pile up at the residence of some friend or relative. And there is no dearth of either even in the most far flung corners of the world. Indians are not known as being ultra social without a reason you see! That you may be inconveniencing someone is of no concern. You make up for that by carrying packets of aalo bhujia and other namkeens and other Indian goodies.
Now that I have drawn the rough sketch of this spectacular creature, am I too a part and parcel of this not too likeable a species? Well, all that I do know is that I am confused with the basics itself- whether I like to travel at all or not. And until I’ve resolve this dilemma, thankfully there is no fear of my becoming yet another member of the Great Indian Travelling Community!