I always hated travelling. That came out a little strong. I always was uninterested in travelling.
I don’t have much memory of traveling as a child. We once went to Delhi and beyond when my father was on a sabbatical from his job and working elsewhere for a year. Besides that, traveling happened on vacations, when we would take the day bus across the state to visit relatives.
For the longest time, my views about travelling was coloured by my experience of travelling by train between college and home. It was not the most pleasant of experiences, travelling in sleeper coaches in the heat of summer for two days, and often longer. In the two years after college, I would often traveled across the country to meet friends, primarily by train, but sometimes by bus. Meeting friends was fun, but the trips themselves were not fun. Not fun at all.
Things improved slightly after the second degree. I traveled for work, so I traveled a little better. And I would get to spend a long time in a new city. Get to know it. Eat around. I had never disliked being in a new place, and now I learnt to enjoy being in a new city ever so often. So, much though I hated the process of getting to another city, another place, I could no longer say that I disliked travelling. Hate the process of travelling, not travel itself.
Through most of these years, I was a drunk. So, other than work, and occasionally to meet friends and attend there weddings, I didn’t travel much. Instead of travelling, I had better things to drink. I could read up about the wonders of the Rajasthan. Why go all the way there to sweat? Why spend hours in airports, hours more in planes cooped up with wailing babies? Or worse, why spend days in a train getting forced by copassengers to join in on the Antakshari sessions?
Over the past several years, I had friends telling me to travel, but for the longest time I didn’t.
A long time ago, towards the end of college, when I was drinking a lot, I sometimes told myself that I was probably going to be dead by 35. I thought that was an acceptable idea.
But, in 2015, it started to change. With my 35th birthday visibly hovering in front of me, I found myself looking at the possibility of life after 35. I was still in reasonable health. My parents were less so, with age and accumulated life catching up with them. Which made me realize that I had an indeterminate amount of time ahead of me. I needed to figure out a way to fill it up.
Early in 2015, during discussion with a friend, I was told to make a list of 50 things that I wanted to do. Not an exhaustive list, not necessarily a bucket list, but something like a navigational map for life. Points to steer by.
By then, I had a couple of experiences in Bangalore that finally brought home the fact that being there is different from reading about it, or watching it on video. I watched a cricket match, and I watched a football game. Beyond the way the crowd has a texture unlike anything on TV, the fields just feel so much different, even discounting the replays, the the action that you follow so much different from that you watch on TV.
So, a lot of what I wrote were – locally experiential – in the sense that they were things I wanted to do and experience after visiting a certain place.
So, experiential things. I want to eat in certain countries and cities. I am not comfortable with the concept of authenticity – so I won’t say that what I want to search for in travelling to eat is authenticity. After all, you could go to Hyderabad and eat a bad Biriyani, while you could get a good Hyderabadi biryani in Bangalore. And, then, are the famous Hyderabadi Biryani joints, most of which origins after Operation Polo (Paradise 1953, Cafe Bahar 1973), ‘Nawabi’? [BTW, why am I sprouting about authenticity of Hyderabadi biryani to you when I know nothing! I’m hungry, guess that’s why.]
What matters is not just the food, but also where you eat it. Eating biryani in Thalassery is not just about eating Thalassery biryani.
So, thanks to the navigational list I created in 2015, thanks to friends who bugged me, towards the end of 2015 I started travelling. I traveled a bit more in 2016. And, now, it is almost a eighth of the way through this year, and while I have probably had close to three weeks of travel time so far, I want to do more.
Let us see how far I reach.