To travel far and wide, to see all sorts of places, to experience different cultures, to engage in a few adventures… the desires of this heart are many. Yet here I am confined to the four walls of my room, with a rare trip to the nearby mall to break the monotony of my routine life. To ease the chaffing of the invisible chains that bind me I turn to books. They have become my windows to the outside world, the sky in which my imagination takes wing… and they have been my means of transportation for the hundreds of journeys I have undertaken into this adventurous world.
I come from a family where travel is considered torture. The only traveling my parents take up are their trips to their hometown and back. They weren’t always like that… before their marriage both mom and papa have seen every place they could afford to go to. But after marriage, the trials and tribulations of setting up home in a new city probably put an end to their days of adventure and then unfortunately for me, the wanderlust flame died in them. For reasons best known to them and which I haven’t really tried to inveigle out, I have never been given permission for trips and picnics and the like when my school and college would plan any of it… except when they were these one day trips to nearby places which were repeated year after boring year, for example… the planetarium a hour’s drive in the city, the amusement park on the outskirts of the city and some done to death silly ‘gardens’ which were merely patches of planted green. But because I loved to pack my bag and sit in a bus with the wind in my hair, drowning out all the world around me… I used to enjoy even these little trips. The view outside the windows would generally be city clutter… but not when seen through my mind’s eye. Every patch of green on a traffic island were to me rolling meadows, groups of planted trees in some roadside colony were thick woods shrouded in mystery, puddles of rainwater, large and small were lakes dappled with sunlight or pools of unknown depths mirroring the sky, a gushing storm-drain by the roadside was the rush of a sparkling stream. I wove around me the world I wished to see in a tapestry of my imagination.
In fact, from a young age I developed the habit of tuning myself out from everything around me within whatever mode of transport I traveled in. I hated and still hate people trying to talk to me, offering me food or generally letting their presence known when I am lost to the world outside my window, while I travel. When I am traveling by the public transport bus, I eagerly wait for the conductor to charge me and then forget that it is a city bus… then it’s just me and my fantasies. Most of my bus travel is in Bombay, but the bus takes a wild route in my head… winding through the loud and colourful markets of Morocco shimmering with the desert heat, through the grey, drizzling streets of London (when I am in a double-decker), through Athens, Barcelona, Chennai, Damascus, the English countryside,… …Yangon, Zurich, etc.!
If there was a way, and if I could do this without hurting my folks, I would break free of these invisible chains (bonds of care and love they may be) and fly away… to backpack through the countryside, to listen to a hundred tongues, to hike a few hills, trek through woods and jungles, to eat whatever I can stomach. I want to get behind the wheel and take a long road trip through Europe and I want to trace a wary track through poisonous and intimidating Australia. I would love to live it up in the carnivals of Brazil or New Orleans. To sway on a camel’s back in a desert safari would be a great idea. Been my dream to dig up a few tombs in Ethiopia and Egypt, to gape awestruck at the wildlife in Africa, to explore the original God’s Own Country or as it is more recently known… Middle-Earth – New Zealand, to build a snowman in Canada or cuddle a husky in Alaska… and so much more.
Wondering when I would get to do all this… I know my time is running out. But my spirit of wanderlust is strong… and gaining as each year passes.
And then… I want to write about my travels… and read them again to experience them as now I experience the books that fuel my dreams.
© Surya Murali