Many people tell me I must meditate or practice chanting to connect with myself spiritually. Then there are those who drink or smoke up to attain a ‘high’ and suggest I must experience the same.
But to me there is no greater ‘high’ or greater spiritual connect than travelling. The moment I decide to step out of my comfort zone and on to the free ways of the world, I open myself up to innumerable positive experiences.
The family from the Siddhi community of African origin I met near the Gir National Park who offered me a meal despite being under the poverty line… the nomad who stopped by and accurately rattled off about stars and other heavenly bodies while I was video graphing a Lunar eclipse at Songiri (Madhya Pradesh)… the Lama in Potala Palace, Tibet who dared to ask me about Dalai Lama while several Chinese CC TV’s zeroed in on us… the rickshaw driver in Lucknow who suggested I should hop across the border to Nepal, resulting in my epic trip from Lucknow – Nepal – Tibet that inspired me to change my career from law to tourism… the family I stayed with at Foz do Iguacu, Brasil who turned out to be the family of the only Brazillian girl I knew who was an exchange student in my school in Jamshedpur , Jharkhand ….. these are not mere people I met, but who in the larger scheme of things have shaped me into the person I am today. I have come to believe, that people you meet and spend time with are not just chance encounters. You can of course dismiss it as just that , but if you open yourself absolutely to new experiences while you are on the road, some of these people can actually help bring about the most positive changes in your life in a way you may never imagine. Why does one meditate after all? To allow positive experiences to seep in to their lives.
I can decide to be a ‘Sadhu’ who dreams of floating in the clouds one day or I can take my own flights of fantasy over a hearty meal or a great conversation with people I meet during my travels.
It is all about perspective end of the day. Is it only clouds that you see or the silver lining to the darkest of clouds?
The act of planning a trip and actually getting there is also meditation to me. The harder it is to get somewhere, the more blissful and meaningful that journey becomes to me. I am reminded of the 16 hour impromptu train journey I did from Mumbai – Jamnagar back in December 2007, huddled up on the floor between two seats of the general class ladies compartment. Every inch of floor space was choc a bloc with gypsies and fisher folk. Yes, it was certainly not the most physically comfortable journey, but what an experience that was! Women who did not know each other shared food, sang songs, watched over my bags as I tiptoed across the sea of humanity to get to the wash room. Or, the overland trip I did from Nepal – Tibet where accessing the immigration check point involved climbing up a hillock, getting sprayed by anti SARS medicines, standing in the rains for an hour waiting for the immigration officer’s computer to re boot, watching in helplessness as a Chinese soldier kicked an old Tibetan woman in the stomach as she did not have valid documents, getting stranded till late night at the border as the roads were being re done for the Olympics in the day time, travelling the whole night without acclimatisation stops till we reached the village closest to the Everest Base Camp…. I was down with a splitting head ache, but the view and the spiritual transformation I experienced was to die for.
The constantly changing vistas when I am travelling in a bus down Spanish countryside, or cruising around the islands of Greece or walking down Jaipur’s narrow and crowded streets, relaxes me.
I find comfort in the hustle and bustle of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, or amongst the aggressive shopkeepers of Egypt thrusting plastic pyramids or ‘Made in China’ papyrus at my face… in the chanting by priests on the ghats of Varanasi, the sound of prayer wheels at Dharamshala, the waterfalls roaring down on me as I sit on a boulder facing its source and the chirping of hundreds of Seagulls as I ferry down the Bosphorous River in Istanbul.
This is a depiction of peace drawn by a child in Vietnam during the World War that I saw at one of the war museums. When I travel, I feel as if the world is like my mother, rocking me to a sleepy, dreamy state where I have no worries and fears. It is the surreal feeling of going back to the womb where your entire existence hangs by a cord, as you float aimlessly waiting for the miracle of birth to happen. Travel has given me not one, but several re births in just one lifetime.
I do not know if there is a greater peace or a higher joy, but travelling is the only real bliss I know …. the only religion I have and the only road to Nirvana that I can walk on.