So, Travel Tale on Thursday is here again. And guess what? We have a guest for this Thursday, writing an offbeat post of her Travel tale. Sakshi Nanda, of Between Write and Wrong does shubh aarambh of her travel tales at my humble abode.
Without wasting much of the time, I now pass on the baton to her -
Steeped in nostalgia I write this.
Of life and times when school was special even in its sameness of routine and evening play among kids for the newness, for who knew who the ‘denner’ would be that day? Of times when Sundays meant meals on a chatai in the garden, all 12 members of this joint-family together and festivals nothing short of spectacular. And of a life when travel did not mean packing large suit cases and leaving the house home-alone but something else entirely …
Say, going to Paltan Bazaar the day before Diwali. A kilometer’s walk, which at 7 years of age seemed like visiting another city. Dressed in my fineries, mirror work on a suit especially altered to fit me, walking with a skip in my step matching in energy the silver buntings lining the road, dancing in the festive wind. There, we crossed our ‘Chitra Kutir’ already, where all 6 children of the family went to learn to draw birds and setting Suns. Crossing roads that seemed a mile wide, no traffic lights though. And then it would loom large, the red 6-sided clock tower – one of its kind. They say once the clocks worked just fine. The gongs could be heard till our house, clearest at mid-night. ‘Clock tower! We have reached the clock-tower’, the younger two would chime. I would join in too, holding the elder sisters’ hands so tight. Rejoice! Like a pilgrim’s progress complete. Beyond the big banyan tree by the tower’s side lay Paltan Bazaar. Decorated like a bride, herself welcoming us with a broad smile and open arms. And then we would enter and shop – for puja and patakhas, diyas and sweets. A kilometer away from our protected space, but happy as if it was another world. A different world we had travelled to that day.
But we needed to charge our Fiat Padmini too.
Sunday evenings were reserved for a trip up Rajpur road, beyond Jakhan and to the pakora shop there. 6 kilometers and 45 minutes of travel, done at the speed of a very lazy Sunday light, by my uncle. 6 kids variously seated within. Sardarji key Pakorey, right where the nearly-flat road would end to climb up to the Everest, as if. The fiat windows rolled down would show us green hills and houses so distant from each other. Big, but standing so alone. Not lonely though, for thick trees lined the roads and stood as sentinels to the mansions too. And soon enough, we would smell the mixed pakoras rising crisp from the hot oil. Spot the long hungry queue too. In no time, the oily paper bag would stare at us with its empty mouth. On a stomach full to the brim, we would walk around a monastery a few steps away. Tibetan was not a word we knew. We were blissfully ignorant of who the people in this neighborhood were, or the pain behind their coming here. We were 6 kilometers away from our home. At the foot of the hills which held Mussoorie up. That is all that mattered. For so much we had travelled!
Mussoorie was special.
Three Bajaj Chetaks, a complete family on each and off we would go, to map all 30 kilometers. The farthest that I remember, as a girl sitting between her father and her mother. With a kid brother standing between my father and the handle, with enough room near his feet for rajma-chawal packed in a casserole. To be had at a bench in Company Bag, destination Mussoorie. This was flying, on wheels. Wind in the hair, truly. I remember how silent we would be. Shh, don’t disturb papa while he’s riding in the hills. Or maybe because, we did not feel the need to talk. Just travel higher and higher, taking in the valley with our silence. Being one with what home meant spread below in the vale, even when whirring so many meters above it. Rolling back down in the evening then, all three scooters side-by-side. Sunset time, and the birds would return to their nests. They have to. All travels must come to an end.
To our child minds, travel meant being a certain distance away from home. No Samsonite brimming over with clothes, or tickets to fancy places. There were so many people in the house, so many cousins to keep you company, and so many new places to visit “far” and “near”. Experiences to gather, impressions to form and memories to cherish.
All, steeped in nostalgia.
Like I am now, thinking about what travel meant when I did not know what all it could mean.