Season 1, Episode 1
“Traveling is not about destinations, it’s about the journey.” They say. And, I totally live by that!
Traveling is really not about conquering a mountain peak, but is the trek all the way up to the peak, crossing streams, rivulets, walking through dense woods. It’s not about going to different places to see the monuments, but it is the people you meet, the stories that are built around those monuments.
It was February 2013 and the Indian aviation industry was recovering from the effects of recession. Airliners were engaging in cutthroat fare-wars to lure non-frequent flyers like me into flying. So when Spicejet threw a mind-blowing, tasty, attractive bone– “travel anywhere within India at just Rs 2000”, I felt it’s my duty to grab it. I dumped work and used up my company’s bandwidth to book my tickets. 2000.. Anywhere in India.. And that includes Andaman.
While others in my team spent their time on booking tickets to their “native” places, I pondered over the carrier’s site to pick up the farthest available destination that can give me a complete “paisa vasool”. But, I couldn’t get that. So I picked up New Delhi. I had seen New Delhi once before that and wasn’t particularly interested in spending any time there. But the city surely offers connectivity – virtually to “everywhere”.
I frantically called up Kishan hoping he would join. He refused. He was scared that his dad will disown him. But I had to go. I was depressed after all. I was going through a rough phase and this was “THE Soul Searching Trip”. To add to my troubles, I figured out that I had picked wrong date for the return ticket. I had picked 28th March instead of 28th Feb. I had to book another ticket costing 4k and I had lost all the budgetary advantages I had till then.
With the air tickets now booked, I spent a whole night in planning my 9N-10D vacation. With Google Maps in one tab and the IRCTC website in the other, I started booking train tickets. I had a limited budget and had to plan the whole trip in such a way that I spend most nights travelling so that I can cut stay costs. Yes, it is not the same as hitchhiking, but hitchhiking is not for people who are bound by time.
My rucksack was packed. Camera batteries charged and packed. Tripod ready. I was visualizing myself taking some amazing pictures with my camera sitting on that tripod. I was imagining curious children posing for me and trying to check my camera. It was supposed to be my first long solo getaway and I had to dream every night about it.
On D-Day I called up Prasanna – a cab driver I knew – and asked him to pick up my luggage from my home. He would then come to the office in the evening, pick me up and drop me off at the airport. I had to convince my manager to jump off a meeting that seemed to not end. I was already in a vacation mood after all. Prasanna picked me up at the office at 4.30 and we were headed towards the airport when I got a call on my phone. It was my girlfriend!
So girlfriends can’t give us even our well deserved “Soul-searching” trips. Cats! They cut across your path. Always!
I waited for her near Hebbal and yes, she was late. I decided to dump Prasanna. He can’t see me with my girlfriend! No one should! So I dumped him there and hopped on to the bus that she was in. We reached the airport, spent some time sipping coffee and trying to figure out what went wrong. And then she got to her knees, proposed. I was a happy man. I no longer needed a “soul-searching” trip. But then I had already blown over 15k for the bookings.
I boarded the plane!
To be continued…