|GREEN MARKS THE PLACES I HAVE TRAVELED TO|
(image courtesy: www.mosttraveledpeople.com)
I was born in Dibrugarh, a town located in one of the easternmost corners of India. That was 1990. Located along the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra, Dibrugarh brings to mind two things; an ocean of lush green tea gardens, and the never ending rains almost all round the year. Though to be honest, these rekindled memories are all from my visits later in life. By the summer of 1993, we had already moved to Guwahati. Guwahati, unlike Dibrugarh, is a major city, the most significant in north-east India. This is where I have spent most of my life, even though I don't live there anymore.
After completing 12th in Science stream with decent marks, I had a lot of options. Half of my friends were going hammer and tongs for the IIT's. The other half went for B.Sc (some even switched to B.A!) in Delhi University. Maybe a remaining few went to other places like Mumbai or Bangalore, but B.Tech or B.Sc or B.A was the order of the day. Out of the 200 people in my class, I am THE ONLY ONE to pursue architecture. It scares me now, but I had no apparent reason to go for architecture. Neither was I so much inclined to buildings, nor was I a great artist. But I was supremely confident of making it through some awesome college and become part Le Corbusier and part Bill Gates.
In search of CEPT, Ahmedabad, I ended up at Hemachandracharya North Gujarat University (ya that is the name of my college!). Located about a 150 kilometers from Ahmedabad, Patan is a small town in northern Gujarat. Undeterred by this minor setback, I kept dreaming of becoming a great one day. But a year into architecture, I realised that I had not been putting in enough work to achieve my dreams. Making fun of other people's work and designs and complaining about lack of resources and facilities never made me any good. That was an important phase of my life. I changed dramatically as a person then. I realised that it is very important to make the best out of your situations, no matter how bad they are. Once you do that, the situation doesn't seem grim at all. Rather, like a miracle, things actually start working out for you.
All of this might seem irrelevant to some, but 1) being an architect and 2) starting fresh with a rejuvenated mind, I started traveling. I never traveled to exotic locations and lived a king's life. I rather traveled to remote, unheard locations all over Gujarat. I covered places like Radhanpur, Surendranagar, Wankaner, Vapi, Kacchh, Unjha, Siddhpur, Kalol etc., places which a normal traveler would not even mark on the map. I interacted with the people over there, lived with them, learnt their ways of life.
Apart from these places, I have also traveled to other parts of the country like Udaipur, Nainital, Delhi, Lucknow, Indore, Daman and Diu, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Auroville, Gangtok, Shillong, Jaipur, Andaman and Nicobar islands, Kolkata just to name a few.
I don't even know where to begin to put down how traveling has helped me be what I am today. For one, it has given me a different perspective about everything in life. I have been with so many different types of people in my life that I find it very easy to adjust to anybody I meet. It is like wherever you go, that place leaves a part of it in you, so you become more than just you. (It might sound stupid, but trust me, it is very hard to put it in words!)I have also been able to get a good grip on the Gujarati language in a matter of 5-6 years. I can understand, read, talk fluently and even write the language to a certain extent. In total, I have a basic understanding of 6 languages.
But these are just a few tangible aspects of the innumerable changes that traveling has brought in me. Most importantly though, it makes me really happy to travel, which I think is a great excuse for anybody to just pack their bags and head out someplace interesting (and not necessarily fancy).
I am now 25 years old and have been working in an architectural firm in Bangalore for the last 6-7 months. I deliberately chose a place like Bangalore to explore a little more of southern India. I am not certain whether it will help me in terms of my career, but I am positive that this move will undoubtedly help me in my quest to learn a lot about life. This is by far the end of the road. After I am done spending some time here, I will move on to some other place. I will keep traveling because I feel incomplete thinking of all the places I have never been to and all the people I have never met. Hopefully one day my thirst will be quenched, but it seems pretty unlikely to me that it will happen anytime soon.