In most large companies, we barely know most of our colleagues – we see only the professional side of their personality (if we’re lucky) during the typical work-day. We may learn more about them during office parties and off-sites, sometimes with assistance from ethanol. The process of forming deep friendships (or enmities) usually takes a long time, sometimes many months or even years. Travelling with them is one way to accelerate this process, to its bitter end perhaps? As I’ve mentioned earlier, Mark Twain was no doubt prescient when he noted, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
It’s like any other addiction, I suppose. One needs a fix, may be not right away, but the hankering continues until satisfaction looms inches away. The frequency varies but the desperation rarely does. One can feel it in the bones, evoking a very physical response. Occasionally living vicariously feeds it, but mostly it makes it worse. Like other addictions, it invariably causes problems. Especially of the financial kind. How does one without deep pockets feed the habit?
Once upon a time, there was a Sindbad. And a Gulliver. Mythical guys. There were also some guys named Marco Polo and Magellan and Columbus and Vasco De Gama and Captain Cook, who were not so mythical. Between them, they discovered strange, mystical and fascinating lands which are a part of every tour operator’s offering. Today, the travel industry has grown into a huge hydra headed monster.
The jewel of the mangroves had been luring me since last year to make a visit to Bhitarkanika, a small mangrove sanctuary in coastal Orissa. The name itself had a lyrical ring about it – bhitar = interior and kanika = gold, and conjured up an image of a lush paradise with a hint of mystery and adventure.
Digging one’s nose in a public place in full view was a fashion statement in Ranchi a few years ago; as if to say “Hey there, I can do this in front of you and you can do nothin’ about it. I am the boss, you loser with your fancy pants sense of public decency”. Yup, it really was the in-thing to do.
I’ve often heard someone casually parrot the cliché ‘travel is a great way to get to know people’ and felt a wee bit uncomfortable about letting a glossy half-truth pass without a murmur of dissent. For I feel that friendships are either strained or strengthened while travelling – not by any dramatic event, but by a succession of small incidents that throw the spotlight on hitherto unnoticed flaws or virtues.
For most of us, the land mass called Antarctica is a name we vaguely remember from school Geography, but if asked to name all the continents in the world, most of us would forget to name Antarctica among the continents. That was certainly true in my case, until a friend asked me if I would like to join him and a couple of others on this trip to Antarctica that they had planned.
July – August, 2017
This month we focus on travels. Our potpourri of travel articles will transport you to far-flung corners of the big, wide world where the peaceful harmony of bountiful nature is punctuated only by the reverent tread of an occasional traveller. In these travel narratives, the landscape comes across as malleable, an almost protean presence that is being constantly shaped and reshaped through the lens of each traveler who passes through it. And then, we have travels of quite another kind – those that do not end but stretch on interminably in our consciousness even after the physical experience of it is long over. Let’s embark on this journey then!